§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Lord Advocate.)
§ MR. HADFIELD moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose had given notice of a Motion that was to be proposed on going into the discussion in Committee, but he did not consider that satisfactory. He objected to the Bill because it contained a principle to which he strongly objected, and which principle he thought ought not to be agreed to—sub silentio. He alluded to the proposition to increase the number of Members of the House. This was a thing which had never been attempted since the Union with Ireland, and he did not know for how long before. The House should consider whether they were prepared on every emergency to increase the number of Members—a number which, in his judgment was already sufficiently large. He thought that the United Kingdom ought to be treated as one entire community in regard to policy and legislation, and not dealt with in this exceptional manner. He was anxious to do justice to Scotland in the representation; but he would do it, not by increasing the total number of Members in the House, but by getting rid of the small boroughs in England which represented no interest, agricultural or commercial, and were in reality bought and sold. He felt bound to take the sense of the House upon the question, whether the number of Members in the House should be increased.1235
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Hadfield.)
§ SIR WILLIAM SCOTT
said, that the proposition to give additional Members to Scotland was not unaccompanied with the suspicion of interested motives; for no pains had been taken to conceal that the purpose was to separate the large and thriving towns from the counties in which they were situated. In some boroughs the constituencies which were small already were to become "beautifully less," for they would be diminished by one-half, and this proportion was to be added to constituencies which were already large enough. He was quite prepared to extend the franchise to working men in towns, so that they might have their fair share in the choice of Members. He tendered his thanks to the First Lord of the Treasury for his cordial recognition of the just claims of Scotland; but regarded the provisions of the Bill as inadequate, though he should be disposed, by way of compromise, to accept the Government proposal if three additional Members were added.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he did not understand the course taken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield). He talked about justice to Scotland. He spoke in terms of affection of Scotland, and yet he proposed to vote against that Bill, which certainly did most inadequate justice to Scotland, but which was at any rate one step in the right direction. He differed from hon. Gentlemen opposite who, on a recent occasion, when that Bill was produced, expressed their intention to vote against it because it only gave seven Members. He perfectly agreed that seven Members were most inadequate, because by every calculation they could arrive at, by comparing the revenue and the population of Scotland with the rest of the kingdom, they must come to the conclusion that Scotland ought to have at least twenty-five more Members. [An hon. MEMBER: Fifteen.] At the time of the Union, the question as to the number of Members which Scotland ought to possess was very fully taken into consideration, and every attempt was made to render the proportion of Members commensurate with that of the population. In the Reform Bill of 1832 the principle was laid down that representation should vary with revenue and population. At the time 1236 of the Union Scotland paid only one-fortieth of the revenue of the United Kingdom. Now she paid one-fifth. Certainly Scotland was entitled to twenty-five additional Members, and he regretted that in introducing the Bill the Government had not given more effect to her claims. If we wanted a complete union between the two countries, why should not the Government and Parliament take care to give Scotland an adequate representation? There were twenty-two boroughs in England, with an aggregate population of 113,000, and they returned twenty-two Members, whereas Lanark, which, without Glasgow, had upwards of 200,000, had but one Member at present, and which, with Glasgow, had nearly 800,000, and would have even under this Bill only five Members. It had been said that the Scotch Members looked after the interests of Scotland, and that Scotland obtained every advantage which could arise from the sympathy of its representatives; but was that the case? Ireland contributed £6,000,000 annually to the Imperial revenue, and Scotland contributed £8,400,000. What proportion did each of the two countries receive back? Taking the Estimates of last year he found that Ireland received back no less than £1,740,000, while Scotland got back only £262,000, which sum included the miserable amount of £1,800 allowed for Holy-rood. He did not think those figures bore out the impression so commonly entertained that the Scotch Members took peculiarly good care of their own interests. When a measure was being framed which might have to last for many generations, he thought it a matter of regret that these things should not have been considered. However, bearing in mind the old maxim that "one must not look a gift horse in the mouth," he thought it would be very unwise of the Scotch Members to throw out the Bill. He did not think there was the remotest chance of obtaining the consent of the English Members to a proper increase of the numbers of the Scotch Members. Any such proposal would meet with violent opposition. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen cheered, and there was no doubt that they expressed the feeling of Members for small English boroughs on both sides of the House. The Government should have fixed the number, so as to form the basis of a real union between the two countries, and he would appeal to them whether there was not some chance of their altering it now. But he implored the 1237 Scotch Members on the Liberal side not to throw out the Bill if they could not get a better, because English Members would not meet their views, and they might be left without even the modicum of seven additional Members now offered.
§ MR. SMOLLETT
said, it was not his intention to allow the second reading of this Bill to go to a vote without a full discussion of this question of Scotch Reform, for he meant to criticize the subject of Reform in general, and this Bill in particular; and he might as well tell the House that his criticism should not be a laudatory one. But he would support this Bill, though he disliked it, because he felt it was an absolute necessity. He was an advocate for large and comprehensive measures of Reform and social progress; but he had not been sufficiently "educated" in the science of Reform to be enamoured with household suffrage, and, not being so enamoured with household suffrage, he had no hesitation in saying that he disliked the Bill. But, as he before observed, he looked upon this measure as a necessity; for, in point of fact, it was neither more nor less than the necessary supplement to the much larger measure which was passed for England last year. The main object of the Bill was to assimilate, as far as circumstances would permit, the right of voting in Scotland to that which was hereafter to prevail in England. South of the Tweed they were to have household suffrage in towns and boroughs modified or controlled by the personal payment of rates. In Scotland, therefore, it was proposed that they should have household suffrage also; but as near as possible, in his judgment, household suffrage pure and simple. Looking at it as they might this was a great jump downward. He should not call it a "leap in the dark," as more than enough use had been made of that unfortunate expression. But he said it was a change which the educated portion of the country did not require, and which no political exigencies of last year demanded. It was a change which would be sullenly and sulkily acquiesced in in Scotland by the £10 constituency, which had been brought into existence by the Act of 1832. And it would be sullenly and sulkily acquiesced in by them, simply because they could not help themselves. And why could they not help themselves? Because they were deserted by the Leaders of the factions that gathered on both sides of the House. He had no doubt that in that House the Scotch Bill for Reform 1238 would be pressed forward with a good deal of that sham zeal and mock alacrity with which the Bill of last year was passed. He used those words advisedly, because whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite might say upon the hustings whilst "starring" it through the provinces—telling their admirers that the Bill was an excellent one, that they had had a good share in the framing of it, and that its only fault was it did not go far enough—he put no faith in these professions, believing that not one in ten of these hon. Gentlemen cordially approved in this jump downwards when the measure was first introduced; and that not one in ten of them really thought that this series of Reform Bills would give them a Parliament more fitted to legislate for the United Kingdom than the present one. He was of opinion that not one in ten of them thought that the assemblage of Gentlemen in this House in 1869 would be more disposed to legislate and co-operate cordially, or to act harmoniously together for the public good than the present House of Commons. Nine years' experience of Parliamentary life satisfied him of this fact—that there was no phase of human existence in which there was so much insincerity as in politics; and insincerity and party trickery appeared to culminate when they were discussing in this House Parliamentary Reform.
But as regarded this particular Bill of Reform, the first point he wished to look at and discuss was this, how would household suffrage—to which this country was about to be subjected—answer in Scotland? Would it act well or ill? He confessed he thought it would act very badly. To illustrate his argument he would take the two largest cities in Scotland, and see how it would act in them. In the first place, he would take Glasgow, the commercial capital of Scotland, as an example. It was the second city in importance in the British Empire. Now Glasgow, by the Act of 1832, had a £10 constituency of 14,000; but that constituency, having increased with the growth of the town, was now 20,000. A constituency of 20,000 voters was a very large one, not easily managed, and sometimes disposed to run riot. But the city of Glasgow, even with that large constituency, had for the most part contrived to be well and creditably represented in the House of Commons. How would it fare under this Bill? There would be an addition of 30,000 or 40,000 electors of a lower class than Glasgow had at present. 1239 Now, a constituency of 60,000—for the city was not to be divided into wards—was a monster constituency; and in his judgment this monstrous constituency would prove a gigantic nuisance. He spoke the opinion, he believed, of every man of education, intelligence, and position he had ever conversed with in Glasgow, whether Whig, Radical, or Conservative, when he said that this would be a great change for the worse. The senior Member for the city of Glasgow, whom they all knew, and whom he knew very well, for he was one of his own constituents, might possibly be returned again for that city under this Bill, because he did his best to have the measure passed through Parliament. That hon. Gentleman was one of the celebrated "Tea party" who supported the Reform Bill, and what was more to his credit he openly avowed those opinions in the House which he expressed in the Tea-room. But, without endeavouring to prophesy who would be returned, he (Mr. Smollett) would venture to say that, after the first General Election under this Reform Bill—after the people had had time to know their strength, and to combine—there was not the smallest chance that the city of Glasgow, with all its great commercial, monetary, and manufacturing interests, would be so well represented by three Gentlemen returned by a household suffrage constituency as it had been by the two Members chosen by the £10 constituency of the Act of 1832. And he would say that with the full and perfect recollection that the lower class of the £10 voters at Glasgow, had, on one occasion at least, when aided by the publicans, who were a numerous body, thrown out from the representation of that city, Mr. John Dennistoun, one of their best and ablest citizens, and elected in his place a total stranger, whose subsequent career did that city no service. But all constituencies were liable to err, and the constituency of Glasgow on the occasion referred to chose their new candidate, Mr. John Macgregor, under the belief that he was the future Chancellor of the Exchequer in England.
He (Mr. Smollett) would now say a word about Edinburgh, the ancient capital of Scotland, and the romantic town of Sir Walter Scott. The city of Edinburgh, after the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832, had a constituency of 7,000 electors, which number was increased to 9,000 by a Bill passed in 1856, at the instance of the present Dean of Faculty, the junior Member for the city. 1240 He increased its constituency largely by that Act, but he did not improve it, as he very soon found to his cost. Now, the city of Edinburgh—and he said it to its credit—during the twenty-five years from the passing of the Reform Act of 1832 had returned to this House a greater number of men eminent in literature, in politics, and in station, than any other city in the British Empire. It had returned Francis Jeffrey, afterwards Lord Jeffrey, and the name of Francis Jeffrey will long be held in grateful memory by the legal and literary circles of Scotland. Edinburgh returned Mr. James Abercrombie, who sat as Speaker of the House of Commons, and was subsequently created a Peer by the title of Lord Dunfermline; plain John Campbell, afterwards Lord Campbell, was sent to the House of Commons by Edinburgh, raised to the highest legal office in England, and who died a few years ago full of years and of honours, Lord Chancellor of England; Thomas Babington Macaulay, afterwards Lord Macaulay, was more than once returned for this city; and in more modern times Edinburgh was represented by men eminent for talent and good social position. The constituency of Edinburgh by this Bill would be increased by at least 9,000 electors of a lower and less educated class than at present existed. Well, what good would that do for Edinburgh? He believed he spoke the universal voice of all men of education and intelligence in Edinburgh when he said it was their impression that upon the passage of this Bill the days when men of eminence and of station were elected as representatives of the capital of Scotland would have passed away and would never return. This city, the representation of which had hitherto been regarded as an object of ambition by the great men to whom he had referred, would in future be represented by prosperous tradesmen, by local orators in the Town Council, or possibly by men who had made their fortunes as speculators or contractors in lines of railway. These were the types of men whom, it was expected, the citizens of Edinburgh would afterwards honour by their selection. And, knowing these facts, he was not wrong in the conclusion to which he had come, which was this—that the Bill entitled a Bill to amend the Representation of Scotland, was really a Bill to degrade the representation, in so far as the great cities and towns in Scotland were concerned.
And now about the county franchise. 1241 The county franchise in Scotland was to be subjected to considerable changes; but those were changes which were inevitable, and to which no one probably would object. There was to be a reduction of the occupation franchise in Scotland, as in England, from a £50 occupation to a £12 rating. This, of course, would give a very great addition to the urban element in counties. It would give no addition whatever to the rural element in Scotch counties. The reason was this. There were very few occupants of land in the Lowland counties of Scotland, which embraced all the wealth of the country under £50, and the number was becoming smaller year by year. The effect, therefore, of this reduction would be largely to increase the urban element in counties. But he did not object to that at all; because when they saw that the occupant of the meanest hovel in some of the boroughs was to receive the franchise no one would object to the occupant of a £12 house being entitled to a vote when residing in a county. Then there was to be a reduction of the property qualification in Scotland, from £10 to £5. That, of course, they must submit to. That provision would have the effect also of enormously increasing the urban element in Scotch counties; and in most of the Lowland counties in Scotland that element preponderated immensely at this time. Now, when a Bill of this nature was brought in and pressed upon them, one to enlarge the urban element in counties, justice required that in some places, at least where it could be done properly, an opportunity should be taken to eliminate some of the large towns in Scotland from the counties. That had been done largely in England, under the Bill of last year, and it had been carried out to a great extent. The way to do that in regard to Scotland was, of course, to strike out some of the small and inconsiderable towns from the existing groups, which ought never to have been retained there, and to place in lieu of them some of the larger towns that had grown into importance. If that had been done wisely, fairly, and circumspectly, this Bill would pass without a demur. But this part of the Bill had been handled by its framers in a very clumsy and inadequate manner. Instead of doing that to which he had referred, they had mixed up a lot of small and decayed towns in boroughs, and some of the larger towns they had grouped together, as in the Coatbridge group in La- 1242 narkshire, in an extraordinary and reprehensible manner. He thought that this portion of the Bill must be altogether remodelled; and, if not remodelled by the Ministers, he thought that when they got into Committee the House ought to take that portion of the measure into their own hands. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), a day or two ago, stated that he did not know who had the command of a majority in this House. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had a majority, or whether the Leader on his own side could lead the majority. He (Mr. Smollett) was not going to discuss that question; but in his humble judgment the advanced Liberal party in that House was, as far as regarded Reform matters, master of the situation. They had shown themselves to be in this position in the discussion of last year over and over again. If this party, then, should take the redistribution of seats into their own hands, they would, with very little trouble, make short work of the great Conservative minority in Scotland. They could easily, by a very slight manipulation, make the whole representative body in Scotland of one uniform hue, the uniform being blue and buff above, and democratic red below. He had no doubt that such would be the consequences of this Bill, for they knew the concessions which the Ministers would be willing to make, in order to have the credit of passing a measure of this sort through the present House of Commons—a House, by-the-by, which was brought together by Lord Palmerston for far different purposes. He believed that the end of all this would be that in two or three months, when the Bill emerged from the Committee, it would be in such a condition that the Conservative interest in Scotland would not be in a position to return more than one or two Members for counties to that House, and that was not a consummation for which he could thank the Ministerial front Bench.
Having now criticized all the salient features of the Scotch Reform Bill he should only say in conclusion that he should support this Bill as an inevitable necessity. The observations he had made, if the House had listened to them, would serve to show that he was not one of those Gentlemen—simple-minded souls!—who look upon the settlement of Reform as a great Conservative triumph; but, at the same time, he begged emphatically to disclaim any sym- 1243 pathy with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, or noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House, who constantly represented in the discussions of last year, that the Bill for household suffrage in towns and boroughs is a Bill calculated to be dangerous to the monarchy, and likely to be subversive of the Constitution. He entertained no such fears, though he admitted it would transfer largely political power from the more wealthy and well educated of the middle classes to a much more poorer and less educated class below them. In the next and following Parliaments they would have a great many Members who were largely connected with the landed interest, they would have a large number of elderly gentlemen as at present, who had made their money in trade, manufactures, and commerce. To those, no doubt, would be added a few men belonging to the working classes—and in his opinion the fewer they were the better it would be for themselves—for he believed that if any number were returned to this House, unless they adopted one of the principles of the Charter, the payment of Members, they would soon find themselves as much out of their element in the House of Commons, as they would feel out of place if asked to dance a polka at the Court of the Queen of the Saxons. They would, no doubt, have some representatives returned by members of trades unions, and possibly paid by their funds—men of the Broadhead stamp of mind—so popular in Sheffield, and men whom it would be disagreeable to argue with, and perhaps dangerous to thwart. If household suffrage were extended to Ireland, and forty new Members added to that country, as one of her sapient Members had proposed, then in his opinion they would have a very curious lot of representatives from Ireland—men who would be likely to be tinged with Fenian sympathies. He should not be surprised to find one or two "black diamonds" sent from Scotland to represent the interests of those who earned their wages by working underground. The whole assembly would form a compound which, in his opinion, it would be exceedingly difficult to manage. The labours of the Leader of the House, already sufficiently arduous, already requiring an amount of tact, judgment, and discretion which few of them possessed would hereafter be enormously enhanced. When this Bill became the law of the land, the corrupt influence of money would 1244 begin to be felt in that House, The expenses of contested elections would be largely increased, and the consequence would be that men of small fortunes—men like himself, whose pockets were not lined with bank-notes—would have to give way and retire from the House. Those were some of the evils—not that his exclusion would be one—but what he had enumerated would be some of the small evils which would arise from the passing of the Bill. They were small mischiefs, and would not, he thought, overthrow the British Constitution. No doubt the sentiments which he had expressed were distasteful to a large number of Gentlemen on both sides of the House; but he believed they were largely shared by hon. Members, and particularly those who sat on the front Opposition Benches. If proof of that be needed, he had only to refer to the scene that took place in that House last July, when the English Reform Bill was read a third time. What was that scene remarkable for? It was remarkable from the fact that not one of those who had sat in the Cabinet of Lord Palmerston and Earl Russell—nor any of Her Majesty's present Advisers, with the single exception of their mouthpiece, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks—thought fit to take part in that debate. They shirked the discussion and skulked away without expressing one word of satisfaction at the final passing of the English Reform Bill—a Bill the most momentous in its consequences of any measure that had passed the House for the last century. But, though they said nothing, their expressive silence, their rueful and lugubrious looks—for he sat opposite to them—sufficiently showed, and eloquently told, what little satisfaction they felt in the final success of the measure, to amend and modify and render which acceptable to the people of England, they had been pretending to cudgel their brains, and that not ineffectually, for the three or four preceding months. If, however, they entertained any satisfaction at the passing of the Bill, they had a curious way of showing it. Whatever joy and satisfaction they felt at the passing of that measure he should feel when this Scotch Bill was declared to be the law of the land—not one atom more or one fraction less. That was his contribution to the Scotch Reform Bill.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he took the liberty on the first reading of the Bill to point out some of its defects in regard to the 1245 distribution of seats and taking small towns out of counties, and he would therefore not speak upon that point now. But there were other points in the Bill which were equally objectionable, and he would confine his remarks to them. One of the most important parts of the present Bill which required amendment related to the rating for the poor and the payment of rates. When the proposal was made to abolish the payment of rates in England, he voted for it because he was satisfied that the principle of the proposal was correct. It was then argued that the payment of rates was always required in England; but in Scotland the payment of rates was not now required, and the payment of rates never was required either in boroughs or in counties. He therefore could not see why it should now he required for the first time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire told them when he introduced his plan of Reform that one of its principles was that it disfranchised no one; but if they would examine the details of this measure, he (Mr. M'Laren) thought it would appear that practically it operated to a considerable extent as a disfranchisement Bill. There were three clauses altogether in the Bill which applied to the payment of rates. If he read these clauses wrong he hoped the learned Lord Advocate would set him right; but his reading of these clauses was, that payment of rates was to apply, not merely to the new voters to be enfranchised, but also to the existing voters of £10 and upwards in boroughs, and to the existing county voters of £50 and upwards. If that were so it was clearly and palpably a disfranchising measure, and it introduced a principle which never had been adopted in Scotland. If the contrary were the case, and if it was intended that the payment of rates was only to apply to the householder under £10, he would ask the house to look at the consequences of that distinction. The rich man was not required to pay the rates in order to get on the roll, but the poor man was required to do so. Such a provision was, therefore, most objectionable, and there was no necessity for it. Payment of rates had hitherto never been insisted on in Scotland. Some time ago he moved for a Return, in order to show the stale of matters in Edinburgh. That Return had been printed, and was last week laid upon the table. If the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Smollett) had read it, he (Mr. M'Laren) thought 1246 his horror would have greatly increased, for he would have found that the constituency of Edinburgh, instead of being increased by 9,000 as he alleged, would be increased by nearly 18,000. Of this number 16,000 were rated under £10, and while 15,000 of these paid the rate, in 4,000 other cases, under £4 of real rent, the local authorities did not think it worth while to lay on the rate, because the expense of enforcing it would amount to more than they would recover. The payment of rates was a smaller matter among the poorer classes of Scotland than among those of England. The average rate for Scotland did not amount to more than 1s. 6d. in the pound, of which the landlord paid one-half, and for a house rented at £3 the occupier would only be called upon to pay 2s. 3d. For these reasons he thought the payment of rates should not be insisted upon, and he thought the whole Bill in that respect should be re-modelled. Then there was another class of objections which related to the joint tenants and occupiers, and to joint owners, life-renters and parties not being infeft. In many instances sham voters had been put on the roll who had no real interest in the county, in violation, perhaps not of the letter, but certainly of the spirit of the law. In England, with its large counties, if a few hundred voters were put on the roll in this way it did not signify much. But let them look at the size of some of the Scotch counties. There were three counties, the populations of which, exclusive of the Royal burghs within them, was as follows:—Peebles, 9,363; Bute (exclusive of Rothsay), 9,209; and Selkirk, 6,854. There was a party in Edinburgh, chiefly Edinburgh lawyers, who formed a sort of flying squadron, and went round the country getting themselves registered for various counties, with which they were in no way connected, on nominal qualifications, by which means they were enabled to carry an election, although they had no real interest in the county. Now, whatever might be done in the large counties of England, he thought that in the small counties in Scotland residence should be made imperative, and that no man, whether owner or occupier, should be allowed to vote unless he were resident in the county. There was a remarkable instance which occurred lately in the county of Renfrew. In that county a party of thirty-two gentlemen bought a block of buildings, for which they professed to have paid a large sum of money, but they 1247 borrowed it all except £26 for each of the thirty-two claimants. By paying that sum they got a conveyance to the property, giving security over it for the balance, and when the case came before the Court, on an objection that each claimant had not a clear annual interest of £10 in the property as required by the Scotch Reform Act, the Revising Barrister was obliged to admit them on the roll. Some of the gentlemen were resident in Edinburgh. One of them resided at Carlisle, and others were scattered all over the country; but very few of them belonged to the county itself. He was delighted to see that in the present Bill the Lord-Advocate had introduced a clause which would prevent those persons in future from obtaining votes. He referred to the 13th clause, which required the interest of borrowed money to be deducted from the rental before the £5 net rental was shown. Now, if the interest of the bonds were deducted in the case of the thirty-two Renfrewshire voters there would not be 20s. of income to each from the property. He had named the population of three little counties. At the time of the Reform Bill of 1832, three burghs, which had been Royal burghs for 600 years, were taken out of their position as burghs and made part and parcel of the counties for political purposes. But the people of these burghs had no real power—he meant the occupiers of houses—inasmuch as the franchise was a £50 occupancy. He was talking some time ago to a gentleman in the neighbourhood of Peebles, who told him that, although the burgh of Peebles was included in the county of Peebles for the purpose of swelling up its nominal numbers, yet there was only one county voter in the burgh who voted in his character of occupier, and he was the keeper of the inn. Thus the only representative of the inhabitants was the innkeeper. Before going farther, he would entreat his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield)—who had made a Motion for the rejection of this Bill—not to persevere with that Motion. If he were to succeed, it would be a great calamity for Scotland, because they would have no Extended Franchise Bill this Session. If the distribution clauses were bad, as he held them to be, let them be thrown out; if any clause was bad, let them reject it; but by all means let the Bill pass to enlarge the franchise both for burghs and counties in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman might be satisfied not to press his Motion, as 1248 there was a Notice on the Paper which would lead to the discussion of this subject at the proper time in Committee. He (Mr. M'Laren) confessed that he would sooner be without the seven Members which the Bill gave to Scotland than take them in the manner they were now arranged, connected as they were with taking all the small towns out of the counties and adding them to burghs, without giving these burghs additional Members. He would not object to leave the number to the wisdom of the House, for there was no man in the House who did not believe that in the course of a very few years there would be a new Bill for the re-distribution of seats. The logic of the Notices now on the Paper seemed to him to be this—that if Scotland did not get Members by taking them from England, Scotland ought not to got Members at all, and to this conclusion he could never assent. It was stated on a former occasion that this Bill simply followed up the principles of the Act of 1832. This was a very great mistake. The present Bill added eleven new burghs, but only gave one new burgh Member, without including Glasgow, for all these burghs. The Act of 1832 created thirteen burghs, but it distributed them in such a way, first by creating new constituencies with now Members, and then by giving additional Members to the existing large burghs, that after the thirteen burghs were added to the number which formerly existed, the grouped burghs were only sixty-six in place of sixty-five, which they were fixed at by the Act of Union; and besides, the population of the grouped burghs was diminished by 300,000 by the Act of 1832. But the population of the grouped burghs would be largely increased under this Act. As he had said, there were thirteen burghs created by the Act of 1832—Edinburgh which formerly had one Member, got two; Glasgow got two, Aberdeen one, Dundee one, and Perth one, making six in all. The towns which were not formally burghs, which were created burghs by the Act and got Members, were Paisley, which got one, and Greenock one. This disposed of the eight new Members; but there was also a new group created which got a Member—namely, Leith, Musselburgh, and Portobello. That made practically nine, although there were only eight Members to dispose of, and to provide for this, the old groups were crushed together, so as to make one group fewer. There were thus thirteen 1249 old groups after the passing of the Act of 1832, instead of fourteen, which had existed up to that date since the Act of Union. These principles were all to be changed by this Bill. Glasgow was formerly grouped, as was Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth, each of them having one-fourth of a Member, and their population at that time was about 300,000. They were taken out of their several groups in 1832. A great deal had been said about justice to Scotland as respects the number of Members, and various statements had been made as to the number Scotland ought to have. He was anxious to say a few words on that subject. He would not have said a word on the subject of Ireland if it had not been for the Notice which stood upon the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Athlone (Mr. Rearden). His Amendment seemed designed to stop the way. He laid down three conditions, which he said should be fulfilled before Scotland was to get any Members. First, there should be equal electoral districts; secondly, there should be 740 Members altogether, and, thirdly, Ireland should have forty additional representatives. After these three things were done there would be no objection, he thought, to discussing the requirements of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman arrived at his conclusions by misstating the populations in every instance. He understated the present population of England by 2,000,000, which made a difference in his calculations of fifty Members. He understated the population of Scotland by 200,000, which would represent five Members; and he overstated the population of Ireland by 300,000, making a difference of seven Members. When such inaccurate statements were made it was hardly necessary seriously to discuss the propositions based on them. There are various Returns respecting the number of Members Scotland should have, and they are all somewhat different, being for different years. Some were framed on the population, and others on the amount of Revenue, and one of these was incorrect, because the duties on spirits paid in Scotland and no consumed there were not deducted. The Return of 1867 was accurate in that respect, and according to it Scotland should have seventy-eight Members, instead of fifty-three; and, if they took the other Return of Population, they should have sixteen. He was quite willing to reduce the claim of twenty-five additional Members for Scotland to fifteen in present cir- 1250 cumstances. Scotland was most certainly entitled to fifteen additional Members, and no man who wished Scotland to reap any effectual advantage from a Reform Bill could say that less than that number ought to be given to her. The only objection he had ever heard stated to the accuracy of the Revenue Returns, was as to the quantity of sugar which pays duty in Scotland, and which is sent from that country to Ireland, thus giving Scotland an apparent advantage. This is quite true; but I will take as a set-off against that correction the duty which Scotland pays upon other articles, of which England gets the benefit in the Revenue Returns. Take tea, for instance. I have a letter here from a wholesale dealer in Glasgow, who tells me that last year he paid duty in London on 533,000 lbs. weight of tea consumed in Scotland; and in Glasgow on 744,000 lbs., and that this year the quantity on which he will pay the duty in London, he says, will be very much larger. Thus, you have one man paying in London duty on more than 500,000 lbs. of tea consumed in Scotland, which duty goes into the English Revenue. Duties on dried fruit, on wines, and various other articles, including loaf sugar—of which there is none made in Scotland—are paid in England for large quantities sent for consumption in Scotland. Again, many large mercantile houses in Scotland pay their income tax, through the special commissioners in London, which goes to the credit of the English Revenue Returns, I think, on these grounds, we have a fair claim to fifteen additional Members. He had heard it stated by way of objection that Lancashire had a better claim to additional Members than Scotland; but no one who looked into the facts could seriously argue that such was the case. The population of the county part of Lancashire was 992,145, and that county had therefore one Member for every 124,000 of the population. But the four largest counties in Scot land had a population of 555,004, or only one Member to 138,750. The county of Lanark has now, including its burghs, a population estimated at nearly 800,000; but it has, or rather will have, supposing this Bill to pass, not more than six Members. Lancashire, including its boroughs, has now thirty-three Members, and its population is about three and a half times that of Lanarkshire; but if it was treated as Lanarkshire is proposed to be treated, it would have only twenty-one Members, or if Lanarkshire were as well treated as 1251 Lancashire now is, it should have at least nine Members, in place of six. It is therefore, as you will see, obviously unfair to select Lancashire for comparison with Scotland as a whole. The comparison should be between the largest county in each Kingdom, But will those who speak of Lancashire let me take some of the towns in it, and compare them with towns in Scotland. Liverpool, with a population of nearly 450,000, has three Members; Manchester, with a population of 357,000, has three Members, and these will compare with Glasgow. But Blackburn, with a population of 63,000, has two Members; Bolton, with a population of 70,000, has two Members; Preston, with a population of 82,000, has two Members; Wigan, with a population of 37,000, has two Members; and Lancaster, with a population of 16,000, had two Members, which it lost from being corrupt. The county and boroughs of Lancashire got eight new Members by the Reform Act of 1867. By the Reform Act of 1832 Lancashire got new Members as follows:—Ashton, with a population of 14,035, one Member; Bolton, with a population of 19,140, one Member; Rochdale, with a population of 19,041, one Member; Warrington, with a population of 18,184, one Member; and Blackburn, with a population of 27,009, two Members. And Yorkshire got the following new Members:—Halifax, with a population of 21,555, two Members; Huddersfield, with a population of 19,035, one Member; Wakefield, with a population of 15,972, one Member; Whitby, with a population of 10,339, one Member; and Kendal, with a population of 11,577, one Member. The principle then, was to give one Member to boroughs under 20,000 inhabitants, and two Members to boroughs with over 20,000 inhabitants. If the same principle were applied to Scotland, or even if we had Members in the present proportion of the towns I have enumerated, there would be a large increase in the number of the representatives of that country. Members have been given liberally to many towns in the North of England, but the liberality stops the moment you reach the Tweed or the Solway. Let me now turn to Scotland for a few minutes. During the last Session, Darlington, with a population of 16,901, and Middlesborough, with 23,356, were created boroughs. Dundee, with a population of about 100,000, had but one Member; Aberdeen, with over 80,000, had only one Member. The Leith group of three 1252 boroughs, with a population of nearly 50,000, was represented by only one Member. He thought that nothing could be more unjust than such an arrangement, or than the manner in which Scotland had been compared with parts of England, as some Gentlemen had done. He thought they ought to take some of the larger grouped boroughs out of their groups, as was done in 1832, and constitute them separate boroughs; such, for instance, as Kilmarnock, which had a population of about 25,000; Arbroath, with a population of 19,000; and Dumfries, with a population of 15,000. Paisley, which, including two suburbs, had a population exceeding 50,000, was clearly entitled to two Members. Greenock, with the contiguous districts of Port Glasgow, and Gourock, containing together a population of about 57,000, was entitled to two Members. He would not go further into the details of how this re-distribution of seats could be best accomplished, but would content himself for the present with saying that in his opinion it ought to be done. He thought for all these reasons that the Bill ought to be largely re-modelled, and he hoped the learned Lord Advocate, who had charge of it, would consider these matters before the Bill went into Committee, and be prepared to state what concessions the Government was disposed to make. He would say a few words about the city which he had the honour to represent. He thought Edinburgh was entitled to three Members. Leeds and Birmingham had three Members, and he believed Dublin was about to get an additional Member. The Income Tax valuation under Schedule A on which Edinburgh paid was larger, than that of Leeds, Birmingham, or Dublin. Edinburgh was £1,549,000; Leeds, £804,000; Birmingham, £1,394,000; and Dublin, £1,272,000. As to direct taxes, Edinburgh paid £90,500; Leeds, £53,100; Birmingham, £81,500; and Dublin, £54,000. The total of the Customs was £22,000,000, and the Customs of Scotland amounted to £3,058,000, while those of Ireland were only £2,086,000. The Customs of Scotland amounted to one-seventh of those of the United Kingdom, while the population of Scotland was only about one-tenth of the population of the United Kingdom. The Customs of all England, excepting London and Liverpool and Bristol, amounted to £3,433,000, being little more than those of Scotland. As to special cases, the Customs paid at Leith were £480,000; at Newcastle, 1253 £240,000; at Sunderland, £71,000; at Stockton, £79,000; at Hartlepool, £22,000; at North Shields, £30,000; at South Shields, £11,000; at Grimsby, £15,000; so that the Customs collected at Leith for the rich districts around, of which it was the port, exceeded the Customs of all the ports on the Eastern Coast which he had named. Again, the Customs at Dundee were £75,000; and at Aberdeen, £76,000. There could be no better test of the wealth and civilization of a neighbourhood than the amount of Customs collected at the port which supplied that neighbourhood with such taxed articles. At Greenock, including Port Glasgow, the Customs were nearly £1,000,000 a year, but he would not go into details respecting the Western ports. In conclusion, the hon. Gentleman expressed a hope that the hon. Member for Sheffield would not persevere with his Motion.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire, with respect to the effect to be produced by the reduction of the county occupation franchise, on the contrary, I think that the county occupancy franchise should be reduced in Scotland as low as the burgh franchise. I cannot give my consent to the re-distribution scheme as proposed by the Government. The Government having decided that the numbers of the House may be increased it makes, I think, comparatively little difference whether the additional numbers be seven or ten; but I wish to say that the Government have given no sufficient reasons for having adopted the figure 7 as their basis of operation, except that that was the number proposed by the late Government in their measure of Reform. It was not, to say the least of it, very creditable to the Government to wear the cast-off raiments of its predecessor. The late Government had good reason for fixing the number of additional members at seven, for they proposed to disfranchise the same number of small boroughs in England, and to give the vacant seats to Scotland; and they feared to imperil their measure by a larger disfranchisement. It would have been very easy for the learned Lord to have devised a new scheme of re-distribution, as the whole system of burgh representation in Scotland requires reformation. It is, I think, absurd to have towns taken from three different counties and bound together as one burgh; for often a member for one of these groups in Scotland finds himself 1254 obliged to represent antagonistic interests. The learned Lord Advocate would have added considerably to his reputation if he had grappled with the subject with a single eye to the public interests, and quite, regardless of party and of the claims of the present sitting Members. But while I make these strictures on the Bill, I am not one of those who will refuse, in a churlish spirit, the offers made by the Government. I am not satisfied with the number of additional representatives offered to Scotland, nor am I satisfied with the manner in which they are offered, but my great object is to get as many Members for Scotland as possible; and, although I am adverse to any increase of the Members of this House, and would rather see them diminished than increased, and the additional Members obtained by the disfranchisement of the small boroughs in England, still that would be no consideration to the having an absolute increase of the representatives of Scotland. The question was, however, how this end was to be obtained? Two ways had been spoken of. Either by adopting the plan of the hon. Member for Montrose, which was to disfranchise some of the smaller burghs in England, or by adding to the numbers of the House. During the debate which took place upon the English Reform Bill last year, the House came to the conclusion that the re-distribution scheme, as proposed by the Government, should be taken as a settlement of the question, and I think the House will stultify themselves by attempting to disturb that settlements I cannot support any Resolution, in the present Parliament at least, which would have the effect of disturbing the arrangement so deliberately arrived at last year. With respect to the number of Members to be given, if we cannot obtain more than seven I shall accept that number as an instalment of justice, but, in Committee, I shall vote for any reasonable Amendment which may be made by the Gentlemen opposite for giving additional Members to Scotland, and for improving the scheme of re-distribution. I shall have much pleasure in voting for the second reading of the Bill.
presumed the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) would withdraw his Motion. He did not think he would get a single Scotch Member to vote with him. The lowering of the franchise was quite sufficient to make the Bill acceptable to the Members for Scotland. He 1255 had presented two petitions the other day from Aberdeen, praying for an addition of fifteen Members to the Scotch Representation, to which Scotland was entitled on the double ground of population and contribution to the public revenue. The petitioners prayed that non-residents in counties should not be able to vote, and landowners should have no power to make faggot votes: that the re-distribution of seats was most unjust to Scotland; and the petitioners also prayed that all the clauses relating to the increase of Members, if limited to seven, and all the clauses relating to distribution, should be struck out of the Bill. The inhabitants of Aberdeen preferred trusting to the justice of a new Parliament to accepting the small additional representation now offered to Scotland; and, seeing that ten English boroughs, each with a population of less than 5,000, and with an aggregate population of half that of Aberdeen, enjoyed representation, and sent ten Members to Parliament, the people of Aberdeen held themselves entitled to a second Member.
§ MR. GRAHAM
said, he trusted that the hon. Member for Sheffield would withdraw his Amendment, as the Members for Scotland would feel it to be very injurious to their interests if it were pressed to a division. He had no opposition to offer to the second reading of the Bill, though he could not allow that opportunity to pass without expressing his strong opinion that the Bill was very inadequate as to the increased amount of representation it gave, and very unsatisfactory with respect to its re-distribution scheme. They were quite satisfied with that part of the Bill which dealt with the lowering of the franchise. They were thankful to the Government for having acknowledged the justice of their claims to extended representation to some extent. They were prepared for a fair scheme of re-distribution; but they were not satisfied, that, being on the same footing with England as regarded the franchise, they should not have their fair share in the representation of the country, and that a scheme of re-distribution not sufficient for the wants of the country, but, as it seems to them, framed for party purposes, and dictated by party bias, should be offered to them. A change was proposed with respect to giving an additional Member to Glasgow, and to make it a three-cornered constituency, subject to the provision introduced last year by Lord Cairns. With regard to the offer to Glas- 1256 gow of one Member only, they felt it to be wholly inadequate. They felt that two additional Members should be given to Glasgow, and that, without any interference with the municipal arrangements of the city, they should be given to Glasgow as to one constituency—or that if the constituency was to be divided, it should be divided into two separate electoral districts. With regard to the manner in which the re-distribution was proposed to be carried out, he was not about to enter into the question of three-cornered constituencies; but he thought it was utterly unjust to carry out that principle in isolated cases only. If the principle was a right one at all, it ought to be general in its application. Putting that question aside, he might say that the dissatisfaction which existed in Glasgow at the proposal, referred not so much to the principle itself as to the whole aim and spirit of the Bill, which seemed to be to place the lion's share of power in the hands of that party which—whether rightly or wrongly he could not undertake to say—was at that moment in a minority in Scotland. He hoped the Government would see the justice of giving to Scotland the increased number of representatives she was entitled to, and if the principle of the representation of minorities was insisted on in the case of Glasgow, the House would see that that representation should be given in addition to the amount of representation which was due to the large majority of the constituency. Glasgow, he contended, was entitled to three additional Members as representatives of the majority only. They had seen how much might be done to modify a proposal of this sort by what occurred last year. They had seen that sufficiently to justify them in agreeing to the second reading of the Bill. He trusted, under those circumstances, his hon. Friend would not persevere with his Amendment.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, he did not rise for the purpose of entering into a discussion as to the propriety of reading the Bill a second time. As regarded the addition to the Members of that House, his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had a Motion on the Paper which would deal with it. They had not the slightest wish to interfere with the second reading; on the contrary, they were anxious to have the Bill read a second time. The matter did not require further discussion; but he wished to ask his right hon. Friend 1257 opposite whether, the Government adhered to its original proposition of granting only seven additional Members to Scotland, or whether it would be prepared on a future occasion to enlarge that number?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, it was not with the object of speaking upon the principles of the Bill that he rose to address the House. He had already had an opportunity of defending the principles of the Bill, and it was due to his hon. and learned Friend's inquiry that he now rose to offer a few observations upon it. And while the House would understand he was not in a position to speak with authority, or that he was sufficiently acquainted with the intentions of the Government, he might say be believed the views of his right hon. Friend the First Minister of the Crown were explicit on the point, in stating that the number of Members he proposed to add to this House, in order to give additional representation to Scotland, was not fixed upon by any arbitrary rule, or upon any abstract number; but according to the constituencies to which, in the opinion of the Government, and the judgment of Parliament, it was desirable to give separate representation. It was therefore for hon. Members to point out towns which were entitled to separate representation, and to satisfy the House and the Government of their claims. He apprehended that the Government had never taken up the position of saying that an increase of seven Members was the utmost which they would consider. He thought it was evident that if a better scheme of re-distribution than that proposed by the Government could be set before the House by any Member, no matter on what side of the House he sat, it would receive a fair and candid consideration. It had never been said that the details of the re-distribution scheme were not open to revision. He thought the right hon. Member who had last spoken (Mr. Moncreiff) and his Colleague (Mr. M'Laren) had taken a very fair view of the case, by saying it was in the next stage of the Bill most of the subjects for discussion could most fitly be considered. He apprehended that particular constituencies to which it was proposed to give additional representation, and the proposed new constituencies were peculiarly points which ought to be discussed in Committee; and that therefore it would be altogether premature to call upon the Government now to declare whether the number seven was to be increased to eight, or to nine, or to any ab- 1258 stract number whatever, unless it was shown what constituencies were deserving of increased or new representation. He did not think hon. Gentlemen opposite, who like himself represented Scotch constituencies, would undervalue the claims of the country, as he, for one, certainly did not. As he did on the first reading of the Bill, he would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to look upon the case in all its bearings. The senior Member for Edinburgh had referred to the argument that Lancashire, compared with Scotland, had a claim to as large a representation as the latter. His own view with respect to population and taxation was that they should be fully and equally considered and taken into account. But he was not thereby shut out from knowing the claims of every portion of the United Kingdom, whether counties or provinces. If it was urged on behalf of Scotland that it was entitled to a share in the representation of the country as a part of the United Kingdom, so much the more did the argument gain weight, which compared Scotland with Lancashire, or any other large county of England. He had heard it stated tonight that Lancashire possessed a population about equal to, if not in excess of, the whole population of Scotland; but Lancashire did not possess even thirty Members. It got but twenty-six by the Act of last Session. It was therefore well they should support their claims as representatives of Scotland, and support them by every argument; but they should temper their demands with moderation, and not run the risk of setting against them those who were equally entitled to consideration. He had been glad to find that no Scotch Member objected to the basis of the franchise which was proposed by the Bill. His hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Smollett), it was true, had thrown out some dismal predictions as to the results that might be apprehended from the proposed increase of the constituencies. But if the results which were to be expected from an augmentation of the constituencies in England had not deterred the House from largely extending the franchise last year, and settling it upon a wider basis, there was every reason to look forward with confidence to what would follow in Scotland from the proposed change. He would venture to predict that, whatever the colours under which the Scotch new Members might be elected, they would be men not less intellectual, and not less worthy of the country from which they came, than 1259 those honoured names to which his hon. Friend had referred. They all knew that in Scotland education was not confined to the upper or middle classes; but it was their pride and boast that, ever since the Reformation, men of all ranks had sat side by side in the same schools and colleges, and if anything was more certain than another at present, it was that education in Scotland would not fall far short of the requirements of the day. Therefore, the men that would be called upon to vote in the new constituencies would not be ignorant of the first principles of legislation; but, on the contrary, would be men who took an interest in public questions, and had made up their minds upon them. He held, then, that those who were responsible for this measure, and to whose lot it had fallen to make this great change in the Constitution of the country, had no greater cause to fear the results in Scotland than in the southern portion of the kingdom. He felt sure that on this occasion the Amendment would not be pressed. It had not been proposed by any of the representatives of Scotland, and the only speech in its favour was made in a spirit which showed that the hon. Gentleman whose support was given to it was influenced more by the manner in which his own particular constituency was affected by the re-distribution scheme than by any objections to the other portions of the measure. It would be a cause of disappointment and regret from one end of Scotland to the other if a measure of so large and generous a character should be met in any but a frank and cordial spirit.
§ MR. CRUM-EWING
joined in the appeal of the hon. Member for Edinburgh that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hadfield) would not press his Amendment. He agreed with all that had been said in approval of the extension of the franchise; for he had none of that fear by which the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire seemed to be possessed, but as for the re-distribution scheme, he thought it as bad as bad could be. However, that was a question rather for Committee than for the present stage of the Bill. He wished also to express a hope that the rating clauses would not be insisted on. They were not suited for Scotland.
§ MR. REARDEN
said, if the representation of Scotland was to be increased, the claim of Ireland to an increase was much greater. On this subject he would read an extract from a speech of Mr. O'Connell on the insufficiency of the representation of Ireland. ["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I do not see the connection between the observations of the hon. Gentleman and the subject now before the House.
§ MR. REARDEN
The Bill proposes to increase the number of Members for Scotland, and I wish to prove that Ireland is entitled to an increase.
§ MR. REARDEN
said, he would then speak to the main principle of the Bill. He did not think that an increase of Members should be given to Scotland at the expense of Great Britain. He should certainly oppose the Bill in all its stages, and support the Amendment.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, that the Under Secretary for the Home Department (Sir James Fergusson) had, in ordinary language, let the cat out of the bag. He had acknowledged in the absence of his Chief that the Government were on this, as on other occasions, made of squeezable materials, and that the Scotch Members had only to raise their voices loud enough to get ten, fifteen, or even twenty additional Members, according to their means of pressing upon the Government. This precisely confirmed what he had all along expected. The First Lord of the Treasury last year was very mysterious on this subject, and at last he took refuge in the dispensations of Providence, and appeared to expect that seats would be sent down to them from the superior regions. His objection to the Bill was that it implied more than it expressed. He contended that the Bill ought to contain a clause directly stating the intention of the Government to increase the number of Members in the House of Commons. As it was, it could not be expected that they would resist the same kind of pressure that would be brought to bear upon them from other quarters. They had already been reminded that Ireland would put in its claim for increased representation; and the Irish had a peculiar manner of pressing their claims. The Scotch Members were comparatively orderly and well conducted—they were not revolutionary. They met quietly in the Tea-room and arranged their little matters among themselves; but the Irish Members approached the Minister in a much more termagant and hostile manner; and, on the eve of a division, they intimated that their votes would depend on what the Minister would do for Ireland. The idea of increasing the Members in the House was 1261 singularly inopportune at the present time, when a Committee was sitting to consider how the House could be enlarged, as it would not accommodate the existing number of Members. The fairer course would be to let the country know the exact nature of the proposition. It was one which was not avowed in the Bill; but it appeared to be a part of those admirable tactics, and of that extreme strategy of which they had heard so much, but was totally opposed to that honest and independent spirit in which a country like this ought to be governed.
§ MR. LAING
said, he did not wish to detain the House, but as a discussion of an extraordinary character had occurred, he thought it was right that the House should know something of the real state of feeling in Scotland regarding the Bill. He had had some opportunity of forming an opinion, and the result seemed to come to this: there were certain parties in Scotland entirely opposed to the Bill. In the first place there were the regular old party Whigs, who opposed the measure, because they thought it would embarrass the Government to throw out the measure, which was the principal of the present Session; and that if Scotland were left with this grievance unredressed, they would get the Scotch vote with them in the ensuing General Election. There were also the extreme Radicals, with whom Radical interest was national feeling, and who wished to keep the question open. They had certain Motions for reopening the great question of re-distribution of seats on an early occasion, not with reference to Scotland only, but to the United Kingdom. But, so far as he could learn among the really moderate independent Liberals of Scotland, there was a great disposition to accept the present Bill, provided the claims of Scotland to additional representation were recognized. They were not asking for twenty-five or thirty Members, to which they were entitled according to the statistical Returns; but they felt that compromises had always to be made in those cases, and thought about ten Members would be a fair number. He thought an addition of ten being conceded, the re-distribution being provided in a satisfactory manner, and security being given in the Bill against the creation of fictitious votes in counties, that, according to communications that had reached him, the great majority of the moderate independent Liberals in Scotland would readily support the Bill on 1262 those conditions. He sincerely hoped that, in the time that must elapse before the Bill got into Committee, Her Majesty's Government would see their way to meet the very reasonable demands to which he had adverted. He thought it would be a misfortune both for Scotland and generally for the country, that an opportunity should be lost of settling the question in the present Session on a satisfactory footing. He was unwilling, as a Scotchman, to fall to the ground between two stools, and not get even an instalment for Scotland of additional representation. He did not wish that a Scotch grievance, like the Irish grievance, should be left open merely for party purposes, and he entirely deprecated such a result as that shadowed forth by the hon. Member for Dumbarton. The most desirable course was that the Government should consider well what were the fair claims of Scotland in that matter, and between now and going into Committee, should be prepared to come forward with some plan to meet those claims, so that the great majority of the moderate independent Liberals could support the measure with a feeling of gratitude towards Her Majesty's Ministers for having met them in a liberal spirit.
§ MR. ELLICE
said, he did not intend to embarrass the discussion by addressing the House; but after the speech which his hon. Friend the Member for Wick had just made, he should not be doing justice to himself, or to a large acquaintance among all classes of society in Scotland, if he did not state that his experience was diametrically opposed to that of the hon. Member for Wick. He did not mean to say that Scotland was indifferent to the passing of that measure. On the contrary, he thought Scotland hailed any measure that promised a good and legitimate settlement of the question. On the other hand, he could state that Scotland would not be bribed by any such consideration as that referred to by the hon. Member for Wick to accept the provisions the Bill contained. There were in it evils—evils that they could not take at any price. He, for one, wanted to see the question of Reform settled. He thought it was very mischievous that the question should be left open for discussion year after year. He was not one of those who wished to keep the question open for discussion in the new Parliament—he wanted to see it settled now. But if it came to be a question, whether they were to accept the re-distribution of seats as 1263 proposed in the Bill, and the franchise settled upon a rating of the country which would land them in no end of confusion, he, for one, would pair off the additional Members with those clauses and take his chance for proper arrangements in these respects with the new Parliament. That he believed, so far as his experience went, to be the prevalent feeling in Scotland. On the other hand, he must say that what he heard from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government last year, and from his speeches made when the Bill was introduced, he was not without hopes that the right hon. Gentleman would approach the discussion of these matters in Committee in a spirit of fairness and conciliation. He had no right to suppose that he would do otherwise. He had heard no sound from him that indicated his determination to push the Bill through as it stood; and he therefore on the present occasion merely protested against the statement that Scotland was prepared to take the Bill as it was. He hoped that, when the proper time came for discussion on the measure, the right hon. Gentleman would meet their demand in a spirit of fairness and conciliation, and would consider those clauses with regard to distribution in a way that would remove all suspicion of their being proposed with a view to promote any particular party interest. As regarded the other questions of how additional Members were to be found, whether by adding to that House or taking from small seats in England, he might have his individual opinion hat small seats would be far better abolished; but, as a Scotch Member, he thought that was a question for the House itself to settle. He should take willingly and thankfully what the House would give in the shape of additional Members, provided he did not pay a price which he thought unjust.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, he had no intention of taking part in the debate; but having heard the speech of the hon. Member for Wick he could only say that he had heard his hon. Friend with the greatest surprise. Where those communications to which he referred came from he was at a loss to imagine; and he entirely concurred with his hon. Friend who had just sat down that they did not express the feelings of a very large proportion of the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. CRAUFURD
said, he must also protest against the statement made by his hon. Friend the Member for Wick. He 1264 received the other day a copy of the Dundee Advertiser, and in it he observed two things—one an extract from a letter of his hon. Friend, and the other a strong article supporting the view of his hon. Friend. That was the only instance they had had of the expression of an opinion in Scotland in his support. His hon. Friend having committed himself by his advice to his constituents endeavoured to keep that up by an article in a paper which, for the first time in its history, travelled out of the true Radical line of insisting on justice to Scotland. He thought the House would not be inclined to give much weight to that, but would listen to the opinions of those who would be on a division unanimous in claiming their rights in the way that they ought to have them; and if they could not get them in that way, would absolutely refuse to have them.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he should not on that occasion press his Amendment, but would reserve to himself the right at some future stage to object to adding to the number of Members of the House.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
The measure does not at its present stage require that I should say much in reference to it; but one or two points have been mooted in the course of the discussion, upon which I wish to make a few observations, in order to prevent any misapprehension being entertained with regard to this Bill. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) said, that the Bill contained clauses affecting the payment of rates which were not introduced in the Bill of 1832. The change in this respect, however, has not been proposed without good reason. My hon. Friend will recollect that in 1832 poor rates were levied in but few parishes in Scotland; and, in fact, there was then no general or uniform system of rating for the relief of the poor. At present, however, in about 700 out of 800 parishes of Scotland poor rates are levied as in England, with this exception that the half of them are paid by the tenants and the other half by the proprietors. It has been said that the Bill of 1832 provided that the occupiers should pay the taxes due in respect of the premises; but that this condition was removed by a subsequent statute. The right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Moncreiff) made a mistake in this respect. The Act to which he referred on a former occasion is the 19 & 20 Vict., c. 58, and it is entitled "An Act to Amend the Law for the Registrations of Persons entitled to Vote in the 1265 Election of Members to serve in Parliament for Burghs in Scotland." By the 33rd section of that Act it is enacted—That all Provisions of the first recited Act as to any Payments thereby required to be made in Burghs by any Persons claiming to be registered or to vote, or objecting to the Claims of Persons claiming to be registered or to vote for any Burgh are hereby repealed.It was a clause to remove the burden of the payments of fees from those who wished to be registered, or desired to offer objections to others being registered. A clause for the purpose of altering the qualification would have been out of place, inasmuch as the Act had reference solely to registration.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
The clause with reference to the payment of assessed taxes was in 1832, and that I said was practically in abeyance, because it was never observed.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
I was going to refer to that. I was not resting it upon my own construction of the clause of 19 & 20 Vict.; but I have referred to the gentlemen who are in charge of the registration of voters in Edinburgh and Glasgow; and they say that the condition is still observed, and they require that the parties pay their taxes, so that the rule is this—all those above £10 pay the assessed taxes. And now comes the question, when we are establishing a new franchise, whether those below £10 should pay their rates? Is there anything unreasonable that those who are to exercise the franchise as occupiers under £10 should pay those poor rates which are due, such rate only amounting to half of the whole rate as paid in England. The question does not in any way affect the occupiers above £10, because the principle of the Bill is, I think, under section 40—that what is done by the Bill is in addition to, and not in substitution for, any previous franchises, these last being left on the old footing. Those Members especially who express some alarm about the increase of the representation ought to have no objection to the payment of rates being made a condition of the right of voting. So much, then, with respect to the payment of rates. Then comes the question of distribution, which is purely a question for the Committee; and that being so, I shall not now go into it at any great length. But I may say that the principle of the Bill is an extension of the franchise and increase in the number of Members representing Scotland, It is most difficult to deal with 1266 such a question as this, because Scotchmen naturally feel desirous that the claims of Scotland should be recognized to a greater extent than they are by this Bill. But when I am dealing with this question I must take into consideration the fact that those prejudices which as a Scotchman I must share in will clash with the prejudices of both English and Irish Members. These hon. Gentlemen must excuse me for using the term, because I, as a Scotchman, have prejudices in favour of our country, and I have no doubt that Englishmen and Irishmen feel the same. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) by a comparison of the revenue and population of Scotland with the revenue and population of other parts of the kingdom, arrives at the conclusion that Scotland is entitled to an addition of twenty-five Members. But how are they to be obtained? By taking thirteen from England and twelve from Ireland? Propositions for taking away Members from England have certainly been placed on the Paper; but I have not seen any proposition for taking away Members from Ireland, although the principle applies equally to both countries. The House will therefore, I think, see the difficulty which anyone dealing with this question has to encounter. If it should be said that there are some small boroughs in England that might be sacrificed, is it to be forgotten that there are small boroughs in Ireland also, although disfranchisement of these has not been proposed? What is the reason of this? It is that my compatriots feel that there is much difficulty in dealing with this question. But then we are asked, why we have selected seven as the number of additional Members to be given by the Bill. In 1852 we had no proposition at all made for the increase of Scotch Members. In 1854 and in 1859 no Scotch Bill was introduced, and in 1860 it was proposed to make an addition of two Members. In 1866 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) said that he had, after very mature consideration, and after well weighing the circumstances of the case, adopted this number; so that I do not see how the present Ministry have fairly exposed themselves to the severe observations which have been made during the course of this debate. Indeed, our proposition was originally made in 1867, or just one year after the proposition of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire. Now, with reference to the principle of distribution. There are 1267 many principles which may be adopted; and hon. Members, advocating their own local interests, see that which is immediately before them, and forget to look beyond these—they forget that there are other interests to be consulted. Accordingly, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) who always stands up for the rights of that ancient city, now asserts its claim to an additional Member. But by the Census of 1861 the population of Aberdeen was 75,000, and it is not proposed to give an additional Member to Aberdeen county, which has a population of 140,000 or 150,000. [Colonel SYKES: I did not say so.] But it is said that we are taking so many towns out of the counties. I am exceedingly anxious that this matter should be attended to and investigated. I knew well that we could not make any proposition in this House, where the Scotch Members on this side of the House bear the proportion of one to five or six, unless the proposition would bear the test of argument. Well, now, I ask the House to keep this fact in view. What was done in 1832—the classic times of Reform—when we, at all events in Scotland, were taught the rudiments of this question? There was an addition then made of eleven boroughs, all of which possessed populations as low as 6,000, some of them possessing very little more than 2,000 inhabitants. That was the precedent before us in framing this Bill. Was there, therefore, anything improper in selecting those towns which had increased since 1832, and which are likely to increase in subsequent years? We are now adjusting a scheme which, it is to be hoped, will last a considerable time? One of these towns in Lanarkshire possesses 22,000 inhabitants, and yet it has been called a village. It has been said, too, that our proposals have been made with a view to party ends. If the proposals were made solely for party purposes, such a course would undoubtedly be wrong; but do not, because they apparently tend to affect in some way the interests to which you are attached, at once reject the scheme. We are, to a moderate extent, following the precedent of 1832, and I humbly venture to think that the more our proposal is considered, the more readily will its equitable character be acknowledged; although it may tend in some way, as all changes undoubtedly must, to affect one or other of the great parties in the State. I do not 1268 know that I need advert to anything further, except to express my regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton-shire (Mr. Smollett)—who, if he has not inherited the acres of his literary ancestor, lays claim to no inconsiderable share of his wit, and who, like Diogenes, has been unsuccessful in his search for some one in whom he can repose confidence—should have taken so gloomy and unhappy a view of this Bill. He alluded to the ten-pounders of Glasgow as having done ill in rejecting Mr. Dennistoun, and selecting some one whom he regarded with less favour. It seems, therefore, that the older voters occasionally make mistakes; and in support of this view he might also have alluded to the rejection of Mr. Macaulay by his former constituency of Edinburgh. I venture, however, to say that I have great confidence in the loyalty and good feeling of the working classes, and I do not think that any danger need be apprehended from the power which will accrue to them under the present Bill. I do not believe that trades unions will exercise that power and influence which some Members appear to dread; and I believe that the atrocities which have occurred in isolated instances, are repudiated by the majority, not only of the working classes, but of those who are members of trades unions; bodies which in themselves are perfectly legitimate as long as they are disconnected from those atrocities which, unfortunately, have in some instances been committed. I will not, at this stage of the Bill, detain the House with any further remarks.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, he was unwilling that the debate should close without his having entered his protest against the assumption of the hon. Member for Wick to represent the opinion of the Radicals. They did not acknowledge the hon. Member as one of them; and he (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) dared say that if the hon. Member would express his own opinions they would be entirely different from theirs. He (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) believed that Her Majesty's Government were on the wrong tack. He recognized no difference between England, Scotland, and Ireland, in the treatment of this question, and thought that one Bill should have been introduced for the three Kingdoms. Ministers had made that great mistake, which they never would recover, of rejecting his Motion of last year for the disfranchising of small boroughs. He believed that the first act of the Re- 1269 formed Parliament would be to revoke that vote, and to do justice not only to Scotland and England, but to Ireland also. These rotten boroughs, which represented nobody and held no opinions, were a foul disgrace to the country. He had some doubt as to whether they should increase the representation of Scotland, but rather thought that the whole representation of the United Kingdom should be massed into one body, taking from the rotten boroughs whatever new seats were required without reference to locality, and giving them to the larger boroughs which were unrepresented. We ought to be, we were, a United Kingdom, but the effect of this Bill would be to create dissension. At all events he did not think they should strengthen Scotch representation at the expense of England alone, but should abolish rotten boroughs even in Ireland with their eighty-eight voters. He repeated, that what Ministers ought to have done was to have brought in the Reform Bill for the United Kingdom, abolishing the small boroughs in all parts of it without distinction, and giving representatives to places which were entitled to them by their population, their wealth, and their intelligence.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday, 23rd March.