§ Order for Second Reading read.
MR. ASHTON DILKE
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said: Sir, the measure, as I introduce it to the House, may be divided into two parts, the latter of which, I think, may be taken almost as a necessary corollary of the first. The first portion of the Bill provides for the payment of the absolutely necessary expenses—the expenses of Returning Officers—of a Parliamentary election out of the local rates; but the second part of the Bill is new, although its provisions are adopted in almost every foreign country. A measure with a similar intention to that contained in the proposals of the first part has frequently been proposed to this House; but the principle of the second portion of the Bill has been passed over altogether. The measure is one which has been very closely identified with the name of my 945 right hon. Friend the Postmaster General (Mr. Fawcett) when he was an independent Member. It was brought in as an Amendment to a Corrupt Practices Bill, introduced by a Conservative Government, and it was carried by a small majority; but not meeting with the approval of the Government, they succeeded in procuring a majority against the proposal on Report, and on the third reading of the Bill it was cut out of it by a still larger majority. The proposal was again introduced in 1872 by the right hon. Gentleman when the Ballot Bill was before the House. It received the approval of the Liberal Government of the day; but it was not carried, and has not since been renewed. Therefore, the Bill I have now to introduce to this House has, on a previous occasion, been carried in the teeth of a Conservative Government, and rejected in spite of the approval of the Liberal Government. I hope that it will be more fortunate on the present occasion, and that it will receive the support of a majority of the new House of Commons. The chief, and, in fact, the only grave objection raised against the Bill, on the Conservative side, is simply the question of cost. In connection with that point, I have been engaged during the past Recess in speaking to a good many meetings in various parts of the country on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, and included in that was this question of payment of election expenses out of the rates. I have brought it forward in order to ascertain the feeling of the working classes on the subject; and I venture to say, though it is a proposal to put on the shoulders of the ratepayers certain expenses, yet of all the propositions I have submitted to the various meetings I have not found one which is more thoroughly popular, or where the working classes of the Kingdom more thoroughly see the advantage they will gain by the carrying out of the proposal, which, is not to be weighed in the same balance with the very trifling expenditure it will involve. When the proposal was first brought forward there were no Members of this House who could fairly lay claim to the title of being direct Representatives of the working classes; but in the present Parliament we have at last secured the presence of several hon. Gentlemen who come directly under that description, and who 946 are intimately connected with the working class interest, and so far the object of the Bill may be said to have been attained; for although my right hon. Friend, in introducing it, deprecated its being a measure exclusively for the benefit of working men, or calculated to secure the return of working men, there can be no doubt that it was generally so accepted by the House, and that that was the general impression conveyed to the country. But even if it were not desirable to increase the representation of that class, there is another class to whom the franchise may, before many years, be given, to which this Bill will apply with greater force than the working classes. I refer to the agricultural labourer. With regard to that class, a Conservative Statesman has lately said that he would be glad to see them represented; and if that feeling had been shared by his Party, it ought not to have been difficult for that Party to let the labourers have one of the county seats which were at the command of the Party; but the remark referred to is, perhaps, to be regarded rather as a Platonic expression. I think, however, it will be admitted that a candidate of the agricultural labourers would find considerable difficulty in raising even the comparatively small sum necessary for the payment of the Returning Officer's expenses, if there should not be an extension of the law in the direction which I propose. I believe that even those expenses will be considerably diminished if this Bill is passed. The expenses to the community at large, I believe, will be considerably reduced. I found my argument on the facts as to the expenditure at the last General Election in 1880. The Return, which gives the expenses of the Returning Officers, and, at the same time, the general expenses of the Election, is an instructive one, because it shows that the Returning Officers' expenses vary enormously in different constituencies. At Abingdon, where 900 electors were polled, the Returning Officer's expenses were£177, giving an average of 4s. per elector; but in Barnstaple, where 1,650 electors were polled, the expenses were£92, a cost of 1s. 2d. per head. Taking boroughs of medium size, I find that at Warrington, where 6,000 electors were polled, the Returning Officer's expenses amounted to£630, or about 2s. per 947 head; whereas, at Burnley, where I suppose the electors were moved by the economy which distinguishes their Representative, 7,600 were polled at an expenditure of£153, or 5d. per head. Coming to the very large boroughs, I find that in Lambeth 50,000 electors were polled at an expenditure of£1,557, being an average of about 8d. per head; but in Leeds, the polling of 49,000 electors only cost£559, or 3d. per head. I think that demonstrates very clearly that wherever we find inequalities of this kind we may assume that the lower value and not the higher value is the true one; and, therefore, I think I should not be taking too sanguine a view if I say that if this Bill were passed the Returning Officers' expenses generally would be diminished, possibly by more than one-half, because, as the expenditure would be met by the various Municipalities, it would be open to criticism and revision. As it is, the cost is almost ridiculously small. I have estimated that the total cost of the average annual rate required will amount to one-eighth of a farthing in the pound—that is to say, if we take the cost of a General Election—and the fact is that we have one every four years on the average—we find that it would require a rate of half-a-farthing in the pound for the year of the Election. I know, however, that there is a very great objection to do anything which would tend to increase the local rates, the whole theory of the Conservative Party at present being to throw local rates as much as possible, not on local bodies, but upon the Consolidated Fund. There will, however, be far less likelihood of extravagance if the expenses are thrown on the rates than there will be if they are paid out of the Consolidated Fund; and a Motion to make the expenditure Imperial has been already rejected by a large majority. We are told that if this Bill is passed, we shall see a greater number of candidates than we do at the present moment. I am inclined to think that is true only to a limited extent; and, if it is true, I am inclined to think it is not an unmitigated evil. I believe it would be better for this House if, instead of being divided into Liberal and Conservative camps, we had an independent feeling which, under the provisions of the Bill, I think we should have. One important fact should not 948 be forgotten in connection with the question. There are constituencies in the United Kingdom which have never been contested on account of the enormous expense that would be incurred; and I contend that it would be better to have a surplus of candidates than we should have such a gross scandal as we have—namely, some constituencies in which there have not been contests for a quarter of a century, or, as in some cases, since the passing of the first Reform Act. The practice of foreign countries is favourable to my proposal. In a Return published last year it is set forth that in Austria, Hungary, France, and Italy, all necessary election expenses are paid out of national money—that is, out of the Consolidated Funds. In Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark, the election expenses are paid out of the local rates, as I propose in the present Bill. These facts show that there is a universal consensus of opinion that the necessary expenses should be paid by the electors themselves, and not by the candidates. The candidate, by offering himself to a constituency to serve them, confers a great favour on a constituency; and the expenses that a candidate would, in any case, have to incur, would, no doubt, be heavy enough. It may be said that the Returning Officers' expenses amount to but a small proportion of the whole expenditure; but that is not so, for although in many cases the saving of the official expenses will make but little difference to the candidates, still, in the case of working-men candidates, it will be found that the Returning Officers' expenses amount to a considerable proportion of the whole expenses incurred on their behalf. There is, no doubt, the evil of the multiplication of candidates as a possible one to be guarded against if this Bill be passed; and several proposals have been made with regard to this evil. My hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mr. H. B. Samuelson), as far as I know, however, has proposed the only one likely to be available—namely, that a candidate not polling a certain number of votes should be fined a fixed sum, or compelled to pay his share of the election expenses; but it is open to many of the same objections as the present plan, and therefore I propose a better method, and a method which is uniformly adopted in almost every other 949 country, and the second part of the Bill, which has not yet been mooted in this country, has been brought in to effect that purpose. I propose, in the second part of the Bill, that if a candidate does not gain an absolute majority of the electors he shall not be elected, and that there shall be a second election, to be decided by a relative majority of votes. A sub-section of the clause also omits what are known as the three-cornered constituencies, where it would be difficult to apply the section. I trust, however, before the Bill passes into law, that three-cornered constituencies will have gone the way of all flesh. I should now like to say a few words with regard to the proceedings of the various political associations that have sprung up on both sides during the last few years. When I first brought in this Bill there was a division taken upon it, and in the course of some discussion, the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) said he regarded the Bill with suspicion, as I was the nominee of a Caucus—that very much dreaded and detested body. Well, Sir, I can say that the provisions of the Bill are meant, if to do anything, to neutralize the power of the Caucus. If a candidate is appointed by the managers of a Party that the electors do not like, the electors have at present no power to object to the selection made. For instance, at Wigan, during the spring of last year, there was a contested election, when there were two candidates in the field. The borough is one which contains a considerable Irish vote, and where, the working-man element being rather strong, it might be presumed that there was also a certain amount of the English vote which was opposed to the Government on the burning question—namely, the application of exceptional laws to Ireland. What happened was this. The Conservative went to the poll on the ordinary platform of the Party, and the Liberal went to the poll, and, in order to secure the Irish vote, pledged himself to oppose the Bill which the Government was then fighting for so determinedly in the House. Therefore, those Liberals who voted for that candidate were in the position of persons who voted against the Government; and the result of that was that if a moderate Liberal elector of that constitency wanted to show he supported the Government 950 in the crisis, he had only the option of voting for the Conservative candidate, and the Liberal candidate, in spite of the Irish vote, was thrown out by a considerable majority. What I contend is, that if this Bill had been in operation we should have had three candidates—a Conservative candidate, a candidate receiving the support of the Irish electors, and a candidate who would have received the votes of the Ministerialists in the borough; and I think it would have been a valuable indication to the Government if they had been able, without having the accusation of splitting the Party cast in their teeth, to run such candidates as would have given them a clear test of the feeling of the country. In that way they would have been able to have learnt whether it was with them or against them. With regard to the action of Liberal associations throughout the country, that action, as is well known, has been introduced very largely in order to prevent splits in the Party organization, and the running of superfluous candidates; and that they succeeded at the last General Election, in 1880, is evident from the fact that there is only one seat in the Kingdom—that in the Tower Hamlets—which has been lost to the Party, and which did not finally result in representing the feelings of the electors, as there were too many candidates running for the seat, and votes were thrown away upon candidates who had no chance of success. In 1874 we find that no less than 13 seats were absolutely thrown away by the fact of so many splits taking place in the ranks of the Liberal Party, in consequence of which candidates were run upon whom votes were thrown away, and which, if they had been given to another candidate, would have been sufficient to carry the election. Whilst I say this, I do not wish to see standing at every election a cut-and-dried Liberal or a cut-and-dried Conservative, for I hold that we should have independent candidates as well as independent speech in a constituency. Under the present system, however, we have sometimes found that a candidate will go down to a constituency and will be addressed by a minority of the electors, who hold strong views on some particular point. He will be asked to give a pledge on some particular question, and he consents, often to the detriment of his own 951 moral character, either because he knows that he is not likely to have the opportunity practically to carry it out, or because he will be able in some way to get out of his pledge in the future. We have seen that to be the case on both sides, in order to secure the Irish vote, or the temperance vote, or the suffrages of those in favour of the county franchise. But if there was such a law as is proposed in the machinery of the Bill, each Party would be enabled to bring forward a candidate of its own, and so discover what was the exact amount of support that would be given to their views, so that if their candidate was beaten he could retire before the second ballot. In foreign countries the system I propose is almost of universal application; and there the question of expenditure is really considered to be one of no practical importance at all. In England, which is much wealthier than other countries, the question of expenditure will be still more insignificant and trifling. I do not believe that second elections in this country would number one in 40, although in Continental countries they number one in six or one in eight, because among our own political Parties it is a settled custom to run a Liberal against a Conservative. Nor do I believe that the expense of elections, once placed in the hands of Municipalities, would be large. In conclusion, I will give expression to the hope that the Government will assist me to carry the Bill, which I believe will be found a successful measure, and not an unpopular one in the country. I beg to move its second reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Ashton Dilke.)
§ MR. J. E. YORKE
, in opposing the Motion, said, that, in his opinion, it was not expedient to charge any portion of the expenses of Parliamentary candidates upon the ratepayers. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Ashton Dilke) seemed to be one of those happy people who took a delight in all proceedings connected with elections, and who thought those proceedings could not be too much prolonged. He appeared to approach the question from a feeling that the more the candidates the merrier would be the contest; but that was not his (Mr. J. R. Yorke's) 952 own feeling when he contemplated the number of candidates which would be started by the crotchetmongers throughout the country, and the prolonged turmoil which would be inevitable through the two contests it was now proposed to institute instead of one election. He therefore condemned the proposal as unnecessary and, to some extent, cruel to the candidates, as subjecting them to additional torture. The expense of an election depended upon the time it occupied; and under the Bill there would be a period before nomination, the period between the nomination of the first election, and then a period of not less than five, and not more than eight, days before the second election. What the consequent expense would be he would leave to the imagination of hon. Members, who already smarted under the cost of the present system, with its official, its permissive, and its illegitimate heads of expenditure. The measure had, indeed, so narrow a scope that it would scarcely be worth opposition were it not for the principle which it involved. Besides, there were several expenses attendant upon a Parliamentary election; but the Bill dealt with only one, and no adequate reason had been shown for transferring the expense of elections from persons now willing to bear it to persons who would be very unwilling to bear it indeed—namely, the ratepayers. The hon. Member had referred to other countries; but he had not attempted to show that the system in operation there was attended by any special advantages. If the present election arrangements were to be interfered with at all, he thought there was an overwhelming case in favour of placing such charges on the National Exchequer, for he was at a loss to see how the expenses of the election of Members of Parliament who were to deal with Imperial interests could fairly be made a charge upon the rates. The ratepayers, indeed, were at present looking forward to the promised settlement of the whole question rather in the direction of relief than of an increase of their burdens, as was now proposed. The second part of the proposal was entirely new to the English Constitution, and he was opposed to it on the ground that it would needlessly multiply contests, introduce into public life the unpleasantness inevitable to prolonged strife, and lower 953 the character of the Representatives of the people in that House. A class of candidates would, no doubt, be enabled to come forward who were at present debarred from doing so; but men were what their opportunities made them, and, as a rule, it was not desirable that a working man should represent a large body of his fellow-countrymen. In the ranks of labour men of exceptional gifts were occasionally found. Such men had done honour to their order in that House, and no one could pretend that the question of money had ever jeopardized their election. Funds for popular candidates were always forthcoming. He did not believe that any genuine working-class representative was ever prevented by the want of pecuniary means from being elected to that House. The real difficulty with working men was how to support themselves when they were in the House of Commons, seeing that an annual subsidy, which would be requisite for the purpose, was different from a lump sum. He thought it unfair to throw the cost of the Bribery Commissioners upon the ratepayers belonging to the incriminated boroughs; and especially there was one point which he wished to put forward, and that was what the position of women would be under this Bill. He had always held that a woman who was in possession of property, or who occupied a house which would entitle a man to a vote, ought not to be prevented from voting. He had never gone further. Now, in the case of a Bribery Commission, it appeared very hard that women who had never had an opportunity of being bribed or of demonstrating their superior virtue, should be called upon to pay for the misconduct of their male neighbours who enjoyed the franchise. But this Bill would inflict a permanent, instead of an occasional, injustice, for those women would be charged with a rateable proportion of the costs of elections. He trusted the House would not accept this measure. He noticed that the silver side of the shield was turned towards them, and that Ministers who before supported the measure were now conspicuous by their absence. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, indeed, in 1871, said that, partly by their own fault and partly by the fault of others, Her Majesty's Government 954 had fallen out with more than one class of the community; they had fallen out with the Army and with the licensed victuallers; but that Bill would do still greater mischief, because it would throw further taxation on the shoulders of the whole community. But, if that was the case in 1871, the argument was still stronger now, seeing that since then the community had been made to suffer from the imposition of additional burdens, such as the Education rate and other charges. He was glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General had come into the House. In 1871 the right hon. Gentleman somewhat complained of the lukewarm manner in which the Prime Minister dealt with the question. But, in as much as this year a large and comprehensive measure had been brought in by the hon. and learned Attorney General, dealing with all other branches of the Election question, but not mentioning this, he trusted the Government had changed their minds, and would not be found voting for the second reading. For his own part, he felt he had discharged his duty to the long-suffering ratepayers by resisting this attempt to throw an additional burden upon backs too little able to bear this grievance.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said, it was with very great pleasure that he had observed that the hon. Gentleman who had opposed the Motion for the second reading of the Bill (Mr. J. R. Yorke) had said very little in favour of the course he had taken, and practically nothing against the clause which provided for the Returning Officers' expenses. It was in that clause he (Mr. Broadhurst) was chiefly interested. In effect, it was not wholly one for the purpose of relieving working men from the difficulties of Parliamentary expenses; but it was a proposal rather for the object of giving a wider choice of candidates to the constituencies. There were two questions always put when the name of a candidate was mentioned. The first probably was, What were his politics? And the second was sure to be, What was his power to meet the expenses of the election? And it was very often the case that the second question ultimately came to be the most important, because, whatever his politics might be, or his capacity to represent the constituency faithfully, unless he was able to meet 955 the enormous cost of the election, his chance of being returned was poor indeed. In his opinion, the ratepayers ought to bear the burden of the expenses; and, whilst the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Bill (Mr. Ashton Dilke) had shown that under it the additional cost to the rates would be very small indeed—so small that it was hardly worthy of discussion—yet the advantages to the candidate would be enormous, the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke) said that working men would find very little difficulty in meeting the cost of Parliamentary contests. He begged to assure the hon. Member that that was not the case. The difficulties were enormous indeed, and one of the most aggravating and irksome difficulties was that of the Returning Officers' charges. By the recent laws regulating elections, it was necessary for a candidate to pay a deposit before he could legally become a candidate at all, and that brought about in some cases a most peculiar and contradictory state of things. In his (Mr. Broadhurst's) own case, in the borough of Stoke-upon-Trent, there were four candidates at the last General Election. His hon. Colleague, and those upon his side, were hoping they would be reduced to three. He himself was secretly praying that there would be either five or only two, because, according to the number of candidates on the day of nomination would be the relative cost to each. As it was, he found very great difficulty to obtain the£250 that he had to pay way by of deposit before he could be legally a candidate. That was an obstacle that Parliament should remove at once; and, as a matter of good taste, all rich men who were capable of meeting the expenses should vote for the Bill in order to remove the difficulties that stood in the way of their less fortunate fellow-countrymen. He did not think there was any force in the objection that working men would make frivolous proposals of candidates, as no one would be so interested in keeping the number of candidates down as the ratepayers themselves. He did not believe either that there would be any great increase in the number of labour candidates. With regard to the general opinion on the subject, he could say, from his own experience, that he had never addressed a public meeting during the last two years in aid of a proposal 956 similar to this at which there was any opposition offered to it. Another powerful reason why Parliament should remove these expenses from candidates was, that while they were called upon, and were willing, to pay these large sums of money for seats in Parliament, the constituencies could not be persuaded from the belief that Members had some pecuniary interest in obtaining a seat in the House, their argument being that if there were so many who were willing to pay those large sums for seats in the House there must be some means of recompense. The sooner such an impression was removed the better. He, therefore, cordially supported the second reading, and hoped that hon. Gentlemen opposite would permit them to take a division upon the question.
§ MR. GREGORY
opposed the Bill, contending that there was no need at the present time for any such legislation, and that no sufficient reason had been shown for any change in the present system. He was unwilling that anything should be added to the already heavy burdens upon the ratepayers, and could not vote for a measure which would impose upon candidates the anxiety of a second election within eight days of the first. He had no confidence in the predictions that the cost would be infinitesimally small, as he had seen so many similar prophecies falsified by the result. Just the same thing had been said of the Education rate, which in some instances had risen to 1s. or 1s. 6d. in the pound. As things were, the present expenses were not generally felt by gentlemen who presented themselves as candidates, or who were properly qualified to be brought forward for seats in the House. The hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Broadhurst) admitted that labour candidates were not generally prejudiced as things were, and he did not think the Bill would add to their number. But it would, if carried, certainly lead to a large increase in the number of candidates, by encouraging persons to come forward who would not be bonâfide ones, and who, at their own will, would be able to add to the burdens of the locality. It was said that the agricultural labourers would not have the same means of returning their own candidates as were possessed by the large towns. Well, the county franchise had not yet been extended, and that question, 957 therefore, had not yet arisen, But the agricultural labourers had not been unable to provide means for their unions and other objects, and he (Mr. Gregory) did not doubt they would be able to do so also for election purposes. Besides, the Returning Officer's expenses were only a fraction of the total expenses of a candidate, and were far less than the other expenses necessarily incurred. The second part of the Bill, dealing with re-elections in certain cases, he thought was simply extravagant and preposterous, and the result would be to make life intolerable to the man who had to be elected a second time within eight days after his first election. As no benefit would, in his opinion, be derived from the measure, he should decidedly vote against the second reading.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
said, he regretted that he could not support the Bill in its present complex form. The first part of it embraced a proposal he had over and over again supported in the House. Indeed, two Sessions ago he had himself brought in a Bill on the subject. The objection as to the expenses falling on the ratepayers was, in his opinion, of no weight. They would be infinitesimal, and, therefore, he could not agree with the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) that there would be a pressure on the ratepayers. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke (Mr Broadhurst) had shown it would not be a farthing in the pound. But, even if it were otherwise, he (Mr. Serjeant Simon) thought that the ratepayers ought to pay for the privilege of representation in the House of Commons; and the ground upon which he supported the first part of the Bill was not on economic grounds, but because he was of opinion that the present system of payment by Members of the legal machinery for conducting an election was an entire reversal of the principle of representation. If it was a privilege to be represented in the House of Commons, those who enjoyed that privilege ought to pay for the legal machinery which was necessary to conduct the election. The present state of things reversed the relation between the Member and the constituents. Instead of being a person who was conferring a benefit on the community, it represented him him as a person who was receiving a favour at the hands of the constituency. 958 The present system was a prolific source of corruption, because the constituencies were taught to regard the candidate as a person whom they were benefiting. As a rule, only rich men could come forward as candidates, because it was only they who could incur the expenses of election. He himself had fought three contested elections, and, therefore, knew the trouble and misery of a contest. He regretted that his hon. Friend (Mr. Ashton Dilke) had introduced the proposal of a second election, as he thought it was useless and dangerous. Life would be positively miserable if a man after going through one contest had to go through a second, and perhaps a third, for there might not be an absolute majority of electors in the second any more than in the first election. Where were they to stop? He was sorry that a useful measure had been spoilt by the introduction of such a proposal. Under the circumstances, he could not support the Bill, though he would not vote against it, because the first part was a proposition of his own. He should walk out without voting. ["No, no!"] He really did not know what the principle of the Bill was—whether it was contained in the former or the latter proposals, and he certainly could not support the latter.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
said, he opposed the Bill on the ground that it was a proposal to impose additional expense upon the ratepapers of particular localities, which ought to be paid out of the National Exchequer. They had been told that the addition which the proposal of the Bill would make to local rates would be very small. That might be so; but the Conservative Party objected not so much on the matter of cost, as on the matter of principle, and he could not understand, if the House were to pass the Bill, how they could oppose the payment of Members of Parliament. They might depend upon it that, if they conceded this point, the inevitable consequence would be a proposal to pay Members of Parliament. The principle was not a novel one, but had been before the House six or seven times. A Bill to the same effect was introduced in 1867 by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the present Postmaster General, when it was carried by a small majority of about 3. It was again introduced in 1871, when it was strenuously opposed by the 959 hon. and learned Gentleman the present Attorney General and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the present Home Secretary, both of whom were Tellers against it. The Home Secretary then made a forcible speech on the subject. Proposals to the same effect were brought forward in 1872–3, and defeated by large majorities. The Bill was both impolitic and unjust; impolitic, because it was very undesirable that the Representatives of the people should be more under the control of their constituents than they were at present. They did not want in the House of Commons machines and delegates; they wanted Gentlemen able to exercise their own judgment, and to give their own free expression of opinion upon questions that came before them. If this proposal were carried it would tend to put Members of Parliament more under local influence than they were at present. It was unjust, because owners of personal property would be exempted from paying the expenses; while the owners of real property, already burdened too highly, would have an additional burden thrown upon them in having to defray them. The analogy of Municipal elections did not apply, for the candidates had simply to perform local duties and were elected for local purposes, whereas Members of that House dealt with national matters. The effect of the Bill, too, would be to promote Parliamentary contests, to bring into the field men who were anxious to air their own projects, and largely to increase the number of candidates who would be able to gratify their personal ambition at the expense of the constituency. The local rates had already to bear the expense of registration, which was an expense which ought to fall on the National Exchequer, and he did not wish to go further in the same direction. He was satisfied that the professed object—namely, to introduce more working-class Members of Parliament—would not be secured by the Bill. He did not object to working men's candidates; he should like to see more of them, and he was sure that Conservatives generally would welcome a greater number of them than were in the House at present. But the Bill would not add to their number, while it would certainly interfere most seriously with the dignity, patriotism, and independence of Members of Parliament.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, that the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) had just said he would like to see a larger number of labour Representatives in the House, and yet he objected to remove what constituted the chief obstacle in the way of their coming here. The hon. Baronet said the object would not be attained, even if the Bill were carried; and what he meant by that he (Mr. Anderson) supposed was, that the other expenses were so high that still the labour candidates would not be able to secure election. Still, the hon. Baronet said that if the Bill were carried, the number of candidates would be greatly increased; and he (Mr. Anderson) would ask, would not the other expenses tend to check the multiplication of candidates in the same way that it would check the number of labour candidates? The hon. Baronet was not entitled to both of these consequences, but must take the one or the other, as the one destroyed the other. He (Mr. Anderson) thought if the Bill were carried, with certain necessary modifications that it would be requisite to introduce into it in Committee, it would remove the great obstacle that working men had to obtaining seats in Parliament. Already they had a few very able men of that class, and very good Members they were, and he joined with the hon. Baronet in wishing there were more of them, because the number they had was very small as compared with the proportion that working men bore in the electorate. But the principal reason he supported the Bill, or at least the 1st clause, which threw the expenses of the Returning Officer on the constituency, was that the candidate had no sort of control over those expenses. All the other expenses connected with the election were more or less in the hands of the candidate and his committee; but when they came to the expenses of the Returning Officers he was absolutely helpless, and had simply to pay down a large sum of money that was expended by people over whom he had no control. He thought it was a fair argument that in all our other elections the public paid such expenses, not merely the Municipal elections, but the School Board and Parochial Board elections; and he did not see why there should be any difference in Parliamentary elections. He admitted, however, the Bill ought to be guarded; 961 and the Bill, as it stood at present, was entirely unguarded, for there was nothing to prevent any number of candidates coming forward, and there was no kind of stipulation—as there had been in all the other Bills on this subject—that, unless a candidate carried a given proportion of votes, he should be punished by being made to pay the expenses of it, as far as his share of them went. Under the Municipal Election Act, at present candidates had nothing to pay, and the result was sometimes very curious. It happened the other day in his own constituency that one gentleman got himself nominated in some three, four, or five different wards, thus putting all those wards to the expense and trouble of a contest, which was a great abuse; because, if elected in all of them, he could only sit for one. That was an abuse, and in the same way, under this Bill as it stood, a candidate might get himself nominated in a dozen different constituencies, and put them all to the expense of a contest. That would certainly be an abuse; but there was nothing to prevent proper safeguards being put into the Bill at some other stage. As regarded the 2nd clause, he did not take the same view as the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon), who declined to vote for the Bill because that clause was in it. He (Mr. Anderson) objected to that clause just as much as the hon. and learned Gentleman; but the course he should take would be to support the Bill in its leading clause, and in Committee endeavour to get the 2nd clause thrown out, and that was the course he would recommend the hon. and learned Gentleman to take. He thought the 2nd clause was a distinct blot on the Bill. It tended to complicate the matter, and produce a confusion in the desire to support the Bill, which, otherwise, on its merits, the Bill was fairly entitled to. For these reasons he should support the second reading; but would endeavour to get the objectionable clause thrown out afterwards.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, he did not consider that there was anything to complain of under the present system. The hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) had stated that he had fought three contested elections. As the hon. and learned Member had won all those elections he had not 962 much reason for complaining. He (Mr. R. N. Fowler) had fought five contested elections, and only won two. Consequently, he had more reason to complain of the present system than the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury had. It was said that gentlemen were deterred from becoming candidates in consequence of the expense attaching to candidature. When the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General lost his seat for Brighton, the borough of Hackney, at its own expense, returned the right hon. Gentleman. He also believed the return of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for Birmingham did not cost him 1d. He did not think anyone who was sufficiently distinguished for a large number of people to desire to see him in Parliament was ever kept out on the score of expense, while the present system acted as a deterrent to candidates who had no claim to election. He apprehended that the larger the constituencies were the greater would be the number of candidates. If this Bill were passed the country would be flooded with "bogus" candidates, simply desirous of bringing themselves and their crotchets before the public. This would be the case at General Elections, but much more the case at by-elections, where men who were obscure would strive to attain that importance in the country for which a by-election afforded special facilities. It seemed to him that the present system acted as a deterrent upon men coming forward who had no claim to a seat in that House, and who did not enjoy the confidence of any large section of any constituency; and, believing that the Bill, by removing that deterrent, would cause very great evils, he should vote against it.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he rose for the purpose of saying a word or two with respect to the views of the Government on this question. He thought the House must feel a sense of satisfaction at the tone of moderation which had prevailed on both sides. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Ashton Dilke), in introducing the Bill, stated that on the second reading of the Bill, which included the first proposal, in a previous Session, it was carried at that time, although the Government of the day were in opposition to it, the Government of the day being then the Conservative Party; but a little later, 963 when a Liberal Government was in Office, and a similar proposal was made, it was not carried; and he (Mr. Hibbert) thought his better part would be, if he was to offer the support of the Government, to say as little as possible about the former action of Parliament on the subject. His hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke), who had moved the rejection of the Bill, seemed to think he (Mr. Hibbert) was an impartial person in his views on the question; but he was not so impartial as the hon. Member thought, for he had voted on every occasion for the proposal contained in the 1st clause; and, therefore, he had great pleasure now in giving his support to the proposal, and also in giving the support of the Government to it. His hon. Friend had stated that the proposal of the returning expenses was a small matter, and that the amount needed would be very small; but there was no doubt the opposition to the Bill was based not on the amount of the expense thrown on the rates, but on the principle. There was a distinction between this proposal and other matters of expense to which objection was made as falling upon local rates. In this case, the extension of expenditure upon the localities which were interested in the return of Members would be borne by those localities; but if it fell upon the national purse, of course, all persons throughout the country would have to pay, whether they were privileged to return Members or not. Every borough had not the privilege of returning a Member of Parliament; and, certainly, if exceptions were made in cases of this kind, it would not be objected that the expenses should fall rather upon the rates than upon the national purse. It was objected by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) that, if this expense was allowed to fall upon the rates, there would probably before long be a demand that the Members' expenses should be borne in the same way. That he (Mr. Hibbert) considered was a very long way off, and he did not think it was a proposal which would meet with very large support in the present House of Commons, or in the country; and if such a proposition was ever made, it would be upon a fair discussion as to whether the expense of such payment should be thrown on the local rates, or 964 on the national funds. But, upon the main question, as to whether the cost of what were called Returning Officers' expenses—that was, the necessary expenses of the machinery of an election—should be paid by the candidate, or should be paid by the localities interested in the return of the Members, then, he thought, there were very strong reasons why a change should be made, and that the expense should cease to be paid by the candidates, and should be thrown upon the rates. This proposal he did not support merely because its working would admit the working man, because he did not think legislation should be carried out with the view of promoting class interests of any kind; but on broader grounds, he said that what had to do with the proper machinery of returning a Member of Parliament, ought to be not only conducted by the localities interested, but ought to be paid for by them; and he thought it would not be difficult to show that the very fact of candidates being called to pay these necessary expenses had been one very great reason why other expenses which were not so legitimate, and practices which were in a great many cases illegal, had by degrees grown up, and money had been so very lavishly expended in the various elections of the country. On the ground, therefore, that the change would lead to a greater economy, he also supported the proposal. He believed that if elections were conducted at the expense of the locality there would be very much smaller settlements made for Returning Officers' expenses, and that what had been charged in such cases would be found in some cases to far exceed what was necessary for the purpose. He was told on good authority that before the last Election the Returning Officers in the Metropolis held a meeting, at which they came to an agreement to demand even a larger sum for expenses than was allowed under the Act passed a few years ago, and detailed in the Schedule of the Act. On the ground, then, that this measure would clear the way to greater purity of election, as he thought; on the ground, also, of leading to greater economy, and on the ground of giving all classes more freely an opportunity of seeking the suffrages of the various boroughs or counties, he thought the 1st clause of the Bill deserved the support of 965 the House. At the same time he felt bound to say that he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) in his remarks that the clause did want some provisions which should, to a certain extent, prevent any large acquisition of what were called "bogus" candidates. The Bill of his right hon. Friend the Postmaster General did contain such a proposal. It provided that in case a certain proportion of votes was not given for any candidate, a part of the money which had been paid for the Returning Officer's expenses should be taken from him and not returned; but that in the case of a proper proportion of the votes being cast, the amount of money paid for the admission of a candidate should be returned to the candidate. In Committee, he should propose, if the Bill passed the second reading, that some such provision should be made, and probably it would be accepted by his hon. Friend. As to the 2nd clause of the Bill, he must say that he could not give the support of the Government to the proposal except to this extent. The Government were willing that the Bill should be read a second time; but they would take a discussion upon it in Committee, and he did not wish in what he had said to commit the Government in any way upon the 2nd clause. There were, no doubt, great objections against it; and, no doubt, there were strong reasons for it, that some such change was in existence in all countries, with the exception of Spain. With the understanding that the Government were only committed to the second reading of the Bill, and that the 2nd clause was open to question, he should support the Motion.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, that it was curious to find that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hibbert), as representing the Government, should get up and say that, although he did not like the Bill as a whole, he was, nevertheless, prepared to give to it the support of the Government. The hon. Gentleman wanted to modify the 1st clause, and said he would oppose the 2nd.
§ MR. HIBBERT
I ought to have said, if I did not sufficiently explain myself, that if the 1st clause is adopted, it will require some additional provision being made to prevent "bogus" candidates coming forward.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, that that was with regard to the 1st clause. The 1st clause was to be modified, and the 2nd expunged. Was that so?
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
That was rather a remarkable proceeding. There was no precedent for throwing the expense on the ratepayers. No one could complain of what the hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. Ashton Dilke) had done; but it was matter of some complaint that Her Majesty's Government should have treated the matter so slightingly. In fact, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert), the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Evelyn Ashley), and the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Fawcett) were the only occupants of the Treasury Bench. All the Members of the Cabinet were absent, and only one of the Members of the Government, representing the Local Government Board, came forward to support a Bill which contained an important principle, in as much as it sought to amend the representation of the people. The practice hitherto had always been that the expenses at elections should be borne by the candidates themselves. The matter was not, perhaps, of first-rate importance; but still alterations of the Constitution ought not to be made in that manner. If the Government really wished that this important change should take place, why did not one of their chief authorities come forward and say so boldly? He (Mr. J. G. Talbot) was one of the few Members who had no Returning Officer's expenses, and he was also returned by an absolute majority of the electors, and therefore he could not have any personal objections to the measure; but he thought there were one or two sound and Constitutional objections to a proposition of this sort being brought forward in the manner it had been. To some extent this was a sentimental grievance. What was desired was that all kinds of persons should be at liberty to come forward and seek the suffrages of the electors. Looking at the matter practically, that was not a desirable state of things. It was no use mincing matters, nor representing things as they are not. The fact was that representation in Parliament was a matter of serious and earnest business. It had been said that this was a measure to increase the number of the working men 967 Members of that House. Well, he had no objection to a working man being in the House; but if, however, those persons wished to represent constituencies, they should be prepared, like other candidates, to devote their lives to the Business of that House. This representation was not a thing to be taken up and put down at pleasure; and unless a man was able by himself, or through his friends, to pay the moderate Returning Officer's fees now demanded, could it be supposed that he was a fit and proper person to sit in that House? Was it right that this attempt to change our present system should be made in so unsatisfactory a manner? As to the second portion of the Bill, it had been so much objected to by all the Members who supported the first section, that it would not be worth his while to spend any time in criticizing it. After all, this was merely tinkering at a great question. If they were to consider the question of the representation of the people, let them do so broadly on the invitation of the Ministers of the Crown. If they were to have Reform Bills, let them not have them in the form of tinkerings on Wednesday afternoons, but on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, so that the House might know what they were going to vote upon.
§ MR. CROPPER
, in opposing the Bill, said, that he considered the 2nd clause to be a deterrent to every hon. Member, as no one was anxious to prolong the excitement of a contested election. If the 1st clause of the Bill were passed in its present form, constituencies would run the risk of having all sorts of candidates thrust upon them; and it was possible that, in the event of an election taking place, there might be found in every borough returning Members to that House a Temperance candidate, a Home Rule candidate, and candidates representing all other kind of crotchets so well known to hon. Members. In fact, ambitious persons might put up for three or four places, not only to get a name, but in the hope that by some lucky chance they might get into Parliament. In reference to the allusions which had been made to the question of paying Members for their services, he would remind the House that that was not the only place where men gave their services for nothing. The whole magis- 968 tracy of this country gave their services I for nothing. He had no doubt that some time or other Her Majesty's Government would bring in a measure embodying the best part of the Bill; but, in its present form, he could not support it.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he hoped that, when he rose to say a few words in support of the Bill, it would not be supposed for a single moment that he intended to supply the want that had been complained of—the absence of leading Members of the Government on the occasion of this debate. He hoped it would not be thought unnatural that he should say a few words in favour of a proposal which he had advocated in season and out of season, both when Liberal and when Conservative Governments had been in Office. He had brought it forward on seven different occasions, and had met with various results. The first time the subject was brought forward was when the Conservative Government was in Office in 1868. It was carried twice in Committee on the Corrupt Practices Bill, and it was only at the very last moment that it was rejected. The next time the proposal was brought forward it was only lost by the very narrow majority of 3. On the subsequent occasions, he was sorry to say, it fared worse, and was rejected by increasing majorities. The hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke) had expressed the hope that he (Mr. Fawcett) had changed his opinion in reference to this proposal; but he had not changed his opinion, and should certainly support the principle of the Bill, because the more he thought of this ques-question, the more it seemed to him that it embodied a principle which it was of increasing importance that that House should recognize and accept. A great deal had been said, as had often been said before, about the effect that this proposal of throwing the expenses upon the rates would have in encouraging the number of candidates at a contested election; but it appeared to him that if the proposal were properly safeguarded it would tend in the exactly opposite direction; for, at present, constituencies were interested in extravagance, whereas, if this proposition were carried out, constituencies would be interested in economy. If at the present time it appeared that there was not likely to be a contest, 969 it was perfectly well known that a certain number of hundreds of pounds which would, otherwise be spent would not be spent; and, under these circumstances, the persons who would participate in the advantages of that expenditure were naturally interested in creating a contest. But supposing this Bill were carried out, who would suffer from an unnecessary contest? It would not be the candidate who was subjected to a vexatious contest, but the constituency, and the consequence would be that the whole public sentiment of the constituency would be against the person who had thrown that unnecessary expense upon the ratepayers. But it was often said that the great argument in favour of making the constituencies responsible for the expenses would be that it would have the effect of bringing forward more working-men candidates. That was very desirable; but he always thought it was unfortunate to discuss this proposition on that narrow issue. He hoped one result of that measure would be, not only to admit working men more readily into that House, but to throw the doors of that House more widely open to those who did not possess a great amount of wealth. But the great importance of the measure, as he (Mr. Fawcett) viewed it, consisted in the fact that it was the recognition of a principle, and that principle was simply this—that a Member who came into that House ought to feel that he undertook a great and important duty—one that he ought not to play with; and, that being the case, it seemed to him of the first consequence that everything should be done to make the constituencies feel that a man who undertook that duty, and discharged it faithfully, ought not to have to pay for the privilege of doing it; and that, at any rate, they should, as far as possible, lessen and lighten the pecuniary burden which might be imposed upon him in the discharge of that public and local duty. It seemed to him that, from that point of view, this measure would improve and place upon their true footing the relations which should exist between Members and constituencies. A great deal had been said in the course of the debate about the second part of the Bill, and one of his chief reasons for troubling the House with these few remarks was that there should be no doubt upon that 970 point. Certainly he should be sorry if his hon. Friend who had brought in the Bill (Mr. Ashton Dilke) should for a moment suppose that in voting for the second reading of the Bill he was voting for the 2nd clause of the Bill. He objected to that 2nd clause, not only on the grounds that had been stated by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but for a wider and a different reason. If anyone would look to the Bill of his hon. Friend, and see the conditions with which he had found it necessary to surround that clause, it at once became evident that it would be almost impossible to work that clause in constituencies which returned more than one or more than two Members. In a few years time the subject of Parliamentary Reform, and the great question of the re-distribution of seats would become questions of absorbing importance to that House. He knew that in expressing the opinions he was about to express, he was expressing opinions which many hon. Members on that side of the House did not share; but he felt that whenever the question of re-distribution should again have to be considered, it was of the first importance that they should not drift in the direction of single-Member constituencies, but that they should have constituencies in which two or three or four Members could be returned, so that not only the majority should have a chance of being represented, but that different sections of opinion should have a chance of being represented in proportion to their voting strength. That being the case, he should be sorry if, by a side wind, as it were, he were in any way made to support a proposal which would render it very difficult to have constituencies in future with two, three, or four Members. Another objection which had been urged to the Bill was one which had been brought forward by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), who had always taken such a great interest in the question of local taxation. He said that if the charges were to be transferred from the candidates, they ought to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund, and should not be thrown upon local taxation. He (Mr. Fawcett) was as anxious as the hon. Baronet could possibly be that no charges should unnecessarily be thrown upon local taxation; but it 971 seemed to him that there was an insuperable objection to that proposal of throwing it on a public fund. Public money was too often considered to be no one's money, and it was supposed that the Consolidated Fund was a great source of wealth which could be drawn upon at will, and by drawing upon which no one became the poorer. If, therefore, they paid these expenses out of the Consolidated Fund, they interested the constituencies in extravagance; whereas, if they paid them out of the local rates, they interested them in economy; and, moreover, it had always appeared to him that the principle of maintaining the local as well as the Imperial character of representation had been felt by the Conservative as well as the Liberal Party. He would not delay the debate at that hour of the afternoon with any further observations. This question could be raised in many different ways. It could be brought up in connection with the Corrupt Practices Bill or the Ballot Bill. But he could not resume his seat without expressing his satisfaction at the announcement that had been made that afternoon, on the part of the Government, that at length the principle was recognized by the Government that constituencies and not candidates should in future be responsible for the necessary expenses of elections. In recognizing and supporting that principle, he believed an important step had been taken to place the relations between constituencies and Representatives on an improved basis, and not a little would thus be done to place the representative system of this country on a more satisfactory basis. Under these circumstances, he rejoiced in the announcement that had been made on behalf of the Government by his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Hibbert); and, with the qualifications which he had stated, he should certainly give his cordial support to the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
, in opposing the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, said, he was surprised to find that a Ministry who professed to be the friends of the ratepayers were supporting a proposal to lay upon that body an additional charge of something like £300,000 whenever a 972 General Election took place. He was not sure that it was desirable to have no property qualification; in any case, the present law produced some of the effects of a property qualification. Men who aspired to a place in that House should have some independent means and some leisure. He was utterly unable to see how a skilled artizan, or a bonâfide working man, could, after a hard day's toil, come down to the House, and sit up to any hour of the night, as hon. Members were obliged to do. For precisely the same reason, he objected to professional men, whose whole time was employed in their profession, being Members of Parliament. He was prepared to vote against officers on full pay being eligible as Members, and for the same reason he had voted against the admission of clergymen. It was singular that no one had attempted to explain the second part of the Bill, which referred to "absolute and relative" majorities. He confessed he did not know what was meant by a "relative majority," and had supposed, after the condemnation of the phrase "bare majority," that any such epithet was un-Parliamentary. However, his objection to the Bill was that it would add, no matter how slightly, to the local burdens; and he should, therefore, vote against the second reading. The Members on the Opposition side of the House were fighting for a great principle, and that principle was that no addition should be made to the rates.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
asked what was the real objection felt by hon. Members opposite to the Bill? The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) had stated it very fairly. He said that at present there was a high property qualification necessary to enable Gentlemen to become Members of that House, and he desired that that property qualification should continue. According to the hon. Member's view, it was the business of the electors, not to ask anyone what his political views were, but to select some wealthy neighbour as their Representative, to do what he liked, because he knew infinitely better than the constituency. He (Mr. Labouchere), however, wished to point out that the world was not divided into men who had nothing and men who were rich. There 973 were a number of persons in the country who, being possessed of £300 or £400 a-year—too small an income to allow them to stand for a constituency under the existing system, on account of the heavy expenses an election entailed—would, under other and more favourable circumstances, be able to obtain a seat in that House, and who would make useful Members of it. It was out of the question to say that these expenses were very little, because in some constituencies, especially in counties, they were very great. He was very glad that the Government had stated that they were in favour of the principle of the Bill, and he was also very glad that they intended to oppose the 2nd clause in Committee, for he was decidedly opposed to the introduction of the double system of election. It was satisfactory to hear the opinion boldly expressed by them that the expenses in question should be thrown on the ratepayers, and he hoped that the Bill would become law.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he thought the House had just reason to complain of the absence of Members of the Government when a Bill of that sort, making two vital changes which were totally unconnected with each other, was being considered. Hon. Members knew perfectly well, from the course of proceedings that went on, that the Government had no opinion. Members of the Cabinet, when this new Reform Bill came on, took care to desert the House, and sent the most amiable and respected, but still a subsidiary, Member of the Government to represent their opinions. Did the Government think that way of playing fast and loose with a question of Reform, which, inter alia, introduced the French practice at elections, would satisfy their Friends in the House or in the country? The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Hibbert) proposed to take his knife and cut the 1st clause of the Bill into little bits, and cut out Clause 2 altogether. That was not the sort of reform which would satisfy the aspirations of the Radical Party or the Birmingham Caucus. They wanted something far stronger and more drastic than the milk-and-water proposals of the Bill. The Government had themselves a Bill dealing with the election expenses, for that was the real object of the Bill of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General with regard 974 to the Corrupt Practices Bill; but they had not ventured to put such a proposal as this in that Bill. Yet that Wednesday afternoon, with the Front Ministerial Bench deserted, they were asked to pass that Reform Bill in petto, for the purpose of satisfying hon. Members below the Gangway, and showing that there were some Radical Members of the Government who were prepared to play helter-skelter with the Constitution, and, for that afternoon, at any rate, would show how Radical they were. He himself happened to be in a peculiar position, because he had voted for Clause 1 in the last Parliament; but he thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General mistook what Clause 1 was.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, that he had never proposed that all expenses should be thrown on the rates. He had limited it to the Returning Officers' expenses.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he should like to give the House an opportunity of voting on Clause 1, although his own opinion differed from that of most of those on the Opposition Benches. He believed the result of that portion of the measure would be that they would have every wretched "ism" on the Liberal side represented by a candidate at elections. He believed one result would be that the Conservative Party would benefit by the expenses of elections being thrown on the constituencies, because the Vegetarians, the Dipsomaniacs, and Hypochondriacs would have a candidate, every conceivable opinion of the smallest and most minute character in the Liberal Party, from the lowest class of working men upwards, would be represented at the poll; and he believed that in many constituencies, where an unfortunate Conservative candidate could not at the present time show his face, they would find the Conservative candidate at the head of the poll, attended by all the Radical "isms" a long way below him. That was a result he should be glad to see; but he would rather not see that if it involved the sacrifice of a principle. He himself believed that there was a great deal to be said in favour of the 1st clause of the Bill, for it was in the interest of the Conservative Party; but it was not popular with the Party, for reasons which it was not necessary to go into. Still, he should have voted for it, as he had done on a previous occasion; 975 but he declined to be dragged through the Lobbies with that double-barrelled Reform Bill, merely on the idea that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board would be able to convince the lion. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Ashton Dilke) that he ought to submit to the physical deformity which he proposed to inflict on the Bill—namely, to cut out Clause 2 and leave only a part of Clause 1. There seemed, however, to be no probability that there would ever be any practical step taken by this great Legislature during 1882. They would probably end, as they had begun, with a considerable amount of speechmaking, and no legislative results. Every step that was taken by the Liberal Government seemed to be directed to that end—utterly to destroy every capacity of legislation for 1882 They might, therefore, just as well discuss that Bill as anything else; and, so far as he could judge, that seemed to be the opinion of Ministers of the Crown who had absented themselves on this occasion. He protested, however, against the Government voting in favour of the second reading of a Bill, the main principle of which they disapproved.
§ MR. D. DAVIES
said, he rose for the purpose of opposing the Bill "body and soul." The ratepayers had enough to pay, and did not want to be further burdened. There were plenty of candidates willing to pay their own expenses, and they were a better class of candidates than those who would go upon the rates. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General had said there would be a less amount of expenditure; but he (Mr. D. Davies) could, not agree with him in that, for he believed there would be much greater expenditure if this Bill became law. There would be a contest at every General Election in every constituency. Now, at the last two General Elections he had had no contest. But that was not for want of candidates, because on the last occasion three gentlemen from Loudon came down, and, having looked at the place, went away again. If his constituents, who were Liberals, had to pay the expenses, of course those gentlemen would have contested his seat; but when they knew that they would have to pay expenses they did not like the look of matters. He should, therefore, stand to his guns, although he voted against the Government.
§ MR. DUCKHAM
said, he could not support the Bill, as he did not approve of its principle. He saw no connection between paying the expenses of local elections out of rates and the proposal to pay the election expenses of Members of Parliament. Neither did he think that the ratepayers of England should have any additional burdens imposed upon them, as would be the case if the Bill became law. At present they had a great many burdens placed upon them for national objects which they ought not to bear; and if those expenses were added those burdens would be further increased. He considered the measure would be most iniquitous. He protested against the Bill, and regretted that the Government had announced their intention of supporting it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 87; Noes 85: Majority 2.—(Div. List, No. 65.)
§ Bill committed for To-morrow.