§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. BAXTER
, in rising to move "That it be an Instruction to the Committee instead of adding to the numbers of the that, House, they have power to disfranchise Boroughs in England having, by the Census Returns of 1861, less than 5,000 inhabitants," said, he should endeavour to state, as succinctly as he possibly could, his reasons for having taken this course. Her Majesty's Government proposed to provide for the necessary increase in the number of Members for Scotland by an addition to the number of Members of that House. His proposal, on the contrary, was that they should, instead of doing so, disfranchise the boroughs in England having at the last Census a population of less than 5,000. That proposition would not, he thought, require or justify an elaborate argument. He had to show, in the first place, that there were certain increasing constituencies in the northern part of this island requiring additional representation, which was not provided for in the Bill of last year. He had got to show that the proposal of the Government with reference to the increased representation of such places was not one that ought to be adopted, and he had also got to show that the scheme laid down in the Instruction he now moved was the best solution of the difficulty. He wished at the outset, however, to disclaim anything like a partizan or factious spirit in bringing forward this Motion. He, and he alone, was responsible for it. He informed 436 his constituents last October of his intention to bring it forward, and though glad to find so strong a feeling on that side of the House in its favour, he would under any circumstances have proceeded with it. So far, indeed, from being actuated by party motives, he had to complain of the conduct of both parties in relation to the question, and he held both parties accountable for the present embarrassment. Government after Government—Liberal as well as Conservative—instead of treating this as a united Empire, had insisted on dealing with the three kingdoms in separate Bills, thus rendering it impossible to take a general survey of them for the purposes of re-distribution. When, in 1859, the present First Lord of the Treasury introduced a Reform Bill, he moved an Amendment condemnatory of that mode of procedure, though it was not thought desirable to press it to a division; and his hon. Friend (Mr. Bright), when some years ago he framed a scheme of re-distribution, proceeded on the principle of dealing with the United Kingdom as a whole. He bad no desire to impede the passing of the present Bill, and he gave the Government credit for having adopted the course which they thought would be most satisfactory to the majority of the House. They were well aware of the existence both of Scylla and Charybdis in the course which lay before them; but in their desire to steer clear of the rock they had rushed into the greater dangers of the whirlpool. There might be a few Members who objected to a transfer of seats from one portion of the United Kingdom to another; but he believed a much larger body objected under any circumstances to adding to the numbers of the House. Both sides of the House and successive Governments had admitted the claim of Scotland to increased representation, and it would be a waste of time to quote any elaborate statistics in support of it. At the time of the passing of the Act of Union in 1707 and of the Reform Act in 1832, the proportion of Members allotted to Scotland was based on population and revenue. If that principle were insisted upon, Scotland would now require not ten as proposed in his Instruction, but twenty-five additional representatives. This might appear an extravagant assertion to those unacquainted with the advance Scotland had made, especially in wealth, during the last half-century, but Returns that had been laid on the table showed that whereas in 1710—three years after the date of the 437 Union—the proportion of the Imperial Revenue contributed by Scotland was only 2¼ per cent, it had risen in 1866 to 14½ per cent. In that period the revenue of England had increased 300 per cent, whilst the revenue of Scotland had increased 2,500 per cent; so that if they were to arrive at any conclusion with regard to the wealth of the two countries founded on these Returns, the progress made by Scotland during that period was eight times greater than the progress made by England. The fact was that there was no country in the Old World which had made such rapid material progress as Scotland, and for a parallel we must go to Australia or the United States of America. With these very few words he should dismiss that part of the subject. He would now offer a few words in regard to his plan. On the second reading of this Bill, an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House said he considered it his duty to obtain, by hook or by crook, additional representation for Scotland. He (Mr. Baxter), however, felt that he had a higher duty, and that he was bound to protest against adding to the numbers of the House. The Empire ought not to be treated as a more federation, and the claims of different parts to increased representation to be, in a manner, bought off in order to keep up an unequal system of distribution, and to prevent the disfranchisement of a few miserable pocket-boroughs. So far from the numbers of the House being augmented, they ought, in his opinion, to be largely diminished. This was no new doctrine. In 1830 the late Lord Brougham had a scheme—which, however, was not brought forward—for a Reform Bill, based like that of last year on household suffrage, and he (Mr. Baxter) had understood that it proposed to reduce the number from 658 to 500. In 1831 the Ministry of Earl Grey proposed that the numbers of the House should be diminished, and hon. Gentlemen would recollect that the proposal was only negatived by a majority of 8 on the celebrated Amendment moved by General Gascoigne. He believed Lord Russell regretted that, in 1832, he did not renew the proposition, since it might then have been carried. One of the greatest living writers had remarked, in a recent work, that the numbers of the House were far too great for real deliberation, and he would appeal to Members on both sides whether this was not correct. The only argument for keeping up the numbers was 438 that Members had to serve on Election and Private Bill Committees. A measure, however, was in progress which would transfer the jurisdiction of Election Petitions, and it could hardly be doubted that before long an independent tribunal would be constituted for the consideration of Private Bills. With a Parliament elected under household suffrage, when Gentlemen would not only be present at great party divisions, but would attend to the business of the country, it would be impossible to carry on the Business of the House with so large a number as 658. In Prance the Legislative Assembly consisted of 376 Members; in Spain, 350; in Austria, 203; the Parliament of the North German Confederation consisted of 280; and the House of Representatives of the United States of 241 Members. If Parliament were to meet the claims of increased wealth and population by adding to the numbers of Members of that House, they would immediately diminish the interest felt in the system of Parliamentary representation, and moreover he did not see where they were to stop. If the number of Scotch Members were increased, London and the county palatine of Lancaster would put in their claims, until the number of Members of the House would be preposterous and would amount to a reductio ad absurdum. There were only two large towns on the other side of the Tweed which returned two Members—Glasgow and Edinburgh. The others, comprising many large and important constituencies, only returned one Member. Their claims to additional representation was undoubted; but there was no chance of giving them additional representatives by adding to the numbers of that House. This was not the first time that Parliament had been called upon to disturb the settlement of seats in the United Kingdom, though hon. Gentlemen talk as if this proposition was something very extraordinary, unusual, and bold. In 1832 eight seats were taken from England and given to Scotland; and he did not believe that Englishmen in 1868 were more narrow-minded and prejudiced than in 1832; and he could say that if the population and wealth of Scotland had decreased during the last half century instead of increasing immensely, he would have been the first to propose a reduction in the number of Scotch Members. He should not be surprised if our descendants should have—perhaps within the next half century—in re distributing the Parliamentary- 439 seats, to take Members from Scotland and give them to England, and, perhaps, to Ireland. He now asked the House to do what ought to have been done last year, in order to render the measure of the Government more complete. There happened to be ten places which he could scarcely dignify by the name of boroughs, but which were in fact small decayed villages, each of which returned one Member. The population of these places was in each case less than 5,000. The population of the ten boroughs was in the aggregate 39,704, the average being less than 4,000. The total number of electors in the ten boroughs was 2,874. Eight of these ten had greatly decreased in population during the last five years, and they were all situated in counties which were over-represented, and the Boundary Commission in their Report to the House say that it is almost impossible that under any circumstances they should ever increase in population. He would ask hon. Members whether it was not certain that if the present House of Commons refrained from disfranchising these boroughs it would be the first act of the new Parliament to disfranchise them in order to prevent the scandal of places that were merely hamlets returning representatives to Parliament, The hon. Baronet the Member for South Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley) proposed to amend the Instruction by taking a second Member from English boroughs having populations of between 10,000 to 12,000. He should approve such a proposition standing by itself, but, under the circumstances, he preferred his own scheme. Every one of these boroughs had, however, increased in population since 1831, the increase having been 32,000, equal to the total population of the ten boroughs which he (Mr. Baxter) proposed to disfranchise. If, moreover, they adopted the proposal of the hon. Baronet they would get into a difficulty with the Boundary Commissioners, because they proposed to extend the boundaries of those boroughs. He had only heard two objections to his scheme. The first was that it was totally contrary to the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government—namely, that no place should be totally disfranchised. But the allegation was incorrect, because, whatever might have been said last year, the Government this Session proposed to disfranchise six boroughs in Ireland, and he thought they had done perfectly right. These questions, however, of re-distribu 440 tion and registration were not matters of principle at all but of detail. The second objection was that a similar proposal, when made by the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) last Session, had been rejected by the House. That proposal, however, was at that time a mere theoretical scheme of re-distribution, and it was not proposed to allot these seats in any particular way. The same objection might, in fact, be urged against the Amendment of the hon. Baronet, because the House had rejected a Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) which hit four of these boroughs. He would only repeat that he had brought forward this Instruction on his own responsibility and on constitutional principles. He thought he had made out a good case, and he appealed with confidence to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and to the wisdom and justice of the House to affirm his Resolution.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
, in seconding the Resolution, said, that of all the propositions which the present Government had made in regard to the Reform question not one had been more condemned both in and out of the House than that of adding to the number of Members of the House of Commons. The only excuse he had heard for that proposal was that it was a mere temporary measure, that some boroughs would be sure to be disfranchised for corruption by-and-by, and that Parliament need not enfranchise any other place until they reverted to the original number. But, did anyone suppose that when one borough was disfranchised for corrupt practices there would not be plenty of large growing towns coming forward as claimants for the vacant representation? Where was the increase to end? The Government had fixed upon the number of seven additional representatives for Scotland, but they said also that they were ready to add eight or ten or even any larger number. One thing was certain, that an addition of seven to the representatives to Scotland by increasing the number of the House would not be accepted as a settlement of this question. In point of wealth and numbers Scotland was entitled to twenty-five additional Members. It was one thing to take seven Members from England and give them to Scotland, and another to increase the number of Members of that House by seven. The concession in the latter case to Scotland 441 was only one half as great as in the former. He believed that England was prepared in this matter to deal generously with Scotland, not to give her something which cost herself nothing. The claim of ten additional Members for Scotland was very moderate, and the House would, he thought, be prepared to adopt it. The proposal of the Government might be brought to a fair standard by asking whether it would have been made if England and Scotland had been dealt with in the same Bill! He ventured to think it would not. Were hon. Gentlemen anxious it should appear to the public that the House was not prepared to make any sacrifice, or encounter an obstacle, however small, unless under the influence of a pressure from without? If once any such impression got abroad they would soon have pressure enough. The only reason he could find for the preservation of such Parliamentary boroughs was a desire on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to keep alive the principle enunciated last year by their Leader that no borough should be totally disfranchised. He should have thought it was hardly worth while preserving that little principle after so many large ones had been unreservedly given up. He had put himself to some trouble to understand the principle as laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, but he was unable fully to comprehend it. They had been told that in these days "when communities so rapidly rise and vanish" it is impossible to proceed with too much circumspection; but he had been unable to discover what and where were the communities which had thus vanished, and he might observe that this argument was not made applicable to Ireland in the Reform Bill now before the House for that country. Again, had there been an indication of growing importance in the case of the ten boroughs the subject of his hon. Friend's proposal? The fact was that in the period between the Census of 1831 and that of 1861 there had been a decrease in six and an increase in four of them. In 1861 the total number of their aggregate population was 40,000. The four boroughs which had increased had so brought up the total population of the whole ten that there was a fractional increase of ½ per cent, or one in 200. The Boundary Commissioners could add nothing to them; but the case was very different with the boroughs with a population of between 10,000 and 12,000. Between 1831 and 1861 these boroughs had in- 442 creased by about 30 per cent, so that their increase was sixty times more than that in the other ten boroughs. The Boundary Commissioners proposed an extension in the case of three of those boroughs of between 10,000 and 12,000. [An hon. MEMBER: In four.] Well, in three, at all events; and in the case of one of them—Warwick—the addition would be greater than the whole number of voters in six of the other boroughs which it was now proposed to disfranchise. He believed that though the question of Parliamentary re-distribution might not be finally settled by the disfranchisement of these ten little boroughs, yet, if they were disfranchised Parliament would be in no great hurry to take up the question of re-distribution again. In our time and for many years to come the House would have great and pressing questions to deal with, without being called on to consider that of the re-distribution of Parliamentary power. Already several Sessions had been wasted in discussions on this question, and it would be well to do something now which would settle it for a reasonably long period. These small boroughs had no friends outside the House, he might be asked what security they had, if they disfranchised boroughs below 5,000, that the next Parliament would feel bound by that line? He must say that he had more faith in the moderation of his fellow-countrymen, and in the forbearance of one class of them towards another, than he had in the principle of no total disfranchisement, which seemed to find such favour with hon. Gentleman on the other side.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that, instead of adding to the numbers of the House, they have power to disfranchise Boroughs in England having, by the Census returns of 1861, less than 5,000 inhabitants."—(Mr. Baxter.)
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
, in rising to move an Amendment to the Instruction of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), said, he concurred in many of the arguments that, had been used for taking away representatives from some of the small boroughs. So far back as ten years ago, when the Earl of Derby brought in his Reform Bill, and on other occasions since, he had stated his opinion that the re-distribution schemes embodied in Reform Bills did not go far enough, and that the question of the distribution of Parliamentary power could not be settled satisfactorily without disfranchisement to some extent. He remembered, however, that 443 on one occasion when he endeavoured to make the House take that view, the most eloquent defender of the small boroughs was the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone)—Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,Everything by starts, and nothing long.As a Conservative anxious to put a stop to further agitation, he (Sir Rainald Knightley) was prepared to vote in the direction he had indicated. The object at winch he had always aimed was to obtain more Members for the counties, which were most inadequately represented. Take the case of Tiverton, the population of which was just over 10,000, and which possessed twice as much representation as the whole county of Lanarkshire with 631,000. He was not a Revolutionist, and did not want to portion out the country into electoral districts; but, so long as these anomalies existed, he was convinced there would be cause for agitation. He now wanted the House to decide between two different schemes. The question was, whether it was advisable to totally disfranchise those ten small boroughs, for no fault of their own, while two Members were to be left to such little places as Tiverton, or such nasty corrupt little boroughs as Barnstaple and Bridgewater? He had spoken as if some concession ought to be made to Scotland; but he did not think that they ought so to apply the principle which he advocated as to give to Scotland all the seats that might become vacant. The question arose, whether some of these seats ought not to be given to England or to Ireland? The Government of Earl Russell, as well as the present Government, was prepared to give additional Members to Scotland; but the opinion of the House of Commons had never been directly tested upon this point. At present, however, all the House had to do was to determine whether it would accept or reject the proposal of the Government as regards the increase of the number of Members of the House. For his own part, he objected to it; and his objection was not merely confined to the great inconvenience which hon. Gentlemen would suffer in the small, dark, narrow, dreary, and detestable barn in which they sat. In his opinion they were already far too large a body to carry on the business of the country in a satisfactory manner. But it was said that the addition of twelve Members or so could not much matter. In his judgment, however; it would matter a great deal if an irrevocable step were taken 444 in a wrong direction. As was said in the French proverb having reference to a lady whose virtue was supposed to be wavering—" Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute." If the House adopted the principle of giving away without receiving back, and of increasing the number of Members whenever fresh claims were put forward, he did not know when it would be possible to stop. Scotland candidly avowed that she only accepted this concession as an instalment, and a claim for forty additional Members had been set up for Ireland. He confessed that a cold shiver came over him when he reflected on the number of Members which ought on the principle to be given to the metropolis. And if it were asserted that the case of the metropolis was exceptional, and should be treated differently from the rest of the Empire, why should not the representation of Lancashire and Yorkshire be enormously increased? These were important matters, and might involve a change in the whole character of the House of Commons. Hitherto a seat in Parliament had been regarded as a distinction and eagerly sought for by persons of high rank and great wealth; but would that be so in the event of the Dumber of Members being largely increased? Recent legislation had already done much to deter persons from seeking a seat in that House, for it must be admitted that canvassing the "residuum" was not a very agreeable occupation. Having mentioned the word ''residuum," he would venture to ask the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) what it really meant? Of course, its original meaning was "that which is left;" but did the hon. Member mean that the "residuum" formed the dregs or the scum of the population? He was thinking that the new electors in the borough of Birmingham might be very anxious to know what the hon. Gentleman really meant when he used that word. They would thoroughly appreciate the name either of "scum" or "dregs," Only imagine what would have been said if his right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) had made use of such expressions. He was remarking, however, that canvassing the "residuum," either by pandering to their passions or by purchasing their votes, could not in any case be a very agreeable occupation; and things at once common and unclean were not usually sought after. He had made these few remarks in no unfriendly spirit to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. He did 445 not in the least blame the right hon. Gentleman for bringing forward his proposal, as he well knew the difficulties he had to contend with. It would have been fatal to the success of his Bill last year if he had offended the representatives of the small English boroughs, for they were his best friends; and, on the other hand, he had no alternative but to take into consideration the claims put forward for the increased representation of Scotland. He thought, however, that it was the right hon. Gentleman's poverty, and not his will, which consented when he undertook to compound the deleterious Scotch draught, and he believed the right hon. Gentleman would be delighted in his inmost heart if the House should refuse to swallow it.
§ SIR WILLIAM STIRLING-MAXWELL
, in seconding the Amendment, said, the Scottish representatives believed their country had a fair claim to have its representation considerably augmented. That claim rested on the grounds of population, property, find taxation, and, as it had been generally admitted by the House, he would not now press it. But if in these three points the Scotch had, on the whole, outstripped both England and Ireland, yet there were portions of England which, in some respects, had outstripped Scotland, When, therefore, his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) gave Notice of his Instruction he feared the proposal to take away some of the English seats would rather endanger than improve the chance of obtaining for Scotland increased representation. He was glad, therefore, that an alteration had been proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley), whose Amendment, he hoped the House would be prepared to accept. With regard to the original proposal of the Government to add to the numbers of the House, he could not go as far as his hon. Friends the Members for Northamptonshire and Montrose. The idea of the latter seemed to be that 658 men are too large a body to form a deliberative Assembly. It was difficult to define a deliberative Assembly exactly; but it appeared to him that if 658 persons formed too large a body, the same thing might be said of 600, or 500, or 300, or, perhaps, even 100. Indeed, in the earlier part of the evening, it had been urged upon the House that there was a considerable deliberative difference between five and seven. In point of fact, a great public Assembly like that House was not 446 and could not be, in certain senses of the word, a deliberative Assembly at all. It was a place where, on great occasions, the leaders of public opinion made speeches, addressed as much to the public as to their actual audience, and where the national will on great questions is declared by means of a vote. The real deliberations of the House were carried on by means of large Commit tees, produced by a process of natural selection. Sometimes there was an Indian House of Commons, sometimes a military House of Commons, sometimes a legal House of Commons, and occasionally a little Scotch House of Commons. Now, for the selection of these Committees, it was far better to have 658 Members than a smaller number. Although the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury did not last year meet with much favour, still he, for one, felt grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having made it. He thought, the right hon. Gentleman had done good service by putting the claim of Scotland distinctly before the House, and by suggesting, in a tentative manner, the various ways in which it was possible to satisfy that claim. He (Sir William Stirling-Maxwell) had no objection to the increase proposed, because there was really only one argument used against it which appeared to him to have any weight, and that was the danger of undue or inconvenient pressure of similar claims in the future. It was said that if the number of Scotch Members was increased by this Parliament, by an addition to the House, the new Parliament would be asked to increase in like manner the representatives of other flourishing districts. But his experience of Parliament was that "No," was the answer made to almost every private claim when it first came to that House; and that a claim must indeed be strong, substantial, and its advocates zealous and indefatigable before "No" was turned into "Yes." He could trust the next or any future Parliament to say "No" to any such claim which did not rest on any sure grounds of justice. As to the two proposals made to the House, one by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), and one by his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley), there certainly was no very great difference between them—and to the Scotch Members of course it was a matter of no great importance which of the two alterations was adopted. But without wearying the House by going into lengthy argument, he would 447 venture to say that there was much force in the historical argument which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government last year used against the disfranchisement of any single borough. Many of the places which were represented by two Members in this House were really inferior in importance to some which had only one representative. To deprive any place of the privilege which it had long enjoyed of returning Members to this House, and which it had not abused, might be fairly considered a hardship. But he saw nothing unjust or harsh in reducing certain small towns in England to the Parliamentary condition which was at present enjoyed or suffered by other towns of greater population and importance both in England and Scotland. He begged to second the Amendment of his hon. Friend, which he hoped would be supported by all the hon. Members for Scotland.
To leave out from the word "power" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "to take one seat from Boroughs in England returning two Members, and having, by the Census returns of 1861, less than 12,000 inhabitants,"—(Sir Rainald Knighlley,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, the question before the House was one of a simple character, and that might be dealt with without any delay; but as his constituents were interested in the matter, perhaps he might be allowed to say a few words upon it. There was now no question that the number of Members of the House was not to be increased, and one of the two propositions before the House must be adopted. In respect of principle, there was nothing to decide; because, though the Head of the Government last year, in his speech at Edinburgh, said that no place ought to be disfranchised, the right hon. Gentleman had distinctly abandoned that principle in the Irish Reform Bill. In addition to the reasons given by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), he would state some reasons why the Motion of the hon. Member should be supported in preference to that of the hon. Baronet (Sir Rainald Knightley). For instance, a very large proportion of the boroughs with less than 5,000 inhabitants, were boroughs with a very large area indeed of land, as compared with their population. It appeared from the Returns of the Boundary Commissioners, that some of 448 these places had two acres of land to one; inhabitant, and in one instance there were nearly three acres of land to one inhabitant, so that they could hardly be called boroughs at all. Thus in Ashburton there were 3,062 persons to 6,966 acres, and in Northallerton 4,755 inhabitants to 10,380 acres. There was no such case among the boroughs of between 10,000 and 12,000 inhabitants. Again, it was proposed to diminish the number of Members for England, in order to make up the number for Scotland to something more in proportion to its population and wealth; but upon that basis it was desirable to see that the Members were taken from those places which were over-represented, and not from those places which were under-represented. Now, all the boroughs with less than 5,000 inhabitants were in counties which were already considerably over-represented, and which would be still over-represented when the Members were taken away from these small boroughs. The boroughs of Ashburton, Dartmouth, and Honiton were in Devonshire, which under the Act of 1867 would return one Member for every 29,000 inhabitants, and would still, after the three Members had been taken away, return one for every 34,000, while the proportion for the whole of England would be one representative for 41,000 persons. Lyme Regis was in Dorsetshire, which returned by the Act of 1867 one Member for every 17,000 inhabitants, and would still return, after one Member had been taken away, one for every 19,000, or more than double the number to which it is entitled in proportion to the representation all over the country. Thetford was in Norfolk, which, excluding Great Yarmouth from both sides of the calculation, would, by the new Reform Act, return one Member for 36,000 inhabitants, and would still return one for 40,000. Wells was in Somersetshire, which returned one Member for every 30,000 inhabitants, and would still return one for every 33,000. Arundel was in Sussex, which now returned one representative for every 23,000 inhabitants, and would still return one for every 25,000. Marlborough was in Wiltshire, which returned one Member for every 16,000, and would still return one for every 18,000. Evesham was in Worcestershire, which returned one Member for every 28,000, and would still return one for every 31,000. The North Riding, in which Northallerton was situated, returned one Member for every 25,000, and would still return one for every 29,000. What 449 was the case on the other side? It was proposed to take one Member from Tamworth, in the county of Stafford, which county, under the Act of 1867, would have one Member for 44,000, and would, if one were taken away, only return one for every 47,000. Warwickshire only returned one Member for every 50,000 inhabitants, and I if they took one of the representatives from Warwick, the county would then only; return one for every 55,000. The East Riding of Yorkshire returned under the new Act one Member for very 39,000 or 40,000 inhabitants, and if they took away a Member from Beverley, the proportion would then be reduced to one in every 47,000. The West Riding returned only; one representative for 68,000 inhabitants, and if a Member were taken from Pontefract, the proportion would be reduced to one for every 71,000. There were other arguments in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose; but if these figures did not make out a sufficient case, he did not know by what arguments the House could be convinced.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he thought there was something ungenerous in the present discussion. Hon. Members had risen on each side of the House to say who should and who should not be sacrificed. He deeply regretted that the moderate proposal of the First Minister of the Crown had not been acceded to. There need then have been no question of sacrifice. He did not understand last year that the right hon. Member for South Lancashire objected to increasing the number of Members of the House indeed, he thought the right hon. Gentleman accepted the proposal with the second reading of the English Reform Bill. ["No, no !"] He did not see on what principle the objection was made. There was no ground for supposing that the adoption of such a measure would lead to similar demands year after year, and the question of this very moderate addition was introduced at a time when they were proposing to build a new House, which would accommodate something like 144 more Members. A great principle laid down in the Bill of last year would be entirely set aside if the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) were accepted. If the House were to accept one of the two proposals now before them that of the hon. Baronet (Sir Rainald Knightley) seemed much the more reasonable. He felt a double interest on this matter, as a representative of one 450 of the small boroughs, and as n Scotchman; and he considered that if ten more Members were given to Scotland, it was but fair Lanarkshire should have three, for, independently of Glasgow, it contained 200,000 people. Moreover it was divided into three districts having separate interests. Seven new Members were not an adequate number for Scotland, If it was impossible to add to the total number of Members, he trusted the Motion of the hon. Baronet would be carried.
§ LORD EDWARD HOWARD
said, that he believed it was the custom in England when a criminal was about to be sentenced, that he should be asked whether he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon him—and as, perhaps, the only criminality of which he was guilty, was being the representative of what an hon. Member called a "miserable pocket-borough," which bad sent Members to Parliament for 800 years, he trusted that be might be permitted to say a few words for it. In those 800 years no doubt civilization had made great progress; but it had been said that history repents itself, and it had done so in the present case. About 800 years ago there were in the North two nations called the Picts and the Scots, and history said that the Scots after vanquishing the Picts, gave trouble to their neighbours on the southern side of the Tweed. They harried the lands, they invested the towns, they did all the damage they could to the Southrons; and he was sorry to say things were no better now—they were even worse; because, not satisfied with ravaging a narrow district on the one side of the Tweed, they had come down to the southern coast of this country, circumvented the small towns, and wished to kidnap the Members of these unfortunate towns and take them back to the wild North to use for their own purposes. Now, was such a step absolutely called for? The Prime Minister, in a remarkable speech upon a remarkable occasion at Edinburgh, said he saw no reason why there should be any disfranchisement of the small boroughs; and he could not think that a person of such mature judgment would have passed such an opinion as that unless there had been a good deal in it. He wished to ask with every respect and consideration for hon. Gentlemen who represented places north of the Tweed, whether, if it were well to take away Members from the small boroughs in England, were there not towns of greater importance in 451 England than in Scotland to which those Members might be given? In that case it would be only fair to give them to English boroughs; but even then you originated a most inconvenient course of proceeding, for if the House were to re-open the Reform measure of last year upon this question where would legislation stop? Were they to have a Reform Bill every year? There was another inconvenience; for while applications came for additional representation from English and Welsh towns, there was actually on the Paper a Motion by a Member of the Emerald Isle to the effect that Ireland was inadequately represented, and required any Members which England might have to spare. The measure of last year had been called a "leap in the dark." Were they prepared to go further in the same direction? If you disfranchised these small boroughs you went a long way towards establishing electoral districts. Was the country prepared for that? He was not for taking away Members from any boroughs, believing that by the existing system you represented a greater diffusion of interests than would otherwise be possible. At the same time he preferred the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir Rainald Knightley) to that of the hon. Member (Mr. Baxter), and should support the former. His votes and those of his predecessors in the representation of Arundel had always been given on the Liberal side, and he was not now going so to stultify those votes as to die, if he must die, without appealing to the House to pause and consider whether the day was yet come for his execution.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I am glad to see that there is one point upon which the House seems now to be agreed—namely, that the representation of Scotland should be increased. At other times and in other Sessions I have heard controversies upon this subject; but on both sides it is now agreed that an increased representation of Scotland is desirable. Well, then, the whole question that now arises is how that increase is to be effected. There are some who are against entirely abolishing the representation of boroughs. They think it is wise that the representation should he distributed generally over the country; they think that if you merely represent numbers and property, located in places particularly flourishing, yon may occasion a great monotony of representation, and that the varied interests which exist in an ancient country like this will not be ade 452 quately represented. To avoid the evils of dealing recklessly and ruthlessly with the ancient distributed representation of the country, Her Majesty's Government last year proposed that we should give this increased representation to Scotland by increasing the numbers of this House. That proposition, avoiding many of the objections urged against the other plan, and combined, as it was, with very extensive changes in the then existing representation, appeared one which might have been recommended successfully to the adoption of the House. I confess that I have never yet heard any argument against the proposal. Prejudices may exist, prejudices may be expressed, but hitherto no observations have been made which con for a moment be considered as sound arguments. The numbers of this House have been often increased, and the House after each increase has been more effective as a representative and legislative body. It has been considerably increased—far beyond what we proposed—twice in this very century, and on both occasions the House has increased in legitimate influence and legislative effect. I cannot, therefore, understand, so far as experience can guide us, that there are any sound objections on this ground to an increase of our Members. Then there is another class of observations—for I cannot call them arguments—made by Gentlemen who say that the House is too large at present. But is the House too large at present? I am not of that opinion. It is very easy to say that 600 or 700 men form too large a number for a deliberative Assembly; but what do you mean by a deliberative Assembly? This House is, as all assemblies which have legislative powers must be, deliberative in its character; but it has qualities and functions which go beyond that. It is essentially a representative Assembly; in a country with such a variety of interests, and interests so large to represent, it must and ought to be a popular Assembly; and it can never be a popular Assembly if it 13 to be limited in its numbers, and to ape the character of a Senate, instead of being what I trust it always will be—a House of Commons. It is said that when the ordinary business of the country is to be transacted Members do not appear, and that it is only on occasions of great interest that the Members are really assembled. Well, that is very natural, and is in perfect consonance with the feelings of the country. The ordinary business of the House is 453 performed to the satisfaction of the country, and entirely to the satisfaction of the House generally, by assemblies less numerous than that I have now the honour of addressing. But when great occasions arise touching deeply-cherished principles or affecting great material interests, there is naturally a larger number of Members here, and then they fulfil the functions which the country demands of them, and which are essentially representative, so that the people know that the House of Commons comes to no decision on any important subject without all the interests and even all the passions of the country being represented. Therefore, I, for one, do not consider the numbers of this House any objection to its constitution, but, on the contrary, one of its recommendations. And when there is, as I think decidedly, a fair claim to increased representation on the part of Scotland, and when that claim was urged at a time that we were dealing very extensively with the whole subject of Parliamentary representation, it was, I think, a prudent suggestion that the numbers of this House should be slightly increased; and our doing so need not be regarded as a precedent which will lead to the unheard-of difficulties and dangers which are now announced. Those difficulties and dangers would, I believe, be entirely prevented by the good sense and courage of the House, following the example of our predecessors and the precedent furnished even in the century in which we live, when much more important additions were made to this Assembly, by means of which both its efficiency as a legislative body, and its moral weight in the country, were greatly increased. With these views I regret to perceive what I cannot shut my eyes against, that the House is opposed to the increase of its numbers. I do not regard this as a party question, because I am well aware that a great number of Gentlemen who honour me with their confidence are of that opinion. Well, then, what are we to do? Considering that we have now arrived at a very dispassionate and practical point, and that we must endeavour with as much promptitude as is consistent with good workmanship to bring this question of the reform of the representation of the people to a conclusion, what is the best course under the circumstances to pursue? We have two propositions before us—one, that of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), the other, that of my hon. Friend 454 the Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley). Well, at the first blush, I admit there does not appear much, perhaps any, difference of principle in the two propositions. I confess that I agree with the noble Lord (Lord Edward Howard) who has just addressed us in so genial a manner, that I trust, whatever may be our decision, he at least will represent some place in this House. I agree with the noble Lord that it is unwise by totally abolishing some of our borough constituencies that you should disturb the mode in which the representation of the country is distributed, and take a course which may lead you to favour unduly certain parts of the kingdom instead of obtaining that general equality of representation of which I am desirous. Holding these views, I confess that I am more favourable to the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire. I cannot help bearing in mind that in a very full House, and after debate, we have twice decided against the proposition which is now made by the hon. Member for Montrose. We are told that this is a deliberative Assembly. What is the use of the House deliberating and coming to resolutions, repeating those deliberations and coming to the same conclusions again, if these decisions are not to govern the Minister whose business it is to bring these matters to a consummation? Well, the principle of the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire has been more than once approved by the House. The principle, or the rule rather—for I cannot call it a principle—which he wishes to follow was originally proposed to a certain extent by the Government. It was so entirely approved of that it was made the basis of an extensive change. And therefore we find ourselves in this position, that on two occasions the House has decided against the plan of the hon. Member for Montrose, and supported the policy recommended by my hon. Friend. Sir, whatever the decision the House comes to, I trust we shall be able to bring it to a practical result as soon as possible. That is of great importance, and, as far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, they will give their best endeavours to bring the Scotch Reform Bill with promptitude to a satisfactory conclusion. But at the same time I trust the House will remember what they are doing. Neither the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose, nor the plan of my hon. 455 Friend the Member for Northamptonshire, secures any particular number of Members for Scotland. It may be open to the House afterwards to consider what proportion of seats Scotland is to obtain. It would be more satisfactory, however, if we had clearer views before us of what is to be done. I think we shall arrive at a better conclusion if we follow the plan indicated by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire. With these general views, and trusting there will be no great delay, I shall give my support to the proposition of the hon. Baronet.
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has very frankly placed this question upon a footing upon which at any rate it is easy for us all to approach it; but that only enhances our obligation to endeavour to give a decision according to the merits of the case. The right hon Gentleman began by observing very justly that we were all now agreed that in some way or other the claim of Scotland must be satisfied. I must, however, congratulate the right hon. Gentleman noon the progress that he has made in this respect; because last year he in this House treated the claim of Scotland as a claim only to be recognized provided the House was willing to increase its own numbers; and upon a memorable occasion in the North he repeated the same declaration. But the force of facts, and the evident justice of the claim of Scotland, have placed this matter beyond dispute in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. And he has also made another great advance, because, although the right hon. Gentleman not unnaturally made an ingenious argument in favour of increasing the numbers of the House, he ended very fairly by admitting that the opinion of the House was adverse to him, and therefore he would consider that question also as settled. That is another step achieved. The claim of Scotland is to be satisfied, and it is to be satisfied otherwise than by an addition to the aggregate numbers of this House. I do not say one word upon the subject of the aggregate numbers—although I certainly differ very strongly from the right hon. Gentleman—simply because that is not a question that is practically before the House. The right hon. Gentleman expressed in mild terms, involving nothing unfair or inequitable, his preference for the Motion made by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley) rather than that of my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. 456 Baxter). Let us consider the grounds of that preference. He says—"Twice the House of Commons last year decided not to disfranchise any place." I think he is in error in that assertion. Once, undoubtedly, the House came to that decision; but the question was not ruled by the House that it would not disfranchise under any circumstances whatever; it was ruled upon the ground that, under the circumstances in which we then stood, we did not think it necessary. I was one of those who did; but the majority did not think it necessary to give that large extension which was proposed to the scheme of redistribution upon which we had entered. That really was the ground upon which the House then decided, and not the ground of the sacred-ness of these insignificant boroughs. There is not only no double authority, there is not even a single authority, in favour of any such principle as that wherever representation exists there it is to be maintained. While I was listening to the excellent speech of my noble Friend the Member for Arundel (Lord Edward Howard), I felt the advantage which we derived from having in the House men such as he; but I felt also that the constituency which he has at his back does not add one atom to the weight of the opinions he gives in this House. The truth is, that the towns to which the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) refers are not real towns. Now, whether we have a borough or a county constituency, it is time that we should have a real constituency. It is desirable that every man who speaks in this House—as my noble Friend does, with so much good sense and so much good feeling—should be backed and seconded by the consciousness that he represents some appreciable part of the public opinion of the country. I think the right hon. Gentleman did not hear or did not pay attention to—he certainly did not advert to—the short but very pregnant speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers). That speech was appreciated by the House, and made an impression upon it. It was not delivered in support of this interest or that, but was founded upon the principle that equable division—some approach to equable division—is a thing desirable in your representation; and then when you are making a change you ought to make it in the direction of equable division. Abstract equality, exact mathematical equality, we do not ask; but my hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) showed 457 —and no one has attempted to shake his argument—that in every case the boroughs from which my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose proposes to take a Member are situated in counties that are over-represented; while in nearly every case the boroughs from which the hon. Baronet proposes to withdraw Members are situated in counties that are under-represented. The boroughs affected by the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose are generally decaying boroughs. The fortunate circumstance that a large school, admirably well conducted, has been planted in the town of Marlborough has enabled that borough to make a very respectable show; but that has not been the result of the natural growth of the town; and there is not one of these ten small boroughs in which you can say that the principle of life and increase which runs through the town communities of England is at work. On the other hand, the towns with between 10,000 and 12,000 inhabitants are under the influence of that principle. I do not mean to say that if the time had come for a general re-consideration of our representative system the second seat might not very properly be withdrawn from these towns; but if we have a call made upon us, as we now have, to satisfy an immediate necessity, we ought to seek the means of meeting that difficulty in the quarter in which we can obtain them with the greatest equity and justice, and the greatest advantage to the country. The statement is all in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member for Montrose; and if we are to vote upon the principle that no centre of representation actually existing is to be extinguished, I am convinced that if the right hon. Gentleman will form this assertion into an abstract Resolution he will carry with him only a very small minority of the House. Without, therefore, entering into details which would only weary the House, it is, in my opinion, sufficient to say that the proposal of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Northamptonshire tends to a general derangement of the balance of our representation in England, by taking strength from points where it is too weak already, while the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, both as respects England and the kingdom at large, tends to that fair and equable division of representative power which gives strength and security to a system of popular representation.
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
said, he was glad 458 that the Government did not intend to press the proposal to increase the number of Members, which, as they must have felt, was distasteful to the House, especially as there was no necessity for it. It was not a universal opinion that Scotland was entitled to additional representation; for, taking population and wealth as the basis of the franchise, it was maintained by some that the representation of Scotland was three-fold that of the metropolitan districts. He would assume, however, that the claim of Scotland was well founded. Now the union of three Legislatures had led to the largest deliberative Assembly in the world, so inconveniently large that, in any great debate, not half the Members who wished to speak were able to do so. Of this he had had repeated experience, for had he persevered in addressing the House other Members would have had the same right, and the debates would have been so prolonged as to impede Public Business. This consideration was a reason against increasing the present complement; and a more important reason was that were the door once opened it could never be closed. If any Members were jealous of a disturbance of the balance of power between England and Scotland, he would remind them that Scotland was an integral portion of the United Kingdom, and that the transference of the representation of small English boroughs to Scotland was no more open to objection than their transference to Yorkshire or Lancashire. Having listened attentively to the arguments on both sides, he thought the preponderance of reason was strongly in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter).
§ MR. AYTOUN
made a few remarks, which, however, were rendered quite inaudible by cries of "Divide !"
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
rose to Order. He wished to ask whether, when an important debate like this was going on, hon. Members were to be allowed to assemble at the Bar and show their opposition by preventing a Member from being heard?
proceeded with his speech, stating that, having to choose between two propositions, he had come to the conclusion that it was his duty to vote with the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), on the ground that the Reform Act of last year had deprived the small boroughs 459 of their peculiar value, and those boroughs ought no longer therefore to have an undue share in the representation.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he believed the proposition of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Northamptonshire would on the whole work best. The very small boroughs would certainly be disfranchised on a much more extensive scale at no distant date.
SIR HENRY EDWARDS
, who rose amidst loud calls for a division, regretted that, although he had risen on no less than six occasions at an earlier stage of the debate, and at a time when the House was less impatient, he had not been fortunate enough, to catch the Speaker's eye. He promised, however, to be very brief if permitted to address the House. He had the honour to represent one of the oldest boroughs in the kingdom, which had returned Members to Parliament almost from time immemorial; and he should consider himself guilty of a gross dereliction of duty to his constituency if he gave a silent vote on this all-important occasion. He altogether objected to any infringement of the English Act of last Session. It had been settled by the Legislature, and generally approved by the country; and it was most unfair and impolitic to attempt by any political jugglery, and by a side-wind, to re-open a question which, by general consent so often expressed in debate last year, was to continue undisturbed on our statute books for at least a quarter of a century. Was it then fair that it should be broken in upon merely to serve the purpose of carrying out the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire? who, not satisfied with having opposed the Reform Bill most strenuously, and even factiously, at every stage of its progress last year, was now endeavouring, by the aid of his party, to make it imperative upon the Government to abandon their measures of Parliamentary Reform altogether, in order that he (Mr. Gladstone) might drive the Prime Minister from Office and pluck the laurels from the brow of one who, for his political services on the question of Reform alone—independent of other considerations—is so justly entitled to the everlasting gratitude of his fellow-countrymen. As the borough he represented was placed by his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire on the condemned list to lose one representative, he must say the case is one of peculiar hardship on several 460 grounds. For historical antiquity it was one of the most ancient boroughs in the kingdom, returning two Members to Parliament from time immemorial. It had increased very materially within the present century, and especially since the Census of 1861; a large number of houses had been built, and the town did not depend for its prosperity on visitors, or any very extensive manufactories. It was the great agricultural centre and emporium of the corn trade in the East Riding. As the House well knew, Hull and Beverley were the only two boroughs in that division of Yorkshire which returned an aggregate of six Members for a population of 240,359—being at the rate of one representative for each 40,000 persons, as stated by the hon. Member for Pontefract. It was a very bard case that an endeavour should now be made partially to disfranchise a borough so distinguished as the county town—the capital of the East Riding of Yorkshire. It was his intention to vote against the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire, as well as the Instruction of the hon. Member for Montrose. He (Sir Henry Edwards) voted last year in the majority against a similar proposal by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, which was then defeated by a majority of 52 in a very large House; and he had no intention now of stultifying the vote he gave on that occasion by adopting a different course. He had presented a petition that day, very numerously signed by his constituents, against the partial disfranchisement contemplated by the Member for Northamptonshire, which he heartily endorsed.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he had only risen to point out that there was a great distinction between the two proposals. If they adopted the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), the effect would be that they would disfranchise a great number of persons in boroughs which they pledged themselves to maintain last year. The borough of Thetford, for example, was deprived of one of its Members, but it received an assurance that its 800 electors would continue to return one representative. The Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose would disfranchise 700 of these electors, while on the other hand the Amendment of the hon. Baronet would not disfranchise any portion of the electors, but only diminish the weight of the voters in returning Members to that House.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 217; Noes 196: Majority 21.464
|Acland, T. D.||Duncombe, hon. Adml.|
|Adam, W. P.||Dundas, F.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Dunlop, A. C. S. M.|
|Akroyd, E.||Earle, R. A.|
|Allen, W. S.||Edwards, H.|
|Amberley, Viscount||Ellice, E.|
|Anstruther, Sir R.||Erskine, Vice, Ad. J. E.|
|Armstrong, R.||Ewing, H. E. Crum-|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Fawcett, H.|
|Bagwell, J.||Fildes, J.|
|Baillie, rt. hon. H. J.||FitzGerald, rt. hn. Lord O. A.|
|Barclay, A. C.|
|Barry, A. H. S.||FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W.|
|Bass, A.||Foley, H. W.|
|Bass, M. T.||Foljambe, F. J. S.|
|Bazley, T.||Fordyce, W. D.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Forster, C.|
|Blake, J. A.||Forster, W. E.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Fortescue, rt. hn. C. S.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Fortescue, hon. D. F.|
|Brand, rt. hon. H.||French, rt. hon. Colonel|
|Bright, J. (Birmingham)||Gaselee, Serjeant S.|
|Bright, J. (Manchester)||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Gilpin, C.|
|Brooks, R.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Browne, Lord J. T.||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.||Glyn, G. G.|
|Buller, Sir A.W.||Goldsmid, Sir F. H.|
|Buller, Sir E. M.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Burke, Viscount||Gower, hon. F. L.|
|Buxton, C.||Graham, W.|
|Buxton, Sir T. F.||Gray, Sir J.|
|Calcraft, J. H. M.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Candlish, J.||Hadfield, G.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Harris, J. D.|
|Carnegie, hon. C.||Hartington, Marq. of|
|Carter, S.||Hay, Lord J.|
|Cave, T.||Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.|
|Cavendish, Lord E.||Heneage, E.|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Henley, Lord|
|Chambers, M.||Hibbert, J. T.|
|Chambers, T.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Cheetham, J.||Holden, I.|
|Childers, H. C. E.||Horsman, rt. hon. E.|
|Clinton, Lord E. P.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Clive, G.||Hutt, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Ingham, R.|
|Coleridge, J. D.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Collier, Sir R. P.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Cowen, J.||Kinglake, A. W.|
|Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.||Kinglake, J. A.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Cremorne, Lord||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E|
|Davey, R.||Labouchere, H.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Lawson, rt. hon. J. A.|
|De La Poer, E.||Layard, A. H.|
|Denman, hon. G.||Leatham, E. A.|
|Dent, J. D.||Leatham, W. H.|
|Dering, Sir E. C.||Leeman, G.|
|Devereux, R. J.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Locke, J.|
|Dixon, G.||Lorne, Marquess of|
|Dodson, J. G.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Lusk, A.|
|Duff, R. W.||MacEvoy, E|
|Maguire, J. F.||Rothschild, Baron L. de|
|Mainwaring, T.||Rothschild, N. M. de|
|Marshall, W.||Russell, Sir W.|
|Martin, P. W.||Salomons, Mr. Ald.|
|Matheson, A.||Samuda, J. D'A.|
|Maxwell, W. H.||Samuelson, B.|
|Melly, G.||Sandford, G. M. W.|
|Merry, J.||Scott, Sir W.|
|Mill, J. S.||Seymour, A.|
|Mills, J. R.||Sherriff, A. C.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Simeon, Sir J.|
|Moffatt, G.||Smith, J.|
|Moncreiff, rt. Hon. J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Moore, C.||Speirs, A. A.|
|More, R. J.||Stone, W. H.|
|Morrison, W.||Stucley, Sir G. S.|
|Neate, C.||Sullivan, E.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Sykes, C.|
|Nicholson, W.||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|Nicol, J. D.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Norwood, C. M.||Taylor, P. A.|
|O'Brien, Sir P.||Thompson, M. W.|
|Ogilvy, Sir J.||Thorold, Sir J. H.|
|O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Osborne, R. B.||Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Packe, Colonel||Turnor, E.|
|Padmore, R.||Vanderbyl, P.|
|Paget, T. T.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Palmer, Sir R.||Vernon, H. F.|
|Parry, T.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Pease, J. W.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Peel, A. W.||Waldegrave-Leslie, hon. G.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Walrond, J. W.|
|Pelham, Lord||Waterhouse, S.|
|Philips, R. N.||Weguelin, T. M.|
|Platt, J.||Western, Sir T. B.|
|Pollard-Urquhart, W.||Whatman, J.|
|Potter, E.||White, J.|
|Potter, T. B.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Proby, Lord||Woods, H.|
|Ramsay, J.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Rebow, J. G.||Young, G.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||TELLERS.|
|Robartes, T. J. A.||Baxter, W. E.|
|Robertson, D.||Whitbread, S.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Bruce, Major C.|
|Annesley, hon. Col. H.||Bruen, H.|
|Anson, hon. Major||Butler-Johnstone, H. A.|
|Antrobus, E.||Capper, C.|
|Archdall, Captain M.||Cartwright, Colonel|
|Arkwright, R.||Cave, rt. hon. S.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Cavendish, Lord G.|
|Baring, T.||Cobbold, J. C.|
|Burnett, H.||Cochrane, A.D.R.W.B.|
|Barrington, Viscount||Cole, hon. J. L.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Cooper, E. H.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Cox, W. T.|
|Beach, Sir M. H.||Cubitt, G.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Dalglish, R.|
|Bective, Earl of||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Benyon, R.||Davenport, W. B.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Dawson, R. P.|
|Bourne, Colonel||Dick, F.|
|Bowen, J. B.||Dickson, Major A. G.|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Dimsdale, R.|
|Brett, Sir W. B.||Disraeli, rt. hon. B.|
|Bruce, Lord C.||Du Cane, C.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Duncombe, hon. Colonel|
|Dunne, rt. hon. General||Lamont, J.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Langton, W. G.|
|Dyke, W. H.||Lascelles, hn. E. W.|
|Dyott, Colonel R.||Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.|
|Eckersley, N.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Edwards, Sir H.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Lindsay, hon. Col. C.|
|Egerton, Sir P. G.||Long, R. P.|
|Elcho, Lord||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Feilden, J.||Lowther, W.|
|Fellowes, E.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Fergusson, Sir J.||M'Laren, D.|
|Finch, G. H.||Malcolm, J. W.|
|Fitzwilliam, hn. C.W.W.||Manners, Lord G. J.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Gen.||Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Freshfield, C. K.||Matheson, Sir J.|
|Garth, R.||Mayo, Earl of|
|Goddard, A. L.||Meller, Colonel|
|Goldney, G.||Miller, W.|
|Goldsmid, J.||Mitford, W. T.|
|Gordon, rt. hon. E. S.||Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Montgomery, Sir G.|
|Gorst, J. E.||Morgan, O.|
|Grant, A.||Morris, G.|
|Graves, S. R.||Mowbray, rt. hn. J. R.|
|Greene, E.||Neville-Grenville, R.|
|Grey, hon. T. de||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Griffith, C. D.||North, Colonel|
|Grove, T. F.||Northcote, rt. hn. Sir S. H.|
|Gurney, rt. hon. R.|
|Gwyn, H.||Paget, R. H.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Hardy, rt. hon. G.||Palk, Sir L.|
|Hardy, J.||Parker, Major W.|
|Hartley, J.||Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.|
|Hartopp, E. B.||Paull, H.|
|Harvey, R. B.||Pemberton, E. L.|
|Harvey, R. J. H.||Pim, J.|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Powell, F. S.|
|Hayter, A. D.||Pritchard, J.|
|Henniker-Major, hon. J. M.||Pugh, D.|
|Read, C. S.|
|Herbert, rt. hn. Gen. P.||Rearden, D. J.|
|Hervey, Lord A. H. C.||Robertson, P. F.|
|Hesketh, Sir T. G.||Royston, Viscount|
|Heygate, Sir F. W.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Schreiber, C.|
|Hogg, Lt.-Colonel J. M.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Holford, R. S.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Holmesdale, Viscount||Selwin-Ibbetson, H. J.|
|Hood, Sir A. A.||Severne, J. E.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Seymour, G. H.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Simonds, W. B.|
|Hotham, Lord||Smith, A.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Smith, S. G.|
|Howes, E.||Smollett, P. B.|
|Huddleston, J. W.||Stanley, Lord|
|Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.||Stanley, hon. F|
|Ingestre, Viscount||Stuart, Col. Crichton-|
|Jackson, W.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Jardine, R.||Sturt, Lieut.-Col. N.|
|Karslake, E. K.||Surtees, C. F.|
|Karslake, Sir J. B.||Surtees, H. E.|
|Kavanagh, A.||Taylor, Colonel|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Thompson, A. G.|
|Kelk, J.||Treeby, J. W.|
|Kendall, N.||Turner, C.|
|Kennard, R. W.||Vance, Sir W.|
|King, J. G.||Vandeleur, Colonel|
|King, J. K.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Knight, F. W.||Walker, Major G. G.|
|Knox, hon Colonel S.||Warren, rt. hon. R. R.|
|Laing, S.||Welby, W. E.|
|Williams, F. M.||Knightley, Sir R.|
|Woodd, B. T.||Maxwell, Sir W.S-|
|Wyndham, hon. H.|
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he rose to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice. He thought it right to bring this question forward, notwithstanding the division which had just taken place, because it was in no sense a division in which Scotland was more mixed up than was Ireland. The question which had been just decided was not a party question, and he repudiated the idea that he brought this Motion before the House in any party spirit. He would be brief in stating his views to the House. It had been thrown out in the course of the debate that, even if the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) were carried, it did not follow that the Members thus obtained should be given to Scotland, Now, what he undertook to show was this—that even if the ten Members now at the disposal of the House were given to Scotland without qualification or limitation, they would be far too few to meet the just claims of Scotland. It had been proved a short time since by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) that one class of English constituencies had, on an average, a Member for 36,000 voters, while another class had only a Member for 40,000 or 46,000 voters. But what was the case with Scotland? Why, that the largest county constituency they were about to enfranchise had 199,000 inhabitants, and only one Member, while the smallest had 107,000, and but one Member. He would not go into general statistics, but wished to state a few facts which were of great importance in considering the present question. A Return recently made showed that Scotland contributed to the purse of the Chancellor of the Exchequer £8,289,000 annually, while Ireland contributed to the same purse only £6,300,000. The sums, however, voted during the same year for Scotch purposes amounted to only £552,000, while the sums voted for Ireland amounted to £2,250,000. In other words, while Scotland paid 35 per cent more to the National Exchequer than Ireland did, Ireland got 400 per cent more out of the Exchequer than Scotland. Surely, it could not be contended that the people of Scotland were to be mere hewers 465 of wood and drawers of water—to bring in money to the public purse, without having any adequate or fair voice in the expenditure of that money. Taking the proportionate contribution to the national expenditure of the three kingdoms, Scotland was entitled to twenty-five Members more than she had at present, while on the scale of population she was entitled to an addition of about eighteen. Under these circumstances, he did not think that Scotland ought to be held bound by the provision in the Treaty of Union, which was made at a time when she contributed only £150,000 a year to the national Exchequer, while England contributed above £5,000,000. Now, Scotland contributed over £8,250,000, or nearly one-eighth of the whole revenue of the United Kingdom. Why, then, should she have but one-twelfth part of the representation? It was one of the watchwords of liberty that representation and taxation should go together, but this principle was not applied in the case of Scotland. He would not go into details, because there were Notices on the Paper which would enable Members to bring up the question in what respect Scotch counties, towns, and Universities ought to be represented, and he should then have an opportunity of stating his views. But he would refer to another subject. They had now disposed of a number of boroughs in England which were supposed to be nomination boroughs, or, as some persons not very politely called them, rotten boroughs. There were also nomination constituencies in Scotland. Scotch Members who joined in abolishing nomination constituencies in England should not forget the county of Sutherland with its 181 electors. Twenty years ago it had 184. Its population had decreased within that time, and surely such a scandal as its representation was should be put an end to. If Members were to be added to the representation of Scotland, surely, Members ought to be taken from constituencies which were over-represented, as the constituency to which he referred undoubtedly was; and it was all the more an aggravated case, because four-fifths of the land in the county of Sutherland belonged to one proprietor. Then there were the Wigton Burghs, which were, to a great extent, under the domination of one proprietor, holding a large amount of property in the most populous of this district of burghs. Again, when they took out of the counties Peebles and Selkirk, the two royal burghs of those 466 names, they had only a population of 16,000 or 17,000 between them. He thought that those two counties ought to be united, and that the Member thus obtained should be given to Hawick and Galashiels. He had been asked to submit the Resolution which he now moved by important bodies in Scotland, by the Convention of Royal Burghs, by the Town Council of Edinburgh, and other bodies; and also in memorials, petitions, and numerous letters from public meetings, and from many of the large constituencies in Scotland, and he should feel it to be his duty to take the sense of the House upon his Motion.
§ MR. FORDYCE
, in seconding the Motion, said, that the demand of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) was a very moderate one, and that until it was conceded the people of Scotland would not be satisfied.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no arrangement respecting additional Members can be just or satisfactory which does not treat Scotland, as respects the number of its representatives in Parliament, as an integral portion of the United Kingdom, entitled to be placed on a footing of perfect equality with England and Ireland, in proportion to its present population and the Revenue which it yields to the National Exchequer, as compared with the present population and Revenue of England and Ireland; and that to establish this equality at least fifteen additional Members should now be provided for Scotland,"—(Mr. M'Laren,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ GENERAL DUNNE
said, that the Return which the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had quoted was not correct, so far as it related to the revenue derived from Ireland. The slightest examination of that Return would show that the revenue of Ireland was stated incorrectly. There was not less than from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000 of revenue paid by Ireland into the Imperial Exchequer which was not credited to Ireland. It was well known, for instance, that the article of sugar paid duty in Scotland, but when imported into Ireland from that country the tax was actually paid by the Irish consumers. He had often endeavoured to obtain a correct Return of the revenue paid by Ireland, but he had never succeeded in getting it. He protested, therefore against the entire basis on which 467 the hon. Member for Edinburgh had constructed his argument. Scotland was certainly not entitled to the increase of Members demanded as against Ireland, either in respect of the proportion of revenue contributed by the two countries, or their population and the present amount of county and borough representation. In Ireland the number of county electors was about 122,000, returning sixty-four Members. In Scotland the number of county electors was 49,000, returning thirty Members. In Scotland the borough electors amounted to 55,000, returning twenty-three Members. In Ireland the borough electors amounted to 30,600, and returned forty-one Members. Altogether the electors in Ireland were much less in proportion than in Scotland.
§ MR. CRUM-EWING
said, that the article of sugar which paid duty in Scotland and was afterwards sent to Ireland only amounted to £500,000 as was shown by the Customs Returns; but the excess of revenue paid by Scotland over that paid by Ireland was equally manifest in the Inland Revenue and the Post Office Departments. He did not wish to draw invidious distinctions between Scotland and Ireland—they were integral parts of the same Empire, and he hoped very shortly Ireland would be more united than she had ever been to this country; but he quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) that Scotland was entitled to an addition of fifteen Members. In fact, he held it to be a very small demand that was now made.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
would be very glad of some direction from the Speaker, or from any other quarter, as to where they stood and what they were engaged in. They were going into Committee on the Scotch Reform Bill, and it seemed to him that the Instruction which had been carried amounted to this—that there should be a provision in the Scotch Reform Bill to upset a part of the English Bill passed last year. That measure was to have been the conclusion of long fighting; it was to give satisfaction to both sides of the House; it was not the Bill of the Government or of the Opposition; it was the Bill of the whole House; it was a Bill, so we were told, based on certain principles, and among them was the preservation for England of its existing number of representatives, and the non-extinction of any centre of representation; but tonight in all these respects the English Re- 468 form Act was simply torn to shreds; the distribution of seats, which was settled last year, was to be unsettled, and ancient boroughs were to be extinguished by a vote of that House. They were to carry out that policy in Committee on the Scotch Reform Bill. If that was not so, was it to be embodied in a separate Bill? How was the House justified in respecting so preposterous a conclusion? They were told to expedite the registration, that there should be an autumnal dissolution and a meeting of the new Parliament before Christmas. That was all nonsense; it was equally nonsensical whether it came from the Treasury or Opposition Bench. They had been sitting more or less since November, and it was now the latter half of May, and they were now approaching Whitsuntide, and actually nothing was done—nothing done about the Boundary Bill, except throwing it into utter confusion; nothing about the Scotch Reform Bill; nothing about the Irish Reform Bill; nothing about bribery and corruption; nothing done but to throw the Irish Church and the English Reform Bill into confusion. Having adopted this Resolution, how would they stand? The Resolution in itself was, of course, worth nothing; it was not an act of legislation, but a simple expression of opinion, liable to be recalled or modified, in reference to one subject—that of the borough representation of England—which had, forsooth, to be embodied in a Bill relating to another part of the United Kingdom. They would be instructed in Committee on the Scotch Reform Bill to disfranchise places in England. As to the question of the enlargement of the House, he thought the Government had much too lightly given it up. For his part, he could see no objection to a moderate enlargement, provided only the mystical and too appropriate number of 666 were not hit. He had done his duty in calling attention to the perfect quagmire in which they were floundering—the ridiculous position in which the last old Parliament of England was placing itself by making the Scotch Reform Bill of 1868 the means of altering the English Reform Act of last year.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he had been about to put a similar question. They had passed an Instruction which involved a perfect absurdity. Was the House to go into Committee not only to consider the Scotch Reform Bill, but also to repeal a portion of a statute which received the Royal Assent last year?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that if the hon. Member had any objections to the Instruction to the Committee that the proper time to have brought them forward was when the Instruction was under discussion. The House had passed the Instruction, and it was now too late to discuss the point of Order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, there was no difficulty in the matter. The House had chosen to add to the powers of the Committee, and the Committee would have full power to act in conformity with the Instruction.
§ MR. PIM
conceived that the reference to Customs duties was very fallacious, as many articles imported into England and Scotland were consumed in Ireland. The amount of income tax paid would be a better test; but still he maintained that the poor man was as much entitled to the protection of the State as the rich man—so that he thought that the comparison between the three kingdoms should be restricted to population. On this ground, he thought that Scotland was entitled to fifteen additional Members; and he trusted that, when the case of Ireland came before the House, the Scotch Members would support any proposal which might be made for giving an increased representation to that country.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
I had not the advantage of hearing the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren); but, on my return to the House, I am told that, not content with the vote to which we have just come, he is already like "Oliver, asking for more." I therefore, Sir, as an English Member, representing one of the largest towns that returns a single Member to this House, take the earliest opportunity of informing the hon. Gentleman that there are those among us who do not regard the late transfer of seats with absolute equanimity. We acquiesce in it, of course, for we have no option; but we feel that we have anomalies of our own which call aloud for redress; and we say that, if we are to have anymore "charity" in this matter, it ought to be that "charity which begins at home," We hope, therefore, that for the present we shall have no more of these forays over the border. Why, Sir, I hold in my hand a list of twenty-three English boroughs, each of them returning two Members to 470 this House—forty-six Members in all—which had in 1866 an aggregate computed population of 291,334 souls. These boroughs are all included between the limits of 10,000 and 15,000 population. I hold also in my hand, Sir, a list of nine English and Welsh boroughs, returning each of them one Member to this House—nine Members in all—which had in 1866 an aggregate computed population of no less than 434,934 souls. Of these nine boroughs, each has a computed population considerably exceeding 40,000 souls. I next turn, Sir, to the column of "gross estimated rental," and I find that the twenty-three boroughs first mentioned present an aggregate of £1,057,222; but, on turning to the "gross estimated rental" of the nine boroughs—of which my own borough comes second in this respect—I find that they present an aggregate of £1,523,312; and, looking at these things, I must contend that, when the time arrives for a removal or reduction of the existing anomalies in our system of representation, it will be alike unwise and unjust to neglect the earliest opportunity of dealing with the inequalities between the two classes of boroughs, that I have indicated to the House.
said, that, regard being had to revenue and population, Scotland ought to have twenty-five additional Members; but the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren's) Resolution demanded, not that so many new Members should be given to Scotland, but that, at all events, some approximation should be made, as respects Scotland, between the population, the revenue, and the representation. In the boroughs which the Committee had been empowered to disfranchise ten Members were returned by 3,088 electors, while the city of Aberdeen, with its 4,000 electors, had only one Member. That was a fact which in itself was an answer to those who said there were no anomalies in the representation of Scotland. What he wanted was that, with regard to Scotland, there should be the same measure of justice dealt out as was given to the English people.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, he thought that if an abstract proposition were all that they had to decide, there was much to be said in favour of a large increase in the representation of Scotland; and hon. Gentlemen on both sides had very fairly expressed their opinions on that subject. But the Resolution did not profess to provide 471 any means for giving effect to that which it expressed. They had now resolved that the number of Members in that House should not be increased, and also, that a certain number of seats should be taken from English boroughs, if the Committee saw fit. The present Motion, if pressed, might, however, go far to counteract the generous feeling towards Scotland which the English and Irish Members had expressed. But there was an important point on which he wished to invite the Speaker's opinion. The Resolution being moved as an Amendment to the Motion "that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," if carried, the Resolution would, he apprehended, prevent them from going into Committee on the Scotch Reform Bill at least that night. Nothing should induce him to vote for anything that would throw an obstacle in the way of their going on with a measure which had already been too long delayed; and as it was most important that they should proceed with the Committee, he hoped that his hon. Colleague, having elicited from the House an expression of opinion, in accordance with what he wished, would withdraw his Resolution.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that if the Resolution of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) were passed it would prevent the Bill being proceeded with in Committee that night.
§ MR. P. ROBERTSON
hoped the hon. Member for Edinburgh would not, under the circumstances, persevere with his proposal.
§ MR. LAING
said, he distrusted abstract propositions as to the number of Members to be given to Scotland, in proportion to population and taxation, because he felt that London and some other places might on the same grounds claim a large increase of representation. He preferred to rest the case of Scotland on the specific claims of certain counties and towns to more Members; and to argue that Scotch counties and towns were entitled to be put on the same footing as regarded representation, as they would be if situated South of the Tweed. Proceeding on that principle, he thought that, in addition to the three counties of Lanark, Ayr, and Aberdeen, the county of Perth might also fairly claim to be divided, and to have two representatives. Then, if they turned to large cities and towns, they would find that Glasgow should be put on a par with Manchester. Manchester, with its appendage 472 of Salford, would have five Members under the new Reform Bill; and certainly Glasgow, with its appendages, might put in a fair claim to four Members. Edinburgh, with its large population, and as being the capital of an ancient kingdom, might fairly claim three Members; and if it had been South of the Tweed, he believed, in the division of the representation last year, it would have received three. The claim of Dundee to two Members nobody would question, and the city of Aberdeen, a sort of provincial capital, with a population of 90,000, and a seat of learning, ought surely to have two Members. It possessed a population four times that of York. Again, in the great mineral district of Scotland, a number of boroughs had sprung up which might be grouped into populations of 40,000 or 50,000, and entrusted with Members. One or two Members might be fairly asked for those boroughs. Then as the English Universities were hereafter to have five Members altogether, he thought one Member for the different Universities of Scotland would be a very scant measure of justice. Therefore, ten additional Members would be a very insufficient number to place Scotland on the same relative footing as England; and he did not believe that fifteen would be an excessive number for that purpose.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that, as he did not wish to prevent the House from going into Committee that night, he begged to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. REARDEN
said, he apprehended that he would now be in Order to proceed with his Motion, the effect of which was, that with a view to an equitable representation of the entire people, the United Kingdom should be divided into 720 equal electoral districts, and that one Member should be elected for each such district, and that Scotland be not entitled to her seventy-five Members until Ireland had received her 145 Members.
§ MR. SPEAKER
thought the hon. Member, on looking at his Resolution, would see a portion of it relating to Ireland, which was not in Order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
We are on the Scotch Reform Bill, and we have instructed the Committee to take Members from certain boroughs of England; but I do not think the matter of Ireland in Order.
§ MR. REARDEN
As that is the case I will not now trouble the House, but I will take another opportunity of bringing the subject forward.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 omitted.
§ Clause 3 (Occupation Franchise for Voters in Burghs).
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, that the clause proposed to introduce into Scotland, for the first time, the payment of poor rates as a condition for getting on the register. They all knew that, with reference to the English Reform Bill of last year, there was considerable discussion on the question of payment of poor rates; and that topic was not then considered by the House for the first time, because the Reform Act of 1832 enacted that no occupier of a dwelling-house in a borough above £10 should be put on the register of voters who had not paid his poor rates on the 6th of January. Great objection was entertained in Scotland to the proposition that in that country the payment of poor rates should be made a qualification for getting on the register. The payment of poor rates was altogether irrelevant to the question of the electoral franchise. In Scotland the Poor Law was administered by parochial Boards, who owed their appointment portly to property and partly to election, and had the power of exempting not only persons but whole classes from the payment of poor rate. The practice had been to exempt the classes who paid under a certain amount of rent; besides which there were many parishes in Scotland in which there was no poor rate at all. In the borough of Greenock there was no rating of houses, and therefore there could be no rateable proprietor or occupier who could claim a vote under this clause. It was most undesirable to introduce this new element for the first time into Scotch practice. As a qualification for a vote there was no charm or merit in a man paying a poor rate. What they wanted to ascertain was whether the occupant of a dwelling-house was capable of discharging the duties of a voter, and to ask on such a matter whether he paid poor rates was to ask a question altogether irrelevant. It would, no doubt, be urged, 474 that in making payments of poor rate a condition of the franchise in Scotland, Parliament would only be following out what it had done in the English Bill. But inasmuch as the Scotch Reform Bill of 1832 had not been like the English Bill of 1832 in that particular, he thought there was no reason why the Bill now before the House should make the payment of poor rate necessary merely because the English Act of last year did so in the case of this country.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the words "has during the time of such occupancy," in line 5, to "fifteenth day of May," in line 11, inclusive.—(Mr. Bouverie.)
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, that in 1832 poor rate was not generally levied in Scotland. In fact, at that time there were very few Scotch parishes in which there was a payment of poor rate, the poor being supported very generally by voluntary assessment. Accordingly the Scotch Reform Act did not make the non-payment of that rate a disqualification; but provision was made in the Act that the payment of assessed taxes should be necessary in order to entitle a person to the franchise. That provision still remains in force with reference to voters having a qualification above £10. He supposed that comparatively speaking very few of the persons who would come on the electoral roll under this Bill would pay the assessed taxes. Well, then, was it unreasonable, now that there was a general system of poor rate in Scotland, to require that—being placed on the electoral roll—persons should pay a tax for which they were liable? He saw no reason why the rule which obtained in England should not be also applicable to Scotland; but if there was any reason for making a distinction in this respect between the two countries, the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bouverie) ought to have stated it. The only reason which had been suggested was that in a few parishes in Scotland, particularly Greenock, no poor rates were paid in respect of the occupation of houses. Now, he admitted that the borough of Greenock was in a very particular position; but in the course of the communications he had had with his hon. Friend who represented that borough (Mr. Dunlop), he had not understood that there was any objection to its coming within the rule applicable to other boroughs, and accordingly a proviso had 475 been introduced into the clause which would put Greenock in exactly the same position as other boroughs. In all other respects the clause had been framed in exact conformity with the clause in the English Act. He submitted that there was no valid reason why a departure should be made from the rule established for England, and that payment of rates ought to be made a condition of the qualification.
§ MR. CRUM-EWING
said, that household suffrage pure and simple for Scotland was the only franchise which would be fair in that country.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that by the Reform Act of 1832 a different rule was established in Scotland to that applied to England; and why, he would ask, should that rule be altered? To do so in the way proposed would be to make this a disfranchising measure; and what had Scotland done to deserve that punishment? They ought to take the real valuation of property as the basis for the franchise, and not the rating of it. An Act had been passed in 1854 for establishing a system of valuation greatly superior to that which existed in any other part of the United Kingdom. An officer was appointed in each county and burgh to make a personal valuation of all the property in his district. By this Bill they were asked to give a man a £12 franchise by rating in the counties; but why should they give it by rating, when they had the real rent itself? The rating was a mere deterioration of the value of the rent. There was no poor rate at present in some of the counties and burghs of Scotland, and it would be for the Lord Advocate to say why there should be one now. To carry this Bill into effect as it stood large expense would have to be incurred, and it would prove a vexatious, troublesome, and unworkable measure. Why should they undo the simple, common sense rule existing at the present time? He thought it was proposed by the Bill to turn a plain, common sense system into an artificial system, in favour of which no good argument could be adduced.
§ MR. ELLICE
said, if they adopted the rule of rating, they would introduce into Scotland great confusion. There were the utmost possible inequalities in the system of rating. Some time since he had moved for certain Returns relating to that subject, and he was very much astonished on getting these Returns to find that there appeared to be a strange uniformity in the 476 qualification. He found that it only ranged from £12 up to £15. That was to say, that the deductions allowed to occupiers before assessing for the poor rates, and producing a net rental upon which the poor rate was levied, varied from £3 to £4 a year. That statement—made on the authority of the Crown agent—was, however, wholly at variance with the fact. He had selected at random three or four constituencies only, and he had received communications which sufficiently proved the truth of what he advanced. For instance, in the city of Renfrew eleven parishes were made out in that Return to be subject to no deduction, and £12 was put down as the net rental, which would carry the qualification. He had, however, ascertained in five of those parishes that the occupier was only rated in some upon one-third, and in others upon one-fourth of the rental; and the consequence was, that in those five parishes the gross rental required to carry a vote would be in one £36, in another £45, in another £30, in another £36, and in another £48. ["Name."] The parishes to which he alluded were those of Cathcart, Eastwood, Inverscraig, Port-Glasgow, and another. Only the preceding day he had received a letter from a member of a parochial Board of the parish of Huntly, in Aberdeenshire, in which the writer complained that the Return was untrue, inasmuch as the deduction allowed to tenants in that parish was 6 per cent of the rental. He merely stated that to show that the Returns he held in his hand were quite fallacious. He hoped that the House would cut the knot of all these difficulties by assenting at once to the proposition of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), and putting its foot upon this attempt to introduce a new principle, which would serve no useful purpose, but would introduce into the Scotch system the elements of unbounded confusion.
§ LORD JOHN BROWNE
said, that the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had suggested that they should take the plain common sense view of the question; and that was exactly what he himself wished to do. In England and in Ireland a man lost his vote unless he paid his rate; and he did not see why the same rule should not he applied in Scotland. It seemed to be a very reasonable provision; and if it were struck out of that Bill it would be impossible to maintain it in England or Ireland. If that clause were re- 477 moved the Government would do well to throw up the Bill altogether.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he must remind the noble Lord (Lord John Browne) that the Scotch system was entirely different to that adopted in England or Ireland. He saw no reason whatever why they should be called upon to change a system that had existed so long and worked so satisfactorily, in favour of a new theory. He was not an old enough Member of the House of Commons to recollect the time when the Voting Act was passed; but he remembered when they used to make out the claims for the burghs in Scotland just as they did in England. They now, however, took the valuation roll for a county of Scotland as an electoral roll; and he put it to hon. Gentlemen on both, sides, who know Scotland, to say whether that had not worked well. They had found the system adopted in England not to work well in Scotland; and if the noble Lord who had just spoken had lived in Scotland, he would not have made the speech he had just done. There were more than 100 parishes in Scotland where there were no poor-rates at all; and what was to be done with them? He was, as a rule, in favour of assimilating the law in the three countries; but he appealed to the Lord Advocate and the Government not to force upon Scotland a principle which would occasion many difficulties in working, and which was totally unsuited to the system so long in work in that country.
§ MR. KENDALL
said, if the principle of rating was abandoned in Scotland they could not expect its continuance in England. He looked upon the Amendment as the introduction of the thin end of the wedge, in order to throw out the rating provisions adopted last year.
I put it to both sides of the House whether we have not generally found the Scotch Members to be right on matters relating to their own country? They have taken the very wise plan, of course, of coming to agreement upon those things which they think are fitting to be applied to their part of the United Kingdom. The House of Commons has generally been very willing to deal liberally with them, and to allow them to have their own way; and I believe that is much the easiest way of managing them, or allowing them to manage us. The noble Lord (Lord John Browne), who comes from Ireland, is very much aggrieved because, under this proposition, you will have something very 478 different in Scotland from what you have in England. [Lord JOHN BROWNE: And Ireland.] But there are many other things besides this that differ in the different countries. In Scotland they have no 40s. freeholders, though we have them in England; and I do not believe the noble Lord last year voted in favour of establishing a 40s. freehold in Scotland. Indeed, I have not known him give one Liberal vote on the question of Reform for the last three or four years. You are not going to have the same franchise in Ireland as in England. Then why get up in this House and pretend to found an argument upon a principle which is not adopted in this House? for neither the Government nor the House have adopted the principle of making everything exactly alike in the three kingdoms. If that principle of forming the franchise upon the rating in Scotland is found to be only a nuisance, what interest have we—what interest has any Irish Member—in forcing upon the whole body of Scotch representatives that which they themselves believe to be needless for any good purpose—and, indeed, to be mischievous? I hope that the House and the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Lord Advocate) will consent to think as favourably of the matter as they can. If they think as highly of the opinion of his countrymen as I do, they will allow them to have their own way.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, he thought the question of rating had been finally settled last year. It would be curious if they now had the battle fought over again in regard to Scotland which occasioned the death of one Government in 1866. The question was then the main subject of prolonged debates, and he had, he thought, sufficiently pointed out the importance of the question when he reminded the House of the momentous issue which had followed the decision upon the point. They were told that that principle was inapplicable to Scotland, though it had been established in England. He was, however, prepared to say that so far from there being special difficulties in the way, there were peculiar facilities in the law of Scotland. They were, for instance, happily free in the northern part of the island from that individual, the discussion of whose untimely fate had occupied so many of their sittings last Session—he meant the compound-householder. He apprehended that the fact of the direct payment of rates by each householder in 479 Scotland was a most important argument in favour of a rate-paying franchise, though he might qualify that statement in one particular, because at £4 a year the house was clear of rates, the occupier paying none. There was no clearer or plainer qualification for the franchise than the payment of rates. It was not the case, as had been stated by an hon. Gentleman in the early part of the discussion, that the payment of rates was necessary, and, consequently, that every one who was not rated could not vote; because it was particularly stated in one of the clauses, with a view to meet just such a case, that inhabitants of a town where the poor rates were not levied should have votes. He asked the Committee to consider whether it was just that the principle which bad been laid down for the whole of England and Wales, and which was applicable to every town in Scotland but one, should be maintained, or whether for the sake of Greenock alone, that principle should be abrogated. It was as unreasonable to complain of the extension to Scotland of the ratepaying qualification as it would be to complain of the ratepaying system now existing in London, because the rates varied in the different parishes. The hardship which might be entailed upon persons who had accidentally omitted to pay their rates was guarded against by a special section which seemed to have escaped the attention of some hon. Members. They were, however, discussing the question of the burgh franchise, and he understood his hon. Friend's arrangement to apply exclusively to the county rating; and when the clause applicable to comity rating arrived he should be prepared to show that it was founded upon just principles. He could not understand why such an outcry should be made about the extension to Scotland of the principle of rating, remembering that it had been deliberately adopted last year in the case of England. He asked the Committee to consider what would he the effect of the proposal now before it. They had passed an Act which required in England that the fulfilment of a common local obligation should be necessary to the enjoyment of the franchise, and he ventured to say that the principle had been generally approved of as a sound one. [" No, no !"] Did that negative mean that the hon. Gentleman wished to sweep away the general enjoyment of the franchise which had been the result of that principle, or that the hon. Gentleman objected to the limitation 480 imposed by rating? ["Hear, hear !"] In the latter case, what became of the argument they had heard so much of, as to the dangerous length which the Government had gone in admitting the residuum? Sweep away the ratepaying provision, which probably limited the franchise by one-half, and the residuum of nonpaying householders then admitted would be much larger and infinitely more formidable than the wide extension under the Act of 1867, which hon. Gentlemen opposite so strongly complained of. The present proposal was one virtually for the admission of persons below the £4 line, that was to say, of persons so poor that no attempt was made at present to levy rates from them. Upon those who were endeavouring to introduce so important a change let the responsibility rest. If the proposition were carried it would be carried more for the purpose of rendering this Act an absurdity than for the purpose of introducing a beneficial change.
§ MR. G. YOUNG
said, the 3rd section of the 3rd clause—every householder to be entitled to a vote who "has been rated to all rates, if any, made for the relief of the poor"—seemed to him altogether superfluous and meaningless inasmuch as the 16th clause amounted to a distinct and imperative provision that each dwelling-house in Scotland should be separately valued and assessed to the poor rate. The real force was in the 4th section, the effect of which was that a man should be disqualified in case he failed to pay his rates. According to the law of Scotland the parochial authorities had power to exempt occupiers from the half of the rating, for which proportion only they were liable in the case of houses under £4 in value. The operation of the 4th section would be to disqualify every person exempted from the payment of rates, unless for political or other purposes those rates were paid for him. If this was to be the effect of the clause it would be most mischievous. For his own part he had never been able to see why the fact of being in arrear a few shillings to the rate collector should operate to deprive a man of his right to vote. An arrear of a few shillings in this rate was sufficient for this purpose, yet a man might owe £20 to his baker or butcher without any political consequences ensuing.
§ MR. DALGLISH
said, it would be a wise experiment to maintain the present Scotch system, and if it worked well the House hereafter might adopt it in the case 481 of England as an easy way out of the compound-householder difficulty.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
I think it is right I should answer the appeal made to me by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Young) opposite. He says he finds himself unable to see what is the meaning of the 3rd section of the 3rd clause. But I shall read the words in the English Act—Has during the Time of such Occupation been rated as an ordinary Occupier in respect of the Premises so occupied by him within the Borough to all Rates (if any) made for the Relief of the Poor in respect of such Premises,
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
I rather think so, but I am coming to that. There is a difference between our system and the English system. [Laughter.] If hon. Gentlemen will allow me to finish the sentence, they will see what I mean. I say there is a difference in this respect. We have at present a valuation-roll for gross rating that is made up by the assessor, and it is in the power of the magistrates who employ the assessors, and of the Judges and county authorities, to exempt or omit from the valuation-roll the names of parties who are rated as occupiers of tenements at and under £4. The effect of that is that in several burghs you will not find upon the valuation-roll any occupiers under £4. I ask hon. Gentlemen to keep that in view. It is in the power of the magistrates to exclude from the valuation-roll all parties who are rated under £4, and the 16th clause is introduced to prevent any prejudice to anyone on account of that exclusion. I do not know whether there is a similar clause in the English Act. Possibly it would not be required, because in England you proceed upon the principle of taking the poor rate book, and from that you transfer the names to the Parliamentary Roll. We make this provision in order to prevent the valuation-roll—which in many cases excluded the tenants at and under £4—being made the test, and in order that the Poor Law authorities should enter upon the rate-book the name of every householder. In that way we make sure that every householder shall be entitled to exercise the franchise, and all the condition we ask is that he shall have paid his rates. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite is this an unreasonable condition to make? I put it to them whether a man who is excused from paying his poor rate on the ground 482 of poverty is a fit and proper person to discharge the functions of a voter? I say that under this Amendment there would be a rule by which the Poor Law authorities may, for electioneering purposes, exempt persons from paying the poor rate on the ground of poverty, and yet those persons would be entitled to vote, unless they were in receipt of parochial relief. If a householder is not in receipt of such relief, and has been exempted, there would be no cause which can disqualify him. By this clause you make a national provision that a man who does not discharge his duty properly by contributing to the support of the poor is not a fit person to discharge his duties as a voter at the election of a Member of Parliament. Apart altogether from the authority of the English Act, I think the provision in the Bill a most proper one. I must express my astonishment that hon. Gentlemen should in the least degree consider it as attaching a penalty to the party. On the contrary, I think it is right that the occupier should be called upon to pay his poor rates in the same way that those having houses above £10 must, in Scotland, pay their assessed taxes.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, the only effect of the proposal of the Government was to leave a certain floating balance of persons who would or would not have paid their rates, according as the political exigencies of the borough seemed to require.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, there was a provision—a stringent provision—in the Bill specially directed against such practices.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 118: Majority 22.484
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Akroyd, E.||Cox, W. T.|
|Baggallay, R.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Baillie, rt. hon. H. J.||Dawson, R. P.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Dickson, Major A. G.|
|Beach, Sir M. H.||Dimsdale, R.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Disraeli, rt. hon. B.|
|Bowen, J. B.||Du Cane, C.|
|Brett, Sir W. B.||Duncombe, hon. Adml.|
|Brooks, R.||Dunne, rt. hn. General|
|Browne, Lord J. T.||Egerton, E. C.|
|Burrell, Sir P.||Fellowes, E.|
|Capper, C.||Fergusson, Sir J.|
|Cartwright, Colonel||Finch, G. H.|
|Cave, rt. hon. S.||Goodson, J.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Gordon, rt. hon. E. S.|
|Cochrane, A.D.R.W.B.||Graves, S. R.|
|Cole, hon. J. L.||Gurney, rt. hon. R.|
|Gwyn, H.||Morgan, O.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Morris, G.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Hardy, rt. hon. G.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Hardy, J.||North, Colonel|
|Hartley, J.||Northcote, rt. hn. Sir S.|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Herbert, rt. hn. Gen. P.||Parker, Major W.|
|Hesketh, Sir T. G.||Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.|
|Holmesdale, Viscount||Powell, F. S.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Pugh, D.|
|Hotham, Lord||Head, C. S.|
|Howes, E.||Robertson, P. F.|
|Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.||Royston, Viscount|
|Karslake, Sir J. B.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Karslake, E. K.||Sandford, G. M. W.|
|Kavanagh, A.||Schreiber, C.|
|Kendall, N.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|King, J. K.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Langton, W. G.||Severne, J. E.|
|Lennox, Lord G. G.||Simonds, W. B.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Smith, J. B.|
|Liddell, hon. H. G.||Stanley, Lord|
|Lindsay, hon. Colonel C.||Thompson, A. G.|
|Lowther, W.||Turnor, E.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Vance, J.|
|Mahon. Viscount||Vandeleur, Colonel|
|Mainwaring, T.||Warren, rt. hon. R. R.|
|Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Mayo, Earl of||TELLERS.|
|Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R.||Taylor, Colonel|
|Montgomery, Sir G.||Whitmore, H.|
|Adam, W. P.||Duff, R. W.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Dundas, F.|
|Allen, W. S.||Dunlop, A. C. S. M.|
|Anstruther, Sir R.||Eliot, Lord|
|Armstrong, R.||Erskine, Vice-Ad. J. E.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Esmonde, J.|
|Bagwell, J.||Ewing, H. E. Crum-|
|Baxter, W. E.||Fildes, J.|
|Bazley, T.||Fordyce, W. D.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||French, rt. hn. Colonel|
|Blake, J. A.||Gilpin, C.|
|Bright, J. (Birmingham)||Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.|
|Bright, J. (Manchester)||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Buller, Sir E. M.||Glyn, G. G.|
|Buxton, C.||Graham, W.|
|Buxton, Sir T. F.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Calcraft, J. H. M.||Hadfield, G.|
|Candlish, J.||Harris, J. D.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Hay, Lord W. M.|
|Carnegie, hon. C.||Headlam, rt. hn. T. E.|
|Carter, S.||Heneage, E.|
|Cave, T.||Henley, Lord|
|Chambers, T.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Childers, H. C. E.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Clement, W. J.||Holden, I.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hutt, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Collier, Sir R. P.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Colthurst, Sir G. C.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Cowen, J.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Cowper, hon. H. F.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Labouchere, H.|
|Dalglish, R.||Laing, S.|
|Davey, R.||Lamont, J.|
|De La Poer, E.||Lawson, rt. hon. J. A.|
|Dent, J. D.||Leatham, E. A.|
|Devereux, R. J.||Leatham, W. H.|
|Dixon, G.||Lee, W.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Leeman, G.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Lusk, A.|
|Mackinnon, Capt. L. B.||Robertson, D.|
|M'Laren, D.||Russell, Sir. W.|
|Martin, P. W.||Salomons, Mr. Aldrmn.|
|Matheson, A.||Scott, Sir W.|
|Matheson, Sir J.||Sherriff, A. C.|
|Merry, J.||Speirs, A. A.|
|Mill, J. S.||Sullivan, E.|
|Miller, W.||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|Mills, J. R.||Synan, E. J.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Moncreiff, rt. hon. J.||Thompson, M. W.|
|Monk, C. J.||Vanderbyl, P.|
|Nicholson, W.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Nicol, J. D.||Waldegrave-Leslie, hon. G.|
|Norwood, C. M.|
|O'Brien, Sir P.||Watkin, E. W.|
|Ogilvy, Sir J.||White, J.|
|O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.||Young, G.|
|Pease, J. W.|
|Potter, E.||Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.|
|Pritchard, J.||Ellice, E.|
§ MR. BOUVERIE
next moved to insert in place of the sections omitted the words—Is and has been for a period of not less than twelve months next preceding the last day of July an inhabitant occupier as a lodger of part of any dwelling-house, such part being of the annual value of £10 or upwards.The hon. Member said his object in moving the addition of these words was to clear away a doubt that might exist as to there being a lodger franchise in Scotland.
§ MR. DISRAELI
rose, but was called to Order, as the Chairman had not read the Question before the House.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he did not think there could be any objection to the insertion of the words. It was his understanding that the law of Scotland, as it at present stood, was in accordance with the words; but if there was any doubt, it was better that it should be removed.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, the figure was put at £10 to make the franchise the same as that in the English Act.
§ MR. POWELL
said, that there was a difference between this and the English lodger franchise, which said that the lodging must be in the same dwelling-house but this Bill said it might be in "any dwelling-house."
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I rose some time back, but was anticipated by the learned Lord Advocate, to say that the House has come to a very important decision with regard to this Bill. There was a very anxious desire on the part of Her Majesty's 485 Government to meet the general wishes of the House, and try if possible to bring our deliberations on this Bill to a happy conclusion. But the result has not been of the character we had anticipated I think, on the whole, that it would be best to move that we report Progress, in order that Her Majesty's Government may have an opportunity of considering the very important decision that has been come to. We have evinced an anxiety to meet the general wishes of the House, and as we have not succeeded, I very much regret it. I move, Sir, that you report Progress, in order that Her Majesty's Government may consider the position in which they now stand.
I cannot, Sir, join in the tumultuous expression of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I only rise for the purpose of saying I regret that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was not present during much of this discussion. I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman in the least; I was only expressing my regret, because I think that if he had heard the discussion it would have led him to this conclusion, that there really was no necessity for an obstinate persistence in the principle with regard to rating that was contained in the Bill. He would have found that there was a remarkable unanimity amongst Scotch Members in favour of the proposition that has been carried by a majority of 22. I would venture to suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who do not appear to agree with me, that when in this House we have, when treating of a Scotch or Irish Bill, an expression of the honest and settled conviction of the great majority of the representatives of that part of the country, we should do wisely to pay great attention to that expression, unless it asks us to do something absolutely injurious and immoral. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends opposite will see from what I am saying that I am not interposing any difficulty in his way. I think it would be unfortunate if the right hon. Gentleman should find himself under the necessity of insisting in this Bill upon a principle which was not found to be beneficial in the English Bill. We know that Prime Ministers and great Statesmen, however eminent, have opportunities of learning and changing their opinions, and as the principle of no disfranchisement was given up in Ireland, it has now by the vote of to-night, and the consent of the right 486 hon. Gentleman, been given up with regard to England, in order that certain additional Members might be given to Scotland. Therefore I do not see why hon. Gentleman should be so straight-laced, or why there should be the difficulty in the minds of hon. Gentlemen at consenting to a change in this matter, which would not involve a change from anything that has existed in Scotland before; but would simply be continuing what has existed in Scotland ever since the passing of the Reform Act in 1832. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take this into his consideration, and that his Friends will be forbearing. That the right hon. Gentleman should have moved that Progress be reported, was only natural under the circumstances, In my opinion, if hon. Gentlemen were a little better informed upon this matter they would be disposed to agree in the decision which the House has come to. Let them, therefore, not make it difficult for the Government to accept that decision.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, as one of the independent Members of the House, he must express his satisfaction at the decision come to by the Prime Minister. No doubt it was excessively disagreeable to the hon. Gentleman opposite. No doubt he desired to come down to the House night after night and support every piece of factious opposition ingenuity could suggest. Was the Government to submit to such treatment? If Lord Derby had remained in Office, the factious opposition of the last four weeks would have had no existence; but immediately the right hon. Gentleman came into power an opposition was organized for the purpose of ousting him from Office. He perfectly understood the annoyance of hon. Gentlemen opposite at the decision of the Government; but at the same time he thought that that decision was most conducive to the interests of the country.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had taken a discreet course, and he hoped the enthusiastic Gentlemen opposite would allow him to persevere in it. He must remind the Committee that the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Baillie Cochrane), who seemed so very hot upon the subject, had not been present during the discussion. [Mr. BAILLIE COCHRANE: I beg pardon, I was here.] The hon. Member seemed not to be aware that the Motion was brought forward by him (Mr. Bouverie), after due deliberation 487 with a large body of Scotch Members, and with the right hon. Gentleman opposite the First Minister of the Crown. He (Mr. Bouverie) would do the right hon. Gentleman the justice of saying, that in all matters connected with Scotland he has shown the greatest anxiety to consult the wishes and opinions of the Scotch Members, and, so far as he conceived it consistent with his sense of duty, he had acted in accordance with those opinions. He did not think the House had any right to complain of the right hon. Gentleman for the course he had taken; but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would bear distinctly in mind that the decision at which a tolerably full Committee had arrived was to reject an innovation. The right hon. Gentleman had not resolved to continue an existing state of things, but to introduce a system which was repugnant to the great body of the Scotch people.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he rose merely for the purpose of saying that he thought the Government had exercised a wise discretion, and he cordially approved the course they had taken in asking for time to consider the very grave position in which they were at present placed. He was anxious, if the House would pardon him, to say a few words on this occasion, because he had recently given expression to opinions which he knew had caused pain to some whom he was sorry to have offended, and some dissatisfaction to those whom he had the honour to represent. He had taken occasion in a recent debate to say that he disapproved the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in not having resigned on their defeat upon the question of the Irish Church. If, in the expression of such an opinion, he had given pain to any Member of Her Majesty's Government, he was extremely sorry; but he had spoken upon public grounds, and he appealed to recent events for his justification. Long habit and training in that House had inclined him to take a constitutional view of great questions, and he maintained now what he had said then,—that under the circumstances of a great defeat, confirmed by a subsequent vote with an increased majority, the duty of any Government, formed no matter how, could not be evaded, either with credit to themselves or advantage to the country. He had not spoken without thought. He knew at the time that there were great and difficult questions coming on for decision even in the short time the present House of Commons seemed dis- 488 posed to leave to itself, and that upon those questions great differences of opinion would exist. They had now seen the boundary question re-opened and brought before the House, and, in his humble judgment, left as unsettled by the action of Parliament as it was before the Commission was appointed. They had seen, in the case of the Reform Bill for Scotland, Her Majesty's Government defeated in a serious division on an important point, and again in the division which had just been taken. Now, he would ask the hon. Members opposite to place themselves in the position of those who habitually supported Her Majesty's Ministers. The Government were perfectly right in pressing their opinions on the House; but the House refused to listen to those opinions, and, almost as a matter of course, whenever Her Majesty's Government proposed anything the House of Commons took a different view. The position of the Government was therefore the reverse of what it ought to be, and their whole policy was guided and governed by their opponents. That was a state of things which it would be extremely dangerous to continue, and he said so for the sake of the great party to which he belonged, and the influence of which he did not wish to see in any respect lessened. The Conservative party in this country, when accustomed, night after night, to defeat and humiliation, was not only powerless for good, but might become instrumental for evil. It was on that account he regretted that Her Majesty's Government should have thought fit on a recent occasion to retain power in the difficult position in which an adverse majority had placed them. The constitutional mode of proceeding in the case of an adverse vote was to take one of two courses—either to resign power, or to call on the country to support them. He regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not done one or the other, and he still more regretted the deplorable consequences which had arisen. He looked upon this question in a constitutional light alone, and he maintained that to carry on the Government of the country in the face of a great majority was full of danger, and could only be attended with disappointment and pain to those who attempted it.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
only wished to say that he earnestly hoped Her Majesty's Government would persevere in the course they had announced. They had got 489 from the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who appeared occasionally to act as a sort of patron saint to both sides, a little advice. But in his early days he had read the fable of Little Red Ridinghood, and he remembered that when the Wolf tried to lure Little Red Ridinghood to her doom the language he used was just in the same mellifluous tones as those of the hon. Member for Birmingham. He could only say for himself, and for many others on that side of the House, that they wanted no advice from the hon. Gentleman. They were proceeding, as they believed, in a straightforward and honest course, and he could say, for one, that he earnestly hoped that having now arrived on the threshold of an appeal to some other authority outside the House, they would no longer shrink from the issue. He earnestly trusted Her Majesty's Government would not do that which had been insinuated from the other side—namely, resign their Offices. He was speaking from his conscientious conviction when he said that he believed the country appreciated the issue far more than some hon. Members might suppose. He believed that the people were keenly alive to the fact that the real question was a struggle for power between two men, who by their intellect, by their industry, and by their many great qualities had singled themselves out from the ranks, and had challenged one another to a great and signal issue. They had struggled for the highest places, and the one had got first to the top of the tree. He was speaking the truth, and he had small blame to give to anyone who having honestly entered into the struggle wished to displace his rival if he could. Now that was the issue which he believed the country had before it. It was not merely the Irish Church, it was not the Scotch Reform Bill. It was none of these great questions, giant though they were in importance. The real struggle was the struggle for power. He said it most conscientiously that he most earnestly hoped Her Majesty's Government having stepped out into the ring would not retire, at least until they had shown that they were not afraid to face the constituencies.
said, he desired to recall the attention of the Committee to the question really before it. The question was not whether the Government were doing wisely or unwisely in retaining their seats, whether they were prepared to go to the country, whether the Irish Church was a great question, or whether the right hon. 490 Member for South Lancashire and the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire were or were not struggling for power, but it was whether the Chairman should report Progress. He knew that was coming down from the stilts; but it was coming down to the question really before the Committee. He attended to a considerable portion of the discussion, and it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentlemen, not for the first time, had been prepared to take the decision of the House as the conclusive decision upon the shape of the Scotch Reform Bill. He would not speak so much about conscientious feelings as the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir Charles Russell), though he might possibly do so with equal truth. But when the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) attributed motives to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) he advised him to take care how, living in a glass house himself, he threw stones, for many believed that the hon. Gentleman himself looked with apprehension to the time when, by the operation of the English Bill, the House might be deprived of the light of his countenance. He hoped the First Minister of the Crown would be prepared to go on with the Bill, believing, as he did that the present Ministry were in many respects better able than the Liberal party to carry a good Reform Bill through the Upper House.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, that the vote arrived at that night was one of the most important that had occurred during the Reform debates, reversing, as it did, the whole principle on which the Bill was founded. The principle of the Bill, originally founded on enfranchisement, was now converted into one of disfranchisement. The Scotch Members were quite warranted in insisting upon additional representation; but it ought not to be obtained by plundering England while there were so many large towns in the latter country still unrepresented. He trusted that the Ministry would not accept the vote which had been arrived at that night; but would once for all put an end to a state of things which was neither creditable to Parliament nor to the country, and which, in his opinion, was scarcely creditable to the Ministry itself. He thought the vote arrived at was of such serious importance that they must either decide to throw over the Scotch Bill altogether and appeal to the country, as I they might fairly do, on the Reform Bill already passed, or place the Government of the country in the hands of those who 491 appeared to be disposed, relying upon their numbers and their majority, to carry on the business of the country in their own peculiar way.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, he wished that there should be no mistake on the subject of the vote to which the Committee had come. When the Reform Bill for Scotland was introduced, the right hon. Gentleman had said, with great fairness mid candour, that in these matters he would be greatly influenced by the views of the House, and that he would look to the opinions of Scotch Members especially as a guide in his proceedings. But in the debate which took place at that time, the Scotch Members pointed out in the most explicit manner that the rating principle would be productive of great inconvenience, and having since consulted together upon the subject, they placed their Amendments upon the Paper before Easter, so that the Government had had ample means of knowing what it was that they intended to insist upon. He thought the course adopted by the Scotch Members was perfectly justified, and he hoped they would continue in that I course. It was their duty to make this Reform Bill as operative and as beneficial as possible, and whatever might be the result of their votes he hoped they would persevere in their present course. He could have no objection to the right hon. Gentleman taking time to consider the vote, and with the advice he would have, he would probably find that the Scotch Reform Bill had not suffered any great detriment through the omission of the rating clause, which enfranchised and disfranchised nobody.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he did not rise to oppose the Motion for Progress which, under the circumstances, he thought to be natural; but he did rise to reply to the observations of the hon. Baronet the Member for Berkshire (Sir Charles Russell). That hon. Gentleman might be justified in speaking the sentiments of the hon. Gentlemen who sat around him when he said that the struggle of that night and the struggles which had been going on for the last two months were for the purpose of placing in power one of the right hon. Gentleman who led parties on either side of that House. Much as he respected and looked up to the right hon. Gentleman who led the party with which he had the honour of acting, he had, as an humble independent Member of that House, to disclaim such a motive as had been attributed to 492 the Liberal party by the hon. Baronet. They were there to struggle for great principles, and not, as the hon. Member had avowed was the motive of his party, to struggle for the ascendancy of an individual. The course taken that night fully exhibited the correctness of the statement he had ventured to make on the night that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had stated the course which Government meant to take after the majority of 65 against them. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) had then entertained the opinion that there were great questions remaining for that Parliament to consider—the Scotch Reform Bill, which they were first considering, the Boundary Bill, and the Irish Reform Bill. He had said then that they were about to proceed to their consideration with the millstone of a dissolution hanging round their necks. The observations of Gentlemen opposite proved that he was right in that statement. His opinion then, as it was before, was, that such a state of things was unconstitutional. They could not consider measures of such a character fairly under such circumstances. There were two courses for the Government to take—resign—that he would not believe they would do—or dissolve Parliament. The hon. Baronet, a distinguished military officer, knew that soldiers went into action ready to risk their lives for their country. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien), much as he and others on both sides of the House would dislike a dissolution, could not imagine that hon. Members would not be rendy to risk their seats for great principles. Hon. Members opposite threatened them with dissolution; they—the Liberal party—were prepared for the issue; they believed that the country would give their opinions the seal of their approbation, and they challenged, not individual Members, but the Government to appeal to the country.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, he could not assent to the description which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Moncreiff) had given of the question on which the Committee had just come to a decision. He must remind the Committee that the question really was whether there should be in the towns of Scotland household suffrage, pure and simple? This was put most distinctly to the Committee, and it was not open to hon. Members to say now that it was any other question that had been under consideration. There had been no attempt on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to fill up the blank 493 in the clause by putting in any fixed rental as a qualification for the franchise; but what hon. Gentlemen opposite said was, that they would not allow any qualification for the franchise, and the whole of the party opposite voted in that sense. Hon. Members could therefore scarcely be surprised at the Government not accepting the vote at which the Committee had arrived. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh said the Government were aware of the Amendment agreed upon by the Scotch Members; but neither he himself (Sir James Fergusson) nor some other Scotch Members were parties to the consultation of Scotch Members, with reference to this Bill. How were the Government to ascertain which of the Amendments were unanimously adopted at the consultation? Some of the Amendments put on the Paper were most discordant with each other. It should surely, therefore, have been stated in the first instance what had been the unanimous decision of the Scotch Members. He believed great surprise would be excited in Scotland, when it was known that many Gentlemen who were apprehensive of the changes made last year had now voted for household suffrage, pure and simple.
§ MR. G. YOUNG
said, he was surprised to hear a complaint from a Member of the Government that a fixed limit of rental had not been proposed as a substitute for rating. He had supposed that if there was one thing to which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had a decided objection, it was to what they characterized as a "hard and fast" line. They had themselves decided in favour of another line, which he would characterize as a fast and loose line. The Government, though repudiating a hard and fast line for England, as a matter of principle, had adopted it for Ireland; and they now complained that it had not been proposed for Scotland also. What had been done by the vote which had just been arrived at was simply to put it out of the power of any parties, for political purposes or otherwise, to command the register in any burgh, with respect to persons who, because of the lowness of their rental, might, be exempted from or made liable to the payment of rates at the discretion of parochial Boards, and to whom it might not be convenient to pay their rates. This, and nothing more, was the effect of the Amendment.
said, that his sympathies and prejudices on this occasion were 494 with the right hon. Gentleman at the Head of the Government. He took a decided position last Session respecting rating with regard to England. But he had voted for this Amendment on the ground that that principle was not applicable to Scotland. It had not been in force there, and as far as be could learn, was not in accordance, with the wishes of Scotch Members. Under these circumstances he thought there should be some other basis for Scotland. He thought the Government might fairly recognize the inapplicability of the principle to Scotland as well as to Ireland, and he hoped they would decide on acquiescing in the decision which had been arrived at, and discover some other satisfactory basis for the Scotch franchise.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.