Mr. Speaker, it will, I doubt not, be in the recollection of the House that a fortnight ago I was allowed to make an intimation on the part of the Government the effect of which was that, if it were found possible for us to receive, in either of two ways to which I pointed, adequate assurance that the Franchise Bill would pass forthwith, it was far from being alien to our disposition to submit at once to the consideration of the House a Bill for the Redistribution of Seats, and to prosecute that Bill with all reasonable and convenient despatch. The House was pleased, by adjourning on Monday last, to give us the opportunity, which we should not otherwise so fully have enjoyed, of learning whether such assurance could be had, and whether I should be in a position to present to the House on the day which has now arrived a Bill for the Redistribution of Seats. I am glad to find myself in that position, and I am particularly glad to recognize the circumstances under which I approach the execution of a task that can hardly be at present either difficult or disagreeable. Sir, I am one of those who, when Party issues are raised, have not thought it my duty to abstain on all occasions from speaking in plain and strong language. But, although that is so, I am not ashamed to say that it is to me an occasion of singular satisfaction that I am enabled to reflect that, after a great controversy which has agitated and divided the country, we seem now happily to have attained a point which marks the approach of its termination; and, further, that I am able to present to the House a measure on a political question of great importance and of wide scope with a sanguine hope that it will be found to fulfil the anticipations which on some occasions I have ventured to form—that the subject-matter of a Bill for the Redistribution of Seats was not likely to raise serious difficulties or great Party issues as between the several sec- 373 tions of this House. I hope, Sir, that in what I have to say it will not be necessary for me to utter a single word that can excite Party feelings or apprehensions, or in any way even to recall the memory of former struggles. I will dispense with all general arguments on the subject of the redistribution of Parliamentary seats. That there ought to be legislation upon that subject at the earliest possible date, and that it ought to be of a wide and effective character, is a foregone conclusion in the minds of all, or nearly all, whom I have the honour to address. If that is so, it is not necessary for me to do more than remind the House in two words that the basis of the argument for the redistribution of seats rests upon the gross anomalies still remaining in our representative system. The first of these anomalies is the narrow and defective representation of the counties—a method of representation that was not ill-suited to the case as long as the county franchise was narrow while the borough franchise was wide, but which would obviously become monstrous and even intolerable if the franchise in the counties was to be made as wide—and it will be quite as wide—as that of the boroughs. Another anomaly is the defective representation accorded to our large towns, which suffer under an inequality more remarkable than even the counties, and without the same reason to be alleged in its defence. We shall seek to deal with these anomalies in a manner agreeable to the spirit of English legislation, not absolutely to efface all inequality from our representative system in respect to electoral areas—notto aim at the application of a single hard mathematical rule, but to give due weight to the various, and in some senses conflicting, considerations that bear upon the question from different points, and to attain that kind of practical result by a change sufficiently wide, yet not reckless in its character, and which is agreeable to the traditions and the practice of Parliament. The Bill, which I have now the honour to present to the House, is governed, like the Act of 1832, as the House will readily perceive, upon what I may again term a Schedule A and a Schedule B. The present representation of the country gives to the counties one Member through the United Kingdom for 78,000 persons, and to the boroughs one Member for 41,200 persons. That ratio of borough 374 representation is rendered even more unequal when we come to divide the towns into large towns and small towns. As a rule, the ratio is one Member for 54,200 persons over the whole country. I would urge hon. Members to carry that figure in their minds, because it will enable them to form a pretty fair judgment as to the extent of the operations of disfranchisement and enfranchisement that we contemplate and propose. When I speak of the disfranchisement of boroughs, I feel that the term is rather harsh; I feel that it is more harsh probably than the case requires, for, after all, the meaning is that the boroughs with their household suffrage will merge into the counties with their household suffrage, or into divisions and districts of counties of which these boroughs will, in many cases, probably in most cases, form the centres, and these' divisions will probably take their names, and with great propriety, from the boroughs. The Schedule A will show the total loss of separate representation, and the Schedule B will signify the reduction of separate representation from two Members to one. Our Schedule A is framed upon the principle that towns with a population up to 15,000 shall pass into a county division or district, to which, as I have said, if our proposition be adopted, the town may give the name wherever it can properly be done. I may as well add that, besides the towns with a population not exceeding 15,000, there are a small number of rural and hundred boroughs—on which I need not dwell particularly—which we propose likewise to allow to become portions of the county representation. I believe the House will agree with me that on all grounds their constitution as separate boroughs is not an arrangement the continuance of which is desirable. There are also two boroughs which, on other grounds, we are obliged to include in the same arrangement. I mean the boroughs of Sandwich and Macclesfield, which, unhappily, in the elections of 1880, were marked by occurrences that rendered it undesirable that they should continue to have a separate existence as boroughs. So much for Schedule A. Schedule B is framed upon the principle that towns with a population up to 50,000 shall continue to be represented, but shall have no more than one Member each. To these there are to be added two counties, which, as we think, on the 375 principle on which our measure is framed, should receive somewhat similar treatment. The county of Rutland, with a population which does not very greatly exceed 20,000, has now two Members, and we propose to reduce the representation to one Member. The county of Hereford, of which the population a little exceeds 100,000, has three Members; and we propose to reduce the number to two, acting in the spirit and according to the analogy that governs Schedule B in general in the reduction of the representation now accorded to certain towns. These towns, I think, will range from a population of 50,000 as the lower limit up to a population of 105,000 as the upper limit. I am speaking in round figures. There are one or two cases where towns have been within a few hundreds of a limit, and we have considered them as touching it; but the House will have in its hands to-morrow morning—irrespective of any questions that may be asked to-night—the printed Bill, so that hon. Members will have an opportunity of studying the authentic details. Above 165,000 we are enabled to commence the process of enfranchisement by augmentation of the numbers now possessed by towns to be represented in this House. So much, then, for Schedule A and Schedule B. The effect of these two Schedules will be to liberate no fewer than 160 seats; and to these are to be added for the present purpose—I do not close the account—the extinguished seats, which are six in number, two in Ireland, and four in England; these it will be proposed to revive. For the purpose of enabling the House to judge of the scope of this measure I may mention that the Act of 1832, by its Schedules A and B, liberated, for the purpose of redistribution, 143 seats; and the number is now 160. These seats, I need not say, are to be devoted to the redress and the reduction of anomalous arrangements, and are to be divided between the under-represented counties and the under-represented towns of the country. The boroughs, of course, will receive a large number—that is, the most populous boroughs, and the Metropolis in particular—and the counties will receive a still larger number. From our plan, if adopted, the counties will receive 96 seats over and above what they possess at present. Of that 96, 64 will be given 376 to counties in England. The boroughs will receive 74 seats, and new boroughs which will be taken out of the counties will receive eight seats. I may mention the amount of increment which some of the larger towns will receive. The Metropolis it is proposed, in a great degree, to recast. The boroughs in the Metropolis are generally well suited for being so dealt with; being Parliamentary boroughs only, and not being also established municipalities, they have no common historic life attaching to them. In the neighbourhood of the Metropolis it is proposed to create seven boroughs, which would have among them eight Members, and which would be taken out of the home counties for the purpose of being added to the borough representation. These boroughs are in the Metropolis for the purposes of local government, and they will be reckoned as in the Metropolis for the purposes of Parliamentary representation. The addition to the whole of the Members of the Metropolis, including these new boroughs, would be 37. The addition in the case of Liverpool will be six Members, which, added to the three now possessed, will make a total of nine. The addition in the case of Glasgow will be four Members, which, added to the three it now possesses, will make a total of seven. The House is probably aware that the case of Glasgow, with reference to its suburban districts, is rather peculiar. There are many parts of those suburban districts which, although parts of Glasgow for many purposes, are not ambitious—at least, they have not hitherto been ambitious—to be included in the municipality. Birmingham will receive a similar addition of four to its present number of three, making in all seven Members. Manchester will receive three, making six; Leeds will receive two, making five; and Sheffield, which has now only two, will receive three, also making five. But I will not pursue the list further. There are considerable additions to the boroughs, and the additions to the counties in certain cases are very large. Yorkshire, it is proposed, will receive no fewer than 16; Lancashire would receive 15; Middlesex in England, and Cork in Ireland, would receive five each; Durham in England, and Lanarkshire in Scotland, would receive four each; and that addition of four to Lanarkshire will serve to explain 377 the apparent smallness of the numbers added to Glasgow when compared with the numbers given to Liverpool, the population of the two cities not being very different. So much for Schedule A and Schedule B, as I have called them, for the sake of the historic clearness of the idea derived from the Act of 1832. I now come to the question of the principle upon which redistribution is to take place. There are two conceivable modes that may be resorted to for the purpose of distributing these seats over the country. We may look to the division of the country into Kingdoms; and some propose to take the population of the Three Kingdoms—some would even also take the population of Wales as a separate division—and divide the total number of Members, and then sub-divide them within each Kingdom or division. A mode of proceeding such as that would be very well adapted to a case were you going to establish electoral districts pure and simple, because you would then proceed in your sub-division to constitute these electoral districts with absolute equality, and the result would be that the numerical principle would be applied throughout with perfect equity. But we are not proceeding on that principle. Although our measure of disfranchisement, or, at all events, of reduced representation, is so large, yet there is room left for very considerable regard to the ancient divisions of counties, and to the possession by municipal communities of the old historic Parliamentary representation. But these communities are unequally distributed over the whole country, and we have felt it difficult to say that we will take for our main guide the population of the several great divisions of the country, because we feel that in that case we should be asked—"Why, if you divide on that principle between the Three Kingdoms, do you not sub-divide on the same principle in those Kingdoms themselves, and thus obtain a perfectly equal application of the arithmetical principle on which you proceed?" Sir, there is another method of proceeding which appears to us to be more just in itself, better suited to the feelings of the country, and more satisfactory in its results; and that is, as, after all, we are legislating for a United Kingdom, to apply to the electoral areas of the country one and the same rule throughout, 378 from John O'Groats' House to Land's End, and the same in Ireland, so that the disfranchisement, so-called, of any town, and the enfranchisement of any town or county, shall everywhere be determined by the same consideration. I say substantially the same. The cases of counties are not exactly the same as those of boroughs, because in England, for example, although the county of Rutland is so very small in relation to the rest, yet there is nothing corresponding to the large number of boroughs from a population of 15,000 and upwards until you get far beyond the average of ratio. But as far as possible the rule is uniform for counties and boroughs alike in the United Kingdom; and, as far as regards each description, every county in Ireland will be treated on the same principle as every county in Scotland, and every county in Scotland on the same principle as every county in England. The same with boroughs; and that uniform dealing with the electoral areas as units we believe to be the safe and most just principle of distribution. The House will ask, what is the result? The result will be, according to our proposal—I do not know whether the House detected a slight discrepancy in my figures—the result of that rule will be that if our proposal is adopted England will obtain six seats more than it now possesses. These six seats will represent the difference between 652, the present number of the House, and 658, the old number. Wales will have exactly the number that it now has. [Opposition cry of "Oh!"] Ireland—I am very sorry that that cry obliges me to lengthen my speech by a parenthesis. I really was in hopes that I should have got through without a single "Oh!" of any kind. But I wish to point out that Wales never has been dealt with separately, or upon any separate principle, in any Reform Bill. The distinction between England and Wales, except in a recital in an Act of Parliament for the purpose of indicating their unity, is totally unknown to our Constitution. If I understand that interjection, the meaning is that, on account of various political sins which it has committed, Wales is to be specially cut off, and subjected for the first time to exceptional treatment. But if Wales is to be cut off, because it is certainly true that Wales, if you choose to make an integer 379 of it, will have a somewhat more favourable representation than some other parts of the United Kingdom, there are also some other great districts of England which will likewise have a more favourable representation, and a more favourable representation even than Wales. I believe that under our proposal, if you take the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Wilts, Somerset, and Dorset, which I think together have a population exceeding that of Wales, and are, therefore, quite as much entitled to separate notice, it will be found that these counties, from the manner in which their ancient areas happened to be distributed, will have a share of representation under the Bill somewhat better than the average, and even better than that of Wales. In point of fact, that exclamation, of which I am not complaining, and only referred to for the sake of greater clearness, if it means anything, means electoral districts and nothing but electoral districts; for unless you have electoral districts I defy the wit of man so to arrange the electoral areas that you may not pick out bits of England and say this bit is a little more represented than that bit, and so on. There is, however, as far as I have yet got, a great unsatisfied claim on the part of Scotland; and we propose to meet that claim by asking the House to enact, or, if Gentlemen like, to submit to an increase of its own numbers by 12 seats. That is not a very large demand, and we are inclined to found it upon these twojjrinciples—first of all, that it saves the raising of any invidious question between one part of the country and another; and, secondly, that it enables us to apply with unvarying uniformity the principle of uniform treatment as regards enfranchisement and disfranchisement to all portions of the country without any distinction or difference whatever. There yet remains one important question on which alone it is necessary for me to trouble the House for a few minutes. I have said that we propose to adopt a rule under which the electoral areas will be dealt with as units, and with an unvarying equality of principle of treatment; but I have not yet explained to the House what we propose that these electoral areas should be.
I beg pardon, I think I stated it. [Cries of "No!"] I stated that Wales would remain unchanged, and that Ireland would remain unchanged. [Cries of "No!"] I believe that what happened was this—I know the word "Ireland" passed from my mouth, and in the meantime I heard the interjection "Oh!" I will recite them again. England obtains an addition of six Members. Wales will remain as it is, Ireland will remain as it is, and Scotland will obtain an increment of 12; and it appears to me that that increment of 12, if we consider Scotland an integral part of the Kingdom, is fairly adapted to the demand. Now, Sir, the question of what are to be the electoral areas is undoubtedly one of very considerable difficulty. I may as well mention that, not denying the difficulty, perfectly conscious that there are objections to be taken to any imaginable mode of I dividing the electoral areas, we have arrived at the conclusion that, upon the whole, the best and fairest method of dividing them would be to adopt, not absolutely as an uniform, but as a general and prevailing rule, the system of what is known as one-Member districts. The one-Member district, as far as England is concerned, is almost a novelty, because in a system of representation that counts and reckons more than six centuries of life, what began at the Reform Bill may be considered almost a novelty. In Scotland and Ireland, although the one-Member system is known there, the representation is hardly a reality. The recommendations of this system I think are these—that it is very economical, it is very simple, and it goes a very long way towards that which many Gentlemen have much at heart— namely, what is roughly termed representation of minorities. It may be termed the representation of minorities; it may be termed the representation of separate interests and pursuits; but, give it what name you like, there is no doubt that by means of one-Member districts you will obtain a very large diversity of representation. Undoubtedly that large diversity is a capital object in a good electoral system. I know there are Gentlemen on both sides of this House—some respected Friends and valued supporters of the Government—who wish to go further, and who wish to introduce in forms more 381 directly addressed to their purpose what is termed the representation of minorities. Well, Sir, we have considered that question much; but the first observation I would respectfully make is that those who are so anxious for representation of minorities, those who agree so heartily in valuing the end, are by no means equally agreed as to the means, and that it is very difficult indeed to know upon what lines we can propose any scheme directly addressed to the representation of minorities without its being open to the gravest objections—objection in the first place that it was artificial; objection in the second place That it was not known to our usages and our history; objection in the third place that after all that particular scheme only commanded the assent of a handful, whereas everybody else was inclined to fall foul of it and attack it. Sir, we do not see our way to the introduction of what I do not like to call a new-fangled, but a novel and artificial system of that kind. I have said we propose one-Member districts as a general and prevailing rule, and by that proposition I entirely abide. "We propose, however, certain exceptions. The first and most distinguished exception is that of the City of London. The City of London, I am afraid, all circumstances considered, cannot equitably be exempted from some change. Its population is a population of 50,000. With a population of 50,000 odd its electorate is remarkably large, and its largeness of electorate, combined with its history, marks its out for some exemption from the application of the rigid rule of population; yet it will hardly, when the rest of the Metropolis is proposed to be divided into one-Member districts, warrant us in asking the House to continue to it its very largely disproportionate representation which it now possesses with no less than four Members. We propose, however, that two Members shall be the amount of representation accorded to the City. [Opposition cries of "Oh!" and Ministerial cheers.] I hear certain cheers from a quarter from which I may own I am always glad to hear them; but I think on the present occasion—and from our portion of the House—they may seem not to be quite impartial. It is quite true that of late the City has been the stronghold of the Party opposite; but these things change from time to time. 382 If Gentlemen will go back no very great number of years, I think that for more than half of my political life the City was the stronghold of the Liberal Party. That which has been maybe, and therefore I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to believe that we are not so entirely divested of hope with regard to the City as to have been moved by any vindictive sentiments in making a proposal which I think will be felt to be in itself not an immoderate one. Another and more extensive—I will not say more important—exception to the rule of one-Member districts is to be found in the case of those towns, not in the Metropolis, but outside, which now exist as Parliamentary boroughs having dual representation, and which is not to be increased or diminished. As I have said, towns below 50,000 are to be diminished to one Member, and towns above 165,000 are to be increased by one Member. Towns between these limits having, and continuing to have, two Members, we propose shall not be required to be divided. There is undoubtedly, in many towns, a unity of municipal life, which, except for some great object, it is not desirable to violate or to impair by severance; and I think there are something like over 50 seats which would be affected by this exception, if it were approved by the House. I do not say that there may not be any other exceptions which might not be devised in the course of those discussions which we shall have amply enough on the details of this Bill; but I propound it as a principle of this measure that the system of one-Member districts is, according to our view, to be the general and prevailing rule. Sir, there is only one other important point; but I need not enter into details with regard to it. I mean the question of boundaries. There will be much work to be done with regard to boundaries under this Bill. The constitution of a large number of new electoral districts will leave a great deal to be done; but that to which the attention of the House will no doubt be principally directed will be the question of the boundaries of the larger towns. These boundaries will be carefully considered, and I think I had better not attempt any minute description which, after all, would fail of its purpose. The best thing I can say is that a Commission has been appointed for the purpose. The division 383 of the boroughs and the fixing of the county districts will be under a Commission, which has been appointed; and perhaps I might not do ill—since, after all, confidence in the Commission is a very important matter—if I ventured to read the names of the Commissioners to the House. For England the names are Sir John Lambert, Mr. Pelham, barrister-at-law, Sir Francis Sandford, Mr. Joseph John Henley, the son of a former well-known Member of this House, Colonel Owen Jones, and Major Hector Tulloch. This Boundary Commission is already at work, and, being at work, it is reckoned that its labours will occupy, perhaps, about two months. There must be a considerable Recess, after our autumn labours, before the House re-assembles. There are the intermediate stages of the Bill to be gone through; and we have no doubt that in Committee on the Bill, or by a re-committal of the Bill for that purpose, there will be no difficulty in inserting the results of the labours of the Commission, so that they may be brought under the direct judgment of the House. These, Sir, are the only points on which I think it necessary to detain the House; but I will say one word more as to the procedure. On Monday last, when I intimated the probability of my being in a position to bring in this Bill to-day, I also said we would submit to the House the question of its being read a second time on Thursday. I did that upon the supposition that the Bill could be in the hands of Members to-morrow morning, and I am encouraged to assure Members that that will be the case. Well, Sir, viewing the nature of the Bill, and its not involving any great and broad matters, as I trust, of Party contention, I thought the House might be inclined to proceed with its second reading with a rapidity greater than usual, especially because it is impossible for us to assure the House that there would be other Business immediately demanding its attention, which would require it to sit beyond the present week. Therefore, as at present advised, we are disposed to ask the House to give the Bill a second reading on Thursday next. But in doing that I must admit that the time is unusually short; and I bear in mind very particularly that it will be in the power of the House, if it thinks fit, to reserve to itself another opportunity, 384 with longer time and far better and less embarrassed means, of discussing the whole subject after it has been well weighed in the country—I mean upon the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair. In a matter like this the duty of the Government is to consult singly and solely the convenience of the House, and that is what we have entirely in view. But our opinion is that the convenience of the House and the necessities of the case would be best met if we were to read the Bill a second time at the early date which I have mentioned; and if we were to reserve the debate upon the Speaker's leaving the Chair, which might be as extended as hon. Gentlemen choose, until after the adjournment of the House over Christmas. That, of course, is a matter to be considered. I have stated the best conclusion at which we have arrived; but, as I have said, we have no desire but to consult the convenience of the House as that may be judged of by the House itself. I am not about to endeavour to solicit from the House on this occasion the expression of any opinion on the Bill. The disposition of the House will, I think, evidently be to inform itself as to the Bill by holding the Bill in its hand; and I am inclined to think that the House will be disposed to give leave to-night for the introduction of the Bill, so that hon. Gentlemen may see it tomorrow morning. Sir, on our part I will only say that we have been guided in framing it by a desire to act in the spirit of those assurances which, on various occasions, we have given. We have expressed our profound satisfaction in what was first a surmise, but what has gradually become a belief, that there is no broad or vital difference of opinion on this subject between the several sections of the House. The discussion, when it comes—and probably in the necessities of the case it may be an extended discussion—will, we believe, be a discussion rather of a practical, than of a polemical, character. We have striven to keep in view all those considerations which equity, which practical needs, which the regard for usage, and the general spirit of English legislation commended to our notice; and we confidently trust the Bill will be found, if it is on one side large, and therefore giving some promise of duration—for without being large it could give no 385 such promise—if it is on one side large, it will, from the other point of view, not less important, be found to be equitable and considerate, neither regardless of history and prescription, and ancient arrangements and ancient rights, nor, on the other hand, disposed to respect those ancient arrangements and ancient rights up to a point which would allow them to preclude the attainment of the great purpose of a widely popular and national representation.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the Redistribution of Seats at Parliamentary Elections; and for other purposes relative thereto."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, under ordinary circumstances it would have been my duty to make some observations on the statement of the right hon. Gentleman; but, for reasons which I think the House will well understand, I do not deem it necessary at the present moment to enter largely into the question. I will only suggest to the right hon. Gentleman whether it would be in his power to communicate to the House the nature of the instructions which have been given to the Boundary Commissioners. That is a point upon which a great deal of anxiety will no doubt exist, because a great deal will depend upon the manner in which these gentlemen conduct their duties.
Possibly the right hon. Gentleman may be able to remedy an omission in his speech. He mentioned the names of the Commissioners for England, but said nothing about the Boundary Commissioners for Scotland.
I hope very shortly that we shall be able to state the names of the Commissioners for Scotland; but we have not been absolutely able to close the question. I may say we have no doubt at all what shall be the arrangement for Ireland; and the arrangement for Ireland is, that the work shall be entrusted to the Irish branch of the Ordnance Survey Department.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he desired to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to what had fallen 386 from him with reference to future procedure. Under ordinary circumstances, in relation to a Bill of this supreme importance, he thought the House would agree that it would not have been unreasonable if hon. Members had asked to have ample time for the study of the Bill before the second reading was taken. Under the circumstances, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not be disposed to adhere to the intention to take the second reading on Thursday next. Even if the Bill were in the possession of hon. Members to-morrow they would not have two whole days to consider it. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed himself anxious to consult the convenience of the House; but the House had duties to consider as well as convenience; and he could not believe that there would be any disposition on the part of the House of Commons generally, as it were, to rush this measure through. Under the circumstances, he hoped Her Majesty's Government would not insist on proceeding to the second reading on Thursday next.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
wished to know whether the increase in the number of Scotch Representatives was one of the essential principles of the Bill; and whether it would be treated by the Government as a vital question?
§ MR. CLARE READ
asked whether those divisions of counties which would still continue to return two Members would be treated in the same way as boroughs which returned two Members, or whether those constituencies would be divided?
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he wished to enter his protest against the very small increase in the number of Members apportioned to Scotland. If the number of Members for Ireland was to be continued at 103, and for Wales at 30, Scotland would be entitled to an increased representation of 21 Members, instead of 12. The Welsh Members were increased, under the last two Reform Bills, from 26 to 30, and since the Union the Irish Members from 100 to 105—which number had been reduced by the disfranchisement of Sligo and Cashel to 103. If there were to be 103 for Ireland, Scotland, on the same principle, would demand 82 or 83. He would advise English Members to look out for themselves, because the six additional Members to be added to Eng- 387 land were not a sufficient number if they were to have 103 for Ireland, and 30 for Wales, continued. If it were the pleasure of the House to increase the whole number of its Members from 658 to 670 in order to give 12 new Members to Scotland, he trusted the House would do justice to Scotland by increasing its representation by 11 more than was proposed by the Bill.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he would join in the appeal made by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) against taking the second reading so early as Thursday next. The Prime Minister had himself said that this Bill was more drastic than that of 1832, and proceeded on a much wider and broader system of Reform. He hoped the Government would not take the second reading of the Bill, at all events, until Monday next.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he was inclined to agree with the contention of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay). He thought Scotland was entitled to a larger representation than was proposed. At the same time, if the general principles mentioned by the Prime Minister, which he should like some explanation of, were to be applied to the Three Kingdoms, then he felt they must submit, even though Scotland suffered. It was a curious thing, however, that the full number of Members should be retained for Ireland and Wales, and that Scotland should not receive the full number.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, he did not concur in the views expressed by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow). He thought it would be much better to proceed to the second reading at once, considering that they were now in December, and that the House desired to adjourn over Christmas. He thought the Government were quite right in proposing to take the second reading on Thursday, which would allow the debate to be continued on Friday or Monday.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
asked whether the Boundary Commissioners would be instructed to deal with boroughs not otherwise affected by the Bill?
§ MR. BRYCE
asked whether it was intended, in increasing the representa- 388 tion of London by 37 Members, that the Members for seven of the new boroughs were to be taken out of the counties; and whether those boroughs, with the existing Metropolitan constituencies, except the City of London, were to have one Member only?
§ SIR WILLIAM HART DYKE
said, that in his judgment, considering the circumstances of the birth of the Bill were exceptional, they would require rather more than less time than usual to be taken for the consideration of the Bill. As the Bill, it was hoped, would settle this question for many years to come, it seemed to him something like endeavouring to hustle the measure through the House to take the second reading on Thursday. He therefore hoped that stage would be taken at a later date. He expressed his gratification at one statement of the Prime Minsiter—namely, that the proceedings of the Boundary Commissioners were to come under the careful scrutiny of the House.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, he understood that Members were to be distributed near London and the neighbourhood of the populous districts in Lancashire and Yorkshire upon the ground of population. He wished to ask what Return was taken as the basis of redistribution?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that Census was rather misleading, because in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis, as well as of the large towns in the country, there had been a very great change. He wished to know whether the Government had taken into consideration the very great increase of population which, during the past two or three years, had occurred in the neighbourhood of London and some of the large towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire?
§ MR. RAIKES
inquired whether there was any intention to give the Boundary Commissioners power to reconsider the arrangements of what were called district boroughs? Everyone who had studied this question was aware that no greater anomaly existed on the face of the earth than the constitution of many of the Scotch district boroughs. He wished to ask whether the Government were to give the Boundary Com- 389 missioners powers to recommend the re-arrangement of these districts of burghs by forming new groups, and also whether the same course would be taken with regard to Welsh district boroughs? England and Wales had, according to the Prime Minister's statement, been treated on the same basis; but at the present time, in North Wales, there was not a single town which contained 15,000 people. He did not say that in order now to raise the question of curtailing the representation of Wales; but he thought it would be desirable that the House should know what were to be the powers of the Commissioners, and whether they were to be allowed to recommend any measures for the readjustment of district boroughs by forming new groups.
Perhaps I may be allowed to answer the questions which have been put to me. This is not the proper moment for deciding the question of the second reading; but I may say, as far as I can gather the general sense of the House on the question of procedure—I think the general sense—[An hon. MEMBER: Evident sense.]—the general, if not the evident, desire of the House is to read the Bill a second time on Thursday, and I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. E. N. Fowler) has been a true expositor of the feeling of the House. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) has asked me the question whether the increase of the number of Members for Scotland is vital. It is not, I think, the custom of the House to require at the period of the introduction of a Bill statements as to the parts of it that are vital; but I will go so far as to say this — that I have always looked upon the increase of Scotch Members resulting from the application of a uniform, and, therefore, just, rule, as a part of any fair scheme of redistribution. Then the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) referred to two-Membered counties. I have already stated that the only exception to be made in reference to the one-Membered rule would be in boroughs. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay) objects to the proposed allotment of Members between the different portions of the United Kingdom, and proposes to show that it is inequitable. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman 390 should make a very effective argument on the subject, it would, as far as inclination may be allowed to interfere in these matters, receive every attention. But this allotment, as the House will find on examining the Bill, is the result of the application of a uniform, and, therefore, a just, rule to all the areas of the country. At present we do not see our way—however agreeable it might be to us to come to a result still more favourable—to deviate from what we propose. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) asks what was the general principle upon which the allotment of Members was conducted. I thought I had stated it. The general principle is the applying of a uniform rule of enfranchisement and disfranchisement to every county I and every borough in the Three Kingdoms. As to a question about the boundaries of existing boroughs, that is a matter which will be dealt with in the Bill, and will not be included in the powers of the Commissioners. The Metropolis, it is understood, we should propose to divide into one-Member districts, with the exception of the City of London; and we propose to follow the Census for 1881, not because we think it is' perfectly satisfactory, nor because we have not considered the subject—for, on the contrary, we have considered it strictly —but because, on the whole, we think it the best rule that we can adopt. Then there was an important question put with regard to grouping boroughs, and as to whether it will be open to the Commissioners to make recommendations for what I may call the re-grouping of the boroughs. No, Sir; we think that is too large, too delicate, and too important a question—not merely a statistical one— for us to entrust to the Commissioners; and we propose that the whole subject of the grouping or re-grouping of Scotch or English boroughs shall remain for the consideration of the House. I think that these are all the questions which I am called upon to answer.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
asked whether the terms of the Boundary Commission would allow the Commissioners to appoint Sub-Commissioners; and, if so, what control would the Government have over them? The names of the Commissioners had been read to the House, and the House had confidence in them; but if the Sub-Commissioners 391 were to be selected by them, the selection might be an unfortunate one. He desired, therefore, to ask whether Sub-Commissioners were to be appointed at all; and, if so, whether they were to consist of officers in the service of the Crown, as in Ireland, or whether they were to be appointed pro hâc vice?
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he wished to supplement the question of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). In Ireland the Boundary Commission was to be entrusted to the Valuation Office, which had not the confidence of the Irish Members. He desired, therefore, to know what control the Government would have over the decisions of the Irish Valuation Office, and whether they intended to appoint Sub-Commissioners for Ireland; and what control the Government intended to exercise over them? He wished, as a Member of the Irish Party, to express his regret that the system of one-Membered constituencies would force him to the sad necessity of tearing himself away from half of his beloved constituency. At the same time, he rejoiced that the change would give him the opportunity of returning to his old love, who, he hoped, would send to the new Parliament Representatives purified from all Whig and corrupt influences. He thanked the Prime Minister for the self-sacrifice he had shown in extinguishing the Whig and Liberal representation of Ireland. Hereafter it would be more difficult to find a Whig or a Liberal there than it was for Diogenes to discover an honest man.
§ MR. WARTON
pointed out that the Universities had not been mentioned. Were the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin to continue to have two Members each, or were they to be divided? Further, he did not see how, if the 12 additional Members were all to be given to Scotland, England could have six additional Members, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman. He should like to know, also, whether Ireland would have 105 Members or 103?
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that to decide on taking the second reading of this Bill, which involved a totally new principle of redistribution, on Thursday was a very summary proceeding, and involved the supposition that none of them might find it necessary to communicate with those whom they repre- 392 sented. He had himself thrown no impediment in the way of a settlement; but he must take that opportunity of saying, on behalf of the constituencies which were to be summarily dealt with by sub-division, that their Representatives ought to be allowed time to inform themselves of the feelings of their constituents.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he had waited to see whether any other Member would rise to put a question. In reply to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), he had to say that two of the Commissioners were persons in the habit of making those inquiries—he meant Mr. Pelham, and Major Tulloch, of the Royal Engineers. Both these gentlemen had made various inquiries in former years. If the Government should find it necessary to appoint other gentlemen to assist the Commissioners men of the same class would be appointed; but none would be chosen except persons used to perform such duties. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Callan) spoke of the Valuation Office as being chosen for the work in Ireland; but it was not the Valuation Office, but the Ordnance Survey, that had been named by the Prime Minister. The inquiry in England would be largely conducted by gentlemen who were on the Ordnance Survey in England, and who had drawn up useful maps on the subject. Similarly, in Ireland, the inquiries would be made by an official of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland. An officer of the Royal Engineers, Sir Charles Wilson, who was engaged in Egyptian affairs, and was on leave of absence, was at the head of that Office; and he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) did not remember at the moment the name of the official who was next under him. In answer to the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), he had to say that the Universities would not be divided. It was very difficult to divide a University. He did not know how so incorporeal a body could be divided. Certainly it was not proposed. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) complained of Thursday being too soon to admit of Members consulting their constituents. But all that was proposed to be done on Thursday was to ask the House to affirm the principle of the Bill. The principle, so far as it would be affirmed, was that a 393 Redistribution Bill was necessary, rather than the methods on which the redistribution depended. After the explanation of the Prime Minister, any difference of opinion on the latter question might, he thought, be expressed on the Question that the Speaker do leave the Chair, after the Recess. Hon. Members would, therefore, have ample time to consult their constituents.
§ SIR CHAELES W. DILKE
replied, the six seats, including those formerly belonging to Sligo and Cashel, which had been vacant for many years.
§ MR. PICTON
wished to know whether the Government had considered the desirability, in view of the inconvenience of increasing the number of Members of the House, of taking Members from those anomalous constituencies the Universities? He wished to ask the Prime Minister whether the subject had been considered adequately by the Government, for he thought it was likely the House would be asked to consider it before the Bill had been passed?
inquired when the instructions to the Boundary Commissioners would be laid before the House?
§ SIR CHAELES W. DILKE
said, that the instructions were signed on Saturday by the Home Secretary; but they only existed in the form of a letter from himself to the Home Secretary. There was no reason why the letter forming instructions should not be laid upon the Table at once.
§ SIR CHAELES W. DILKE
Belfast will be one of the boroughs receiving an extension of borough boundaries. It will receive two new Members, making four in all, with the extended boundary.
MR. J. LOWTHER
wished to ask whether the President of the Local Government Board was in a position now to communicate to the House the instructions to the Boundary Commissioners?
§ SIR CHAELES W. DILKE
stated that the instructions would be in the 394 Vote Office to-morrow evening, and would be circulated the next morning.
By the indulgence of the House I may be allowed to answer the question put by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton). Undoubtedly, the Government have considered the whole question to which he refers—in fact, they have considered all the points that affected the question of Redistribution; and the result of that consideration is the Bill. It is certainly not intended to take away any Members from the Universities.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. GLADSTONE, The Marquess of HARTINGTON, Sir CHARLES W. DILKE, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, The LORD ADVOCATE, and Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 40.]