§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. WARTON
said, that with regard to the Bill he should like to make one or two short observations before Mr. Speaker left the Chair. He would not offer opposition to the present stage of the Bill, having withdrawn all opposition to the passage of the measure; but he desired to enter a protest against the manner in which the Government had treated the peccant boroughs, into whose conduct they had inquired by Royal Commission so long ago as 1880. Seeing that the Commissions were appointed in 1880, it was perfectly reasonable that the Government should, in 1881, when the Reports were known, have brought in a measure voiding the elections, and suspending the issue of the Writs until seven days after the meeting of Parliament in 1882. He did not object to the measure of 1881, therefore. It was a reasonable provision. The reason was stated in the Preamble—namely, that it was necessary to inquire into the circumstances and consider the cases of these boroughs. Well, in 1882 the Government brought in another Bill—No. 118 of that year—dividing the boroughs into two classes. As to three of them, it proposed to disfranchise them altogether, and as to the remaining four, to deprive 250 them of their second Members during the present Parliament. The Government ought not to have trifled with the House in regard to that measure. They should have gone on with it in 1883; and, as they did not, a peculiar light was thrown on their views and sincerity in the matter of Parliamentary Reform. In 1882 they proposed to deal with these boroughs in an easy way; and he (Mr. Warton) contended that their not doing so, either in 1882 or 1883, showed great remissness on their part. They passed an Act in 1882 suspending the issue of Writs until seven days after the meeting of Parliament in 1883; but in 1883 they neglected their duty, and merely passed another Act suspending the issue of the Writs until seven days after the meeting of Parliament in 1884. Three times had this Act of suspension been passed. It was doubly wrong; because, in the first place, the Government showed, by the policy they adopted in bringing in these Bills, that something ought to be done with the boroughs; and, in the second place, it was an unconstitutional suspension of the rights of the boroughs. The boroughs had a right to be treated in a proper Constitutional way. A Bill, however, was now brought in, for the fourth time, to suspend the issue of the Writs; but on this occasion the measure was not to suspend the issue of the Writs until seven days after the meeting of Parliament in 1885, but to suspend them for the whole of the present Parliament. ["No, no!"] At any rate, that was the form in which the Bill originally stood. Constitutionally, the present Parliament might last until 1887, so that, by this Bill, they might be suspending the issue of the Writs for over two years. That was why he had taken exception to the Bill in its original form; but the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Henry James) had been kind enough to assent to the Amendment in his (Mr. Warton's) name, therefore he had withdrawn his opposition.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Farrer Herschell) would say how he intended to deal with the scheduled voters. Did the Government intend to bring in a Bill on the subject?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir FARRER HERSCHELL)
said, the scheduled 251 voters were not dealt with in the Bill. He had received no notice that this question was to be raised, and, therefore, on the part of the Government, had no means of making any statement.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Suspension of power of Speaker to issue writ for elections in certain cities and boroughs).
§ MR. WARTON
said, he begged to move the Amendment in his name, which, he understood, the Government were prepared to adopt.
In page 2, line 3, leave out "the present Parliament," and insert "seven days after the first meeting of Parliament in the year 1885."(Mr. Warton.)
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedules agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.