HC Deb 04 December 1884 vol 294 cc658-747

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


Sir, if I could have entirely consulted my own inclination, I should not have intervened in the debate in this early and prominent manner; but the representations of many friends to whom I felt I ought to pay deference, and whose arguments appeared to me to have great force, made me feel that it might not be deemed by the House an unfitting sequel to the action I took early in the week if I began the debate this evening, and that the House would not deem me unduly obtrusive if I occupied its attention at the commencement of this discussion. Perhaps, Sir, I may be permitted, before dealing with the merits of the Bill, to refer to some private remonstrances which I have received with reference to the step I have taken. Of course, so far as those remonstrances are based on the provisions of the Bill itself, my answer must be contained in the speech I am about to deliver. It must be the purpose and aim of that speech to express to the House my opinion of the Bill, and any suggestion that I should have delayed my resignation of the Office I had the honour of holding on account of a false impression of the Bill on my part is necessarily irrelevant. But there have been other objections made that whatever my opinion of the Bill might be I might have waited until some question arose when I might be called upon to vote inconsistently with that opinion. It has been said to me by more than one that a subordinate has no responsibility for anything conceived or proposed by the Ministry until it ripens into an act, and until by some action on his part he becomes a party to it—and until by a vote in the House of Commons he has committed himself to an absolute concurrence of opinion with the judgment already formed by his superiors. I confess, Sir, I cannot entertain that conception of the duty of a Member of Parliament. It appears to me that silence has its responsibilities as well as speech, and that to abide in the Government because you are a subordinate Member of it when proposals are made which, in your judgment, are vicious and ought to be condemned, is to derogate from your duty as a Member of this House—derogating from a duty you owe not only to your constituents, but to the House itself. I might have been urged to remain where I was if there had been any probability held out that in the progress of this Bill the particular features to which I most strongly object would have been removed—especially any probability that they would have been removed before I had by silence become a party to them. But I foresaw no such prospect. Other circumstances that came to my knowledge seemed rather to imply that the Bill as presented to the House of Commons would remain in its original form and pass, but little modified, through this House, unless there was a vigorous and united action to which I did not at that time look forward, and to which I could not myself contribute. Although by retiring from the Government I may not aid in the smallest degree to increase the strength of criticism—although my efforts may be absolutely unavailing to influence any Member in the House or anyone outside it to change their opinions on the merits of the Bill, still I felt that I could not remain without making an effort to produce that change, although the effort might be ineffectual. With one further remark I will pass from this personal matter. The Prime Minister himself—and I hope I am committing no indiscretion—urged and appealed to me in tones of kindness, which I hope I shall ever remember, to remain where I was. Nothing but the strength of the conscientious conviction I had formed would have upheld me in resisting his appeal; and in departing as I have done from the Government let me take this the first opportunity of public speech to tender my most hearty thanks to him for the kindness he has ever exhibited, to make my acknowledgment of the honour I acquired in serving under him, and to say that in parting from him I feel my attachment to him to be increased rather than diminished. Why is it that I so solemnly protest against the creation of these new single-Member constituencies? It is because it is a new departure from the old lines of the Constitution. It is not only a new departure, but, in my judgment, it is a new departure in a wrong direction. In my opinion, the principle of single-Member constituencies is contrary to the Constitutional idea of representation in Parliament. Of course, I am aware that there were single-Member constituencies existing before this Bill was placed upon the Table—indeed, I think there were single-Member constituencies existing in the Constitution even before the time referred to by the Prime Minister in his speech the other night. My strong impression is that when Wales was incorporated with the Parliamentary system of this country there was a creation of single-Member seats. Again, under the great change which was effected by the Reform Act of 1832, a number of single-Member constituencies came into existence by reason of one Member being taken away from double-Member constituencies which were not deemed to be of sufficient importance to retain the privilege of returning two Members to Parliament hitherto enjoyed by them, and by reason of a single Member being given to such new constituencies as were not entitled to a greater share in the representation. At that time counties were divided into two-Member divisions, and the authors of the Reform Bill of 1832 rejected the notion that the country should be parcelled out into single-Member constituencies. If a county was not large enough to be divided, and yet was too large to remain with two Members, a third Member was added to it. But we have an historic example which goes to a much greater length. The City of London is to be shorn of half its representation; but the fact is, that the City of London has throughout long generations returned four Members to this House, although it was divided into wards each of which had its Alderman for municipal purposes, which shows that the tradition of Parliamentary representation was not the division of the country into single-Member constituencies, but the maintenance undivided of that representation which the importance of the different constituencies entitled them to demand. And the same principle was carried out in the Reform Bill of 1867. Under that Bill, for the first time, boroughs received a third Member, and so became three-Member constituencies. It may be said that the political action resulting from the creation of those boroughs was subsequently very materially modified by the clause introduced relative to voting in three-cornered constituencies, and that was so. But the Government of the day, in submitting their scheme to the country, did not think of dividing up the boroughs without respect to whether their increase of population required that the additional representation should be given, neither had they any thought of resolving them into single-Member constituencies. I think, therefore, that I have shown that this Bill does for the first time introduce the principle—be it good or bad—of at tempting to obtain the representation of the people in Parliament by cutting up the country into areas each returning one Member only. That I assert to be a novelty in our Parliamentary representation. If as I hope, and think I shall be able to show, it is a new departure of the utmost seriousness as it affects the character of this House and the political life of the country, then I think I shall have made out some case in support of the action I have taken. I should like to take this opportunity of putting an end to a misapprehension with regard to what took place elsewhere yesterday at a meeting of the Proportional Representation Society to which I belong. The report of that meeting, which was published, was made the subject of a leading article in The Times, in which our action was commented upon with some severity; and I we were charged—and certainly as far as appeared from the report not unjustly charged—with desiring to prevent the division of the large towns outside the Metropolitan area into single-Member constituencies, while we were willing to allow the constituencies within the? Metropolitan area to be turned into single-Member constituencies, and it was; justly said that such a course would be absurd. I may remark that the meeting of this society was a private one, and it was with some surprise that I saw a report of the proceedings in the newspapers. I was there, and I certainly saw no reporter taking notes of the speeches which were being made. Speaking, as it were, therefore, somewhat in camerâ, and not for a moment thinking that we were addressing the outer world about this important point, we may not have been as careful in the choice of the exact language used as we might otherwise have been; but there was no mistake upon the point among the members of the society present. We were speaking with reference to what action it might be necessary to take with regard to this question in the House of Commons; and it was pointed out that the first clause to be attacked would be Clause 8, which provided for the representation of populous towns, and that upon that clause it might be necessary to raise the first issue; but it was never for a moment I intended by us that, having repudiated the single-Member system in connection with the large towns outside the Metropolitan area, we should abandon the Metropolis itself to that system. If we have an objection to the single-Member system being applied anywhere, we should have the strongest objection to its being applied to the Metropolis, with its different forms of life and its various forms of industries. We were agreed that we should not object to the clause in the Bill which disfranchised the small boroughs in Schedule A, nor to that which took away one Member from the constituencies in Schedule D, nor to that which related to areas which were to be allowed to retain two Members; but we were declaring that we should raise the first issue on Clause 8. We, however, never intended to stop there, and I hope that if we succeed in obtaining a reconsideration of Clause 8 we shall be equally successful in obtaining a reconsideration of that portion of the Bill by? which it is intended to divide the Metropolis into single-Member constituencies. I will now proceed to ask what are the objections to be made to the system of single-Member constituencies. My first objection to it goes to the very root of the object of Parliament. Why is it that we are met together in Parliament? Is it not primarily to obtain an indication of the balance of the judgment of the people with regard to questions which have to be determined? But this method of single-Member constituencies gives us no means of securing that first object. I crave the indulgence of hon. Members if I appear to enter into details which may seem wearisome, but I do so with the greater earnestness, because I remember not very long ago a I right hon. Friend of mine, a Member of I the Cabinet, laid it down to me in conversation, as an incontestable proposition, that if we divided up the country into constituencies of equal populations; and had one Member elected by each such constituency, the judgment of the Members so elected must correspond with that of the electors. [Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL: Hear, hear!] My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy thinks that is inevitable; but I hope to prove that that proposition is one of the grossest fallacies; in fact, its falsity has been proved by experience over and over again. Let me put the simplest case to the House—one that shall be as clear as A B C. You have in a town three wards of equal population, and one Member elected for each. They are found to be two of one opinion and one of the other. Does it follow that the two are on the side of the majority? Supposing there are 15,000 in each ward, and in Ward A there are 10,000 for the Whigs and 5,000 for the Tories, while in Ward B 8,000 vote for the Tories and 7,000 for the Whigs, and the same happens in Ward C; in these two wards you have got only 2,000 majority for the Tories, while in the other you have 5,000 majority for the Whigs. Yet you have a majority in the whole town of 3,000 Whigs, while the result is the election of two Tories and one Whig. That is an A B 0 example which I would like my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy to take to heart. [Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL: Take the whole Kingdom,] The whole Kingdom! The principle is the same, whether you take the whole Kingdom or a single place. I laid it down as a question of possibility or impossibility; and my hon. Friend, who is a man of great candour, will, I think, admit he was labouring under an error when he thought that what I represented to be possible was impossible. Take the historical case of the town of Geneva, which is divided into equal wards in this way. The Radicals of Geneva being massed in great strength in one ward, yet being in a slight minority in the other wards, lost the representation of them; and while in the whole of Geneva you had a majority of Radicals, the representation of Geneva in Council showed a majority of Conservatives. That is an historical case. My hon. Friends around me know the populous towns of the North, and they know perfectly well that if you are going to divide these big populous towns according to the principle which the President of the Local Government Board will not interpret—those who know the meaning of English know very well what it means —by segregating the poor from the rich, the professional man from the handi- craftsman, you will have in these towns in the North the same experience as you have in Geneva, and the representation of the whole town giving a majority in this House, of "haves," while the majority in the constituency is a majority of "have nots." That, however, is a question of the future, and I have historical cases to which I can refer. Without dwelling upon the unknown contingencies of the future, let me take two or three towns in the United States which are divided up in this way, where the figures are so startling that I think they deserve attention. In the municipal elections of 18.70 and 1871 in the United States, 42 members of the Municipality were elected by Newhaven. There were 28 Democrats against. 14 Republicans, or two to one. Adding up the population of Newhaven who vote, and taking the proportion of voting, you have 16 Democrats and 26 Republicans, so that the voters are two to one one way, and the representation is two to one the other way, and that is got by dividing the town into wards and taking a Member for each ward. Boston is a bigger place than Newhaven. There the actual representation was 42 Democrats to 34 Republicans, while the proportion of voters was 29 Democrats to 47 Republicans. Here, again, there is a very considerable inversion of the real opinions of the town among the elected Members of the Council. The disproportion is almost as startling in the elections at Richmond, in Virginia, where four Democrats were returned as against 26 Republicans, the actual voting proportion being 14 to 16. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy will no doubt say that this is a matter which may be realized in a single place, but that when you come to a large area you get different results. Now I will proceed to a case of a larger area. I proceed to the case of the State of New York, which contains a great deal of population spread over a very large country and occupied in very different ways. There is the crowded population in the City of New York, and in other cities in the State, while there is a large number of rural inhabitants in the rural parts of the State. Now, what is the case in the State of New York with regard to its representation in Congress and the opinions of the voters themselves? I will give the figures for two consecutive Congresses—the 40th and the 41st. In the 40th Congress the State of New York was represented by 11 Democrats to 20 Republicans, whereas the proportion of the voters was 16 Democrats to 15 Republicans. The Democrats were actually in the majority, but as returned in single-Member districts to Congress they were in a minority. The judgment of the people of the State of New York was one way, while the judgment of their Representatives was the other way. In the 41st Congress the State of New York was represented by 13 Democrats against 18 Republicans, the actual proportion of voters being 16 to 15. Thus there was a reversal of the judgment of the people. These are facts, and remarkable facts, yet they have been left unnoticed; and the principle they illustrate has been overlooked, or even denied. I go further than that, and I may say, with great surprise and regret, that I have often observed how little studied these questions are in what I may call the light of comparative political science. Nobody has had more to do with the reform of the people in Parliament than the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government; but I never recollect observing in his speeches a single trace that he had studied the comparative action of other Legislatures and States —of our own Colonies and the United States—so as to ascertain, by some examination of free institutions elsewhere, what may be the result of the introduction of similar institutions here. But now I go a step further. I will compare the New York State Legislature with the action of the New York State as a whole at the Presidential elections. You have in New York State every four years, as in every State, an opportunity of taking a pl—biscite upon the election of President. For many years— and, in fact, until the recent election of Governor Cleveland—I believe it was the case that whereas the pl—biscite of the State of New York has always been Republican, the result of elcotion for the Legislature upon the one-Member system has invariably been Democratic. Take its judgment on a single issue and the State goes one way; take its judgment as filtered through single-Member constituencies and it goes the other way. Could any illustration prove more completely that the method of instituting single-Member constituencies fails in that primary end and purpose of Parliamentary institutions—the ascertaining of? what is the will of the people at large? There is yet another reference which I think I must make in this matter before I have done. I have spoken of New York, and I will now speak of another State in connection with another man. It is the State of Ohio in connection with General Garfield. When this Bill was introduced the Prime Minister referred to Mr. Cobden, and said that he recommended the plan of single-Member constituencies. To my mind that was a rather strong representation of the case. It is true that Mr. Cobden on two occasions in private letters to Members of this House indicated a preference for that plan; but it was a mere obiter dictum, not expressing any fixed and decided result of his mental action, and not deserving of the words which the Prime Minister attributed to it. I have since taken the trouble to look at the admirable book of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), and I find so little importance attached to the expression of Mr. Cobden's views on this point, that minority representation is not even mentioned in the index at all. But it is mentioned in the book, and I think I can vouch my hon. Friend that I correctly state the fact when I say that the two references are mere obiter dicta not deserving the words which the Prime Minister employed. I am not one of those who would undervalue the authority of Mr. Cobden. His name is held in much honour; but of recent years it seems to me his doctrines have been singularly misrepresented. If Mr. Cobden was a man who had really given a decided judgment upon this matter I should have had a great difficulty in meeting it; but it is not so. Now I will turn to another authority, President Garfield, a man whose life and character are known the whole world through, and whose tragic death endeared him, and will for generations endear him, to the whole American people. What is the record— to use an American phrase—of President Garfield? He came to England in the year 1867, he attended the debates in the House, and sat under the Gallery there. My right hon. Friend (Mr. John Bright) introduced him, and it is rather a pathetic remembrance, if I may venture to indulge in the personal recollection, that I also was under the Gallery at the same time, and, although I knew it not, must have been sitting next to this revered man, because I distinctly remember that in that discussion my right hon. Friend (Mr. John Bright) coming up and speaking to the one who was next me. General Garfield came and attended these debates upon the Reform Bill of 1867, especially with reference to the cumulative vote and the restricted vote. He heard the debates in this House, he heard the speech of Lord Beaconsfield —then Mr. Disraeli—and the speeches of the present Prime Minister, of my right hon. Friend below me (Mr. John Bright), and of the present Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). He also heard the speeches of Mr. Mill and Mr. Lowe; and in his diary, since published, he expresses his opinion that, on the whole, he thought the balance of his judgment was against the view of his right hon. Friend, to whom he was attached by so many ties, and who had brought him here to listen to the debate. General Garfield afterwards heard the speeches of Lord Cairns, Lord Salisbury, and other Peers, who intervened in the debate in the House of Lords on the same issues, and his opinion was strengthened by what he heard. Still, he came then to no decisive opinion, and ho held his judgment in suspense. Some three years later, in 1870, the question arose in the House of Representatives, of which he was a Member from Ohio. He made a speech which he began by saying that his attention had been directed to this in Europe, and that ever since he had given it his most careful consideration, and had come to a conclusion entirely in favour of minority representation. Now, Sir, if we are to put authority against authority, what are we to say about the opinion of a man like Garfield, listening here and keeping his judgment in suspense, thinking the matter over through years at home, and at last expressing his opinion, as Member for Ohio in the House of Representatives, against the casual observations of Mr. Cobden in a letter addressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale? There can be no question that the one completely and entirely overwhelms the other. I will refer to Garfield's testimony as to the representation of Ohio. What does he say?— When I was first elected to Congress in the fall of 1862 the State of Ohio had a clear Republican majority of 25,000; but by the adjustment and redistribution of political power in the States, there were 14 Democratic Members and only five Republican. That was the result, although the Republicans were in a majority of 25,000, the Republicans having 250,000 votes as against 225,000 Democratic. In the next Congress there was a great change in the vote for Ohio, and the result was the return of 17 Republicans as against two Democrats. Thus there was an absolute turnover in the result, although there had been but little change in the proportion of voters. I do not see my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) present, who has been crying out recently. But I dare say he has an explanation to give of this apparent inconsistency. I will venture to give the House my explanation of the contradiction. It is this—the dispersion of the population within the territory is such that in certain crowded parts there is a great accumulation of people of one Party; whereas in other uncrowded parts there is a tolerably even distribution of the two Parties. Thus, in the crowded parts there is an immense waste of voting power, while in the uncrowded parts there is an economy of voting power. The crowded parts do not send anything like a representation according to their numbers, while the uncrowded parts send all they desire to send. If there is a considerable impulse running through the country which affects those parts of the country which are tolerably evenly divided, you may then secure a fair representation of the opinion of the country. If I could engage the attention of my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, and once get him to appreciate this fact, he would expound it to the House with a fervour and clearness to which I can make no profession, but which would be delightful to listen to. I say that the distribution of the people of this country corresponds to these circumstances which I have delineated. In the great towns, for the most part, you will secure large Liberal majorities. You will also have country districts in which opinions will be pretty evenly divided. There a large number of Conservative Members will be returned. But whether you will not have a waste of power in the towns, allowing the Conservatives in the country to be returned so as to outnumber the Liberals of the towns, is a point which experience alone will determine. But it is rendered extremely probable by what I have stated. You have just the same dispersion of people as there is in New York and Ohio; and if there you find the distribution of populations voting falsified by the distribution of Members, why should you not have the same result here? Why should you not again have the same turnover at the poll of which we have had recent repeated experience? It is very foolish, perhaps, to talk about things beforehand, unless, as the vulgar expression has it, you know. But, as far as we can draw a horoscope of what would be the action of single-Member constituencies, you will have this waste of Liberal power in the towns, and this economy of Conservative power in the country, which might even produce the result of a Conservative majority in this House with a Liberal majority of electors, to be again overturned when there should be a small accession of Liberal voters producing a large accession of Liberals in the House. Sir, I have dealt, at considerable length, with this part of my subject, because this is a consideration which, so far as I know, has never received sufficient attention, whereas other circumstances to which I propose to turn have often been dwelt upon. Next to this failure to secure the primary result of ascertaining what is the judgment of the country by an election, I strongly condemn the suggestion of single-Member constituencies on account of the effect which it will have upon the character of Members. I need not say much about that, because I know I have a great support already amongst the Members of the big towns themselves. I appeal here to the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister has borne evidence of a very remarkable kind to the decline of the character of this House even within his own experience. He has said that from the period of 1835 to 1850 this House reached a pitch from which it has since been perceptibly falling away. To what can that be attributed, except to the action of causes which you are going to intensify and multiply, and which he will facilitate by the course he is now taking? But of all moans of degrading the character of this House there is none more potent than that of dividing up the big towns into wards. If we have had to lament in recent years any falling away from the standard which once prevailed, it is impossible that when instead of Members for Manchester you have Members for divisions of Manchester, and instead of Members for Liverpool you have nine Members for divisions of Liverpool, you should not have a still further degradation. I appeal to my right hon. Friend immediately in front of me (Mr. John Bright), because within the last few weeks, unless I deceive myself, he delivered an address to a set of young men at an Eighty Club in which he condemned the I proposal to divide up the big towns into wards, because it would produce a degradation in the Members returned. Need I say a single word, or go into reasons why the Member for a ward differs from the Member for a town; why a different class of person will be brought forward; why it is impossible to enlist men of the same standing; why it is impossible to confer upon them the same status, the same authority, the same dignity; why they must inevitably be of a lower rank, not merely socially, but morally and intellectually; why it must produce a degradation of representation which everybody condemns, and yet, if this Bill becomes law, we shall all have to deplore? We shall have vestrymen for the towns. We shall have local Guardians representing the divisions of the counties. No doubt, you cannot speak of county divisions in the same way as of towns. Here and there a county division will be dominated by some great landowner; but the mass of the district representation of the counties will be degraded like the mass of the ward Representatives of the towns. The county Members will suffer a decline answering to the decline of the town Members. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now on the Front Bench. I am sorry if he is not, because I was going to express my sympathy for him. The relations between him and myself have always been so friendly and so cordial that I should feel a deeper anxiety if any peril appeared to be befalling him; and the financial prospects of the country are, perhaps, already not so bright that we need incur any fresh danger. ["Oh!"] I do not understand why some hon. Members say "Oh!" I am not saying anything which. I should not have freely said a month ago. If I am asked to describe in a single phrase what will be the character of Members in the county divisions, I should say they would be ratepayers' Members. The question which will agitate them, and upon which they will all depend, will be the question of rates. My hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) will have an immense accession of strength. But, at all events, those of us who know how the Treasury is acted upon, how it was acted upon under the late Government, how the present Government has been acted upon so as to extract a subvention in aid of the rates out of the National Exchequer, must look with alarm upon the prospect. We know how the late Government acted, and we are perfectly aware how much money is now drawn from the Imperial Revenues, which is almost all wasted so far as real economy is concerned. Well, but the present Government have not been able to resist a similar demand. We all remember when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister got up one Tuesday evening and anticipated an attack by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire by saying that he would be prepared to contribute £250,000 in diminution of the highway rate. If you get a lot of county Members representing these districts, returned in the interest of the ratepayers, I would advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer to seek peace with the enemy quickly, or else he will have on an early day to get up and make a further offer out of the National Exchequer in response to the demands of the ratepayers. I am quite well aware you will not all at once realize the degradation of the character of the Members of which I spoke. There will at first be a demand for present Members of the House among the new constituencies. Anyone who has a reputation here, and who happens to represent a borough in Schedule A or a borough in Schedule B that is to lose a Member, will probably be solicited by two or three constituencies to give them his services. But I do not see how the character of representation thus gained is to be kept up. Men of distinction may come in at first; but under the scheme of single-Member constituencies I fail to see how you will keep up the supply. New Members must come in through local knowledge fitting them to repre- sent local interests, and you must then have that decline in the standard of representation about which my right hon. Friend (Mr. John Bright) expressed himself eloquently a few weeks ago. If this is the effect upon this House there must be a corresponding effect upon the electorate. You will have a narrowed, a single issue placed before each body of electors. You will have them restricted in their choice of candidates. You will necessarily have the alienation of a large amount of political energy from the political life of a large proportion of the electors. Whole classes will cease to be interested in what is going on. You will have decay and atrophy of political energy and power. The thing is known as a matter of experience already. It must become more known if you restrict your areas, if you narrow the issues, if you condemn us to carry on elections on these narrow and separate lines. All these things are, in fact, confessed. The discontent with the division of towns into wards is universal. There is not, as far as I am aware, a single newspaper in a large town which is not dissatisfied with it. The Pall Mall Gazette of this evening brings together a series of extracts from local papers, which are all united in condemnation of the proposal to divide their towns. I believe that condemnation is shared by the Representatives of those big towns in this House; at least, by everyone except the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). I have hopes that he yet may be influenced by the general condemnation of the proposal. [Mr. JOHN BRIGHT: He never changes.] My right hon. Friend says he never changes; but one might give on a fitting opportunity a curious history, half pathetic, half humorous, of the changes of my right hon. Friend on this very question. I hope he will yet, in the search after truth, come round and cease to be the single defender of the division of large towns. You will further have, as is clear from an answer of the President of the Local Government Board to a question by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), antagonistic sections in your towns. You will have one section of a town arrayed against another. Instead of that permeation of one class by another, which the right hon. Gentleman ought to appreciate, and the consolidation of all classes into one political whole, you will get the Radicals of the working men's quarter set in array against the professional classes of the more aristocratic quarter, and that again placed in hostility to another quarter. These sharp lines of division, instead of making the people feel that they belong to one community, will divide one section from another, and will set class against class. What is the alternative? I am bound to suggest how these evils may, in my opinion, be counteracted. If it be objected that what I suggest is a novelty or a new departure, it cannot be summarily rejected on that account by those who are proposing what is equally novel or newfangled. The Pall Mall Gazette has this evening suggested that a solution of the difficulty as to the big towns might be arrived at by letting them decide for themselves how they will vote. Apparently that suggestion does not require much refutation here. It seems almost a logical contradiction to ask people to vote how they will vote, because you must first of all define a method by which they are to vote on that question. The probability is they would prefer to vote in the way they have voted. If you ask them by plébiscite they will probably say they are for plébiseite; if you ask them in another fashion they may prefer that other fashion. There is scrutin de liste. I do not suppose many would propose it seriously—that is to say, that instead of nine Members being elected for Liverpool in nine divisions, nine should be elected by a mere majority. I will say for myself, expressing my own personal opinion only, that if it came to a choice between the two, I should prefer scrutin de liste as an interim step, because I am quite convinced that if it were once adopted it would not be maintained. If you adopt the district system, the ward system, my great fear and anxiety are that it will be tenacious of life. Some seem to think that that will be a great recommendation, but it is the lower animals that are very tenacious of life; it is only the higher organisms that give way and die. If you have scrutin de liste it would not last more than one or two Parliaments. My impression is that it is very likely that a reproduction here of the experience of Belgium would certainly cure us of preference for scrutin de liste. In spite of the authority of M. Gambetta, I am fairly well convinced that if we tried the Belgian system in England it would not last more than two Parliaments. It is, at all events, a little test of the apprehensions I have of the evils of the single-Member system that I am ready to run the risk of the scrutin de liste for two Parliaments as a means of avoiding that difficulty. There is no necessity for scrutin de liste. Why should we not adopt that principle which the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) laid down in the words "One man one vote?" It is totally inconsistent with scrutin de liste; it is in contradiction with it. One man one vote; that is simple. Some would accept it as a sufficient solution of the question—that our big towns retaining five, six, or seven Members, one man should have one vote and one vote only. But there is an objection, and I will face it. If the Prime Minister were one of eight or nine candidates at Liverpool it would be most difficult to prevent all the Liberals voting for him; it would be impossible, as the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) says. Still, I have an opinion that the sagacious electors would consult the wishes of my right hon. Friend himself, and that some of them by voting for others would give him real support rather than the appearance of it. But in order to prevent a waste of strength you would be bound to have a Caucus to direct the people how to vote. That is true. The waste must be prevented in some way; but is there no method of preventing it without a Caucus, without being subjected to the pain and ignominy of being compelled to vote as someone tells you? I think there is a very simple process of letting the voter himself say how he will pass on his vote from one candidate—his first choice—to a second, supposing it is not required by the first. Take the strongest example—that of Liverpool, with nine Members. Suppose that it is undivided, and a voter receives a ballot paper containing the names of all candidates. [An hon. MEMBER: Eighteen.] There would not necessarily be 18, and the voters would know well which were the Liberal and which were the Conservative candidates. Each voter would put a figure I against the name of the candidate whom he most desired to see elected, a figure 2 against a second to whom he desired to give his vote if the first did not require it, and so on. What follows at the end of an election? All the papers are collected together and their numbers are known by the existing machinery. Suppose 40,000 votes are given, and there are nine persons to be elected. The first thing to be done, according to the plan of which I am speaking, would be to divide the 40,000 by 10, that is, one more than the persons to be elected, giving a result of 4,000. Any person who has 4,001 votes is sure to be elected, because the remaining votes could not be divided among nine people each getting more than 4,000; therefore the one who gets 4,001 is certain to be elected. That, I think, is plain to the majority of the House. The papers having been shuffled together, are arranged in heaps, according to the names marked 1, and there would be a great number of heaps. Some of the heaps would exceed 4,001, and those candidates who were found to have that number would be elected. The papers remaining after 4,001 had been taken away would be distributed afresh according to the names marked 2. That would bring up some more papers. The candidate who got 4,001 votes in these heaps would be declared elected, and then there would be another distribution. The process would thus go on, until in the end the nine persons would be elected, each receiving 4,001 votes. The plan is a simple one. It is as simple as—it is simpler than a sum in long division. I claim that the plan is simple and workable, and that it would secure the representation of the masses of your big towns. It represents them in their totality. It has been asked, Are you going to represent numbers or interests? There is no such distinction. The scheme which I am propounding gives representation to all numbers and to all interests. But under that of my right hon. Friend below me only half the numbers would be represented. Under my right hon. Friend's scheme the majority only is represented. One of the best represented towns, in more meanings than one, is Plymouth. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. E. Clarke) and the hon. Member on this side of the House (Mr. Macliver) represent nearly the whole constituency of Plymouth between them and the interests of the town also. Now, what is the objection to our plan? I know the objection which weighs with many people; it is born of ignorance and is that of chance. It is said that, according as you got one set of papers or another uppermost, so one Member or another may be returned. But what is the risk you run? A man is declared elected because he has got a superabundance of votes. You put aside the votes that have secured his election, and you distribute the rest according to the second names on his surplus papers. The second name is always a Member of the same Party as the first. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham sitting below me (Mr. John Bright) would be elected by a vast number, and you have to strike his name off. Take two of the papers from which his name is to be struck off. My right hon. Friend would be the first on the first paper, and the President of the Board of Trade would probably be the second upon it. Now, is the theory conceivable that my right hon. Friend sitting below me would be the first on the second paper, and the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) the second upon it? I should like to see the Birmingham elector who would put the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock second to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bright). The fact is, the choice and the chance refer only to two Members of the same Party. Upon the suplus papers of my right hon. Friend the names next in succession would be those of one or another of the same Party. Sir, the fears, anxieties, and trepidations entertained about this matter are of the most imaginary character. On the other hand, I invite hon. Members to remember for a moment what are its advantages. You liberate the electors of this Kingdom, you procure a just representation in this House by easy and natural methods of all divisions of opinion and character within the electorate. You would have a working man Representative among the Members for Birmingham; you would have Liberals of different character and of different degree, and Conservatives of different character and different degree; you would have all sorts of opinions in their proportions, and only in their proportions, represented in the House, and at the very same time you would get insured, what no alternative method has insured—namely, the representation of majorities themselves. You would reanimate political life, you would bring into direct and immediate connection with this House and the working of the Constitution all the electors throughout the country. You would nowhere have people with their power thrown away; you would nowhere have people dying of political inanity; you would secure the reunion of political life, the reconstruction of political life such as we have been strangers to; you would have, in fact, a reflection in this House of the national will and the national wisdom. The plan of this Bill does not secure that. The plan I advocate is, in fact, the realization of Democracy in it freest and widest form. This plan is often represented as a crotchet, the object of which is to prevent the access to this House of the Representatives of the people you are about to enfranchise. It is nothing of the kind. It is a plan to secure their representation. You have long since enfranchized the artizans of the towns. How many Gentlemen are there here representing them? One, and one only. You are going to enfranchise the agricultural labourers. How do you know you will have Representatives of them here? You may or you may not. Under your system it may happen, but there are enormous difficulties to be overcome. But I will show you a plan by which you can secure their presence, and by which you may give any class whatever sufficient certainty of having a spokesman of their own within these walls. It was this vision, Sir, which animated Mr. Mill in that remarkable passage which adorns his autobiography which I have already read once before in this House. It was this vision which moved General Garfield in that speech which I have already quoted, when he said that, if realized, it would remove the obstacles which now threaten the existence of Representative Government throughout the world. The scheme would emancipate those who are enslaved by the false machinery you have adopted, and it would be a message of freedom to the people, giving them, not merely a barren privilege, but bringing them into direct relationship with this Assembly. The plan I have placed before the House would prove as firm as a rock in popular estimation. There would be no single artizan or agricultural labourer or man of learning or man of letters who would not be able to say—"There is someone in the House of Commons for whom I voted who represents me, who possesses my political ambitions and my political life." Sir, it is not surprising that those who have once realized this vision should be somewhat carried away by its grandeur and breadth. No such Democratic future is held out under any other system; no such promise of freedom, no such promise of development can be secured by any other machinery. Your method may secure a Parliament, but it would never secure a Parliament which shall maintain the high traditions of this House, still less rise to the level of what; the political life of this country is capable. I cannot sufficiently deplore my own want of power to drive home this idea into the minds and imaginations of the Members who are listening to me. If they once possessed it, they would accept it as a new gospel; they would see, as Mr. Mill did, and as President Garfield did, that it was the means of the resurrection of the people. Sir, I have occupied the attention of the House long, and I regret and apologize for it. There is, however, one more word I would like to say before I sit down. I could not be silent to-night when I remember what has again and again come to my mind as I have been speaking. Had the proceedings of this night happened but one short month earlier, I should not have been alone in standing here; I should not have been alone in deserting that Bench. I speak this not in mere surmise nor yet from knowledge acquired by long friendship for him. I do not say it because the last words he spoke at Hackney were devoted to this subject. I do not say it simply because the last words that we exchanged on the last night he appeared in this House were upon the proposals which are now laid before us. I have higher authority than my own for knowing that had he whom we have lost so prematurely been present he would have borne his powerful testimony in the direction in which I have attempted to bear it to-night. You may accuse me of having no personal knowledge of this question. You may with truth say of me that I have never been Member for a big constituency or known what was the popular ideal. You could not have said it of him. If he had been here he would have spoken with more power than I can, because he would have come fresh from the people themselves whom he so truly desired to serve. Sir, we desire to honour his memory. Those who shared his counsels, those who knew his thoughts, those who accompanied him so many years in his political life, cannot do him more honour, I think, than by being faithful to the doctrines which he held. I, for my part, would pray God that I may ever in this way be faithful to this trust.


Sir, my hon. Friend has addressed the House with an ability which never fails him, and with a fervour and sincerity of enthusiasm which has inspired life into what I might almost call, but for the effect of his speech, an army of dry bones. But my hon. Friend made a remark of which I acknowledge the justice in regard to my own speeches on this subject. Of those speeches he said he found no traces there of an extensive studying of the electoral systems of other countries, or of the application of a system or science of comparative politics to the elucidation of this subject. Sir, that is perfectly just, and I can tell my hon. Friends that I am quite conscious of my inability to grapple with details as in former years I might have been in some degree perhaps competent to do. ["No, no!"] I beg pardon; I am very much obliged to my hon. Friends who decline to admit that inability, but I am too conscious of it, and the record of nature and lapse of time are facts too stubborn to be confuted even by the most kind and indulgent partiality. I should not have arisen to enter into this debate—I should have left it, as I proposed to leave the general discussion of the Bill, to other and younger and abler men—had it not been for the personal portions of the speech of my hon. Friend. He referred to the action which he had taken in the early part of this week, and he spoke of the Government he has left and of myself in a manner which deserves my respectful gratitude. Not less, Sir, does it require of me an acknowledgment which I am sure the experience of the whole House will bear me out in making—that in the departure of my hon. Friend from the service of the Crown and of the nation we have sustained a heavy loss. In that official career, not very lengthened, he has made his mark upon the administrative business of the country; and to this acknowledgment relating to the past, I desire to add an expression of a fervent hope for the future—that either with this or some other Government congenial to him he may for many long years be united without the untoward occurrences or impediments such as have now deprived us of his valuable services, and that when his career is run he may be able to record a long as well as useful and distinguished application of his great talents and business capacity to the Public Service. I will not follow my hon. Friend into the discussion which has occupied the last half of his speech. This is, after all, a debate on the second reading of the Bill; and I observe that, notwithstanding objections taken by my hon. Friend, in strong terms, to particular portions of the Bill, he has made do Motion adverse to the measure, has taken no step to prevent its passing, and I feel he himself will be the first to admit that the discussion is one necessarily without practical issue. When I stated to the House the method which we had adopted for the distribution of electoral areas, I did not refrain from making the admission that the subject was of such a nature that, adopt what plan you will, you must and will be open of necessity to a multitude not only of popular and plausible, but of real objections. Sir, had my hon. Friend not approached this question in the spirit of a philosopher, he would have stopped after the first part of his speech. No doubt the House felt that, in much that he stated in the exhibition of particular and possible failures of the system that we propose to attain electoral perfection, he stood upon solid ground. I think he must himself have observed that when, with that sincerity as remarkable as his fervour and talent, he came to develop the scheme which has really excited his own enthusiasm, and which he worships as embodying something very near political perfection, the sympathy of the House began to fail. He said that a few Members sitting in distant parts of the House did not appear to follow him. My impression was that the proposition presented to us, which he said was of so simple a character, was, in truth, a pons asinorum, which very few of us indeed, if a record of consciences and understandings could at this moment be taken, would have been enabled to pass. But, Sir, we shall have opportunities, hereafter for the discussion of these matters. I would only say to the House that it appears to me that my hon. Friend in attacking that which is undoubtedly a material and substantial portion of this Bill, has not been happy at every point. I frankly own that I do not quite understand the doctrine of my hon. Friend. I cannot see how the authority of President Garfield can be considered altogether superior to that of Mr. Cobden. President Garfield was a man undoubtedly of great talent, and the tragic circumstances of his death have consecrated his memory among us, and raised an interest in him which I frankly own that I do not think the scope of his mind and the force of his ability would have availed to attract if it had not been for these extraordinary and almost unparalleled circumstances. I am sorry that my hon. Friend has given this prominence to the case of President Garfield on this occasion, because he has adopted him as a sort of normal example of the working of the human mind. See by what beautiful gradations he rose to the point at which my hon. Friend has seized him and has turned him to account. President Garfield came to the House of Commons and listened to the debate, when a certain progress was made; he went to the House of Lords and listened to the superior intelligence of that House, which gave him somewhat more effective assistance. He then made a voyage over the Atlantic, which we must presume was tranquil, and did not cause in him those disturbances which, in the case of many of us, are fatal to all continuous thought, and was the means of leading up to maturity and perfection of the intellect, and in the conclusion then attained, and in the steps by which it was attained, my hon. Friend finds a splendid example of the normal working of the human mind. Well, Sir, if that is so, I am very sorry; but I must illustrate the working of the mind of President Garfield, whom we are called upon to bow down to and to worship as to the image of Nebuchadnezzar—I must illustrate the working of General Garfield's mind upon this particular subject by reference to another subject, with regard to which we know something of him from public sources. General Garfield was a distinguished member of the Cobden Club. My hon. Friend, like myself, values highly the principles of the Cobden Club, and no doubt regrets, like myself, that those principles are not so fresh and vigorous in their hold upon the minds of some of us as at one time, perhaps, they were. But they were lamentably weak in their hold upon the mind of General Garfield, for General Garfield, being a member of the Cobden Club when in this country, shortly afterwards appeared in America as a Protectionist candidate for the Presidency of his country, and became one of the great advocates of the system which, among us, he had foresworn. I have, therefore, not that perfect confidence in the normal character of the mind of General Garfield which my hon. Friend appears to have. My hon. Friend has, I think, not quite done justice to the facts with reference to the system of one-Member constituencies. In the first place, he says that it is a new-fangled scheme, and those who support it have no right to quarrel with, any other scheme on the ground of its being newfangled. Well, Sir, he places it on a par with the plan that he has propounded. Permit me to say that it is not quite in the same position in relation to human experience as the plan he has proposed. I admit that it was virtually unknown to our representative system in England and to Scotch representation; but before the Reform Act was passed our representative system was not worthy of the name, while Irish representation had been almost entirely paralyzed. But the system of single-Member constituencies came in with the Reform Act upon a certain scale; and in 1867, when we proceeded to amend the Reform Act, we proceeded also to extend that scheme; and it is a little hard upon the one-Member system which my hon. Friend treats as having produced great decadence in the character of this House that it is severely condemned by a Representative of a single-Member constituency. In the Cabinet my right hon. Friend who sits near me (Mr. Trevelyan) and I myself are among the degenerate individuals whom one-Member constituencies have chosen. My right hon. Friend on my left (Sir Charles W. Dilke) acts as the Representative of a one-Member constituency in some of those local duties and offices to which we attach so high a value, and which have reared for this House, in one form or another, so many valuable Members on this as well as on that side. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain), nurtured as a politician in municipal labours, came by single election upon every occasion to the exercise of those duties. The municipal system is founded upon the one-Member system. That scheme, I well recollect, was adopted in deference to the representations of the Conservative Party in 1835, who were actuated at that time by excessive fears of the operation of municipal reform, and that scheme was accorded to them as a consolation for their apprehensions. But my hon. Friend says that the scheme is desperately unpopular. If so, why does he say that, once adopted, it is quite certain to be very tenacious of life? When we adopt bad laws, are they necessarily incurable? Now, what is the representation of my hon. Friend? He says that this scheme has every vice under Heaven. He has pointed out how it works on the character of the electors, and on the character of Members, and how it will depress and destroy the character of this House. But, then, is this scheme, which he calls so very novel and new-fangled, really novel and newfangled? Does my hon. Friend say that the hon. Members who sit in this House for one-Member constituencies are, as a class, in any way inferior to other hon. Members? The system is at work not here only. Go over the length and breadth of the representative world, and almost everywhere you will find the system of one-Member constituencies in operation. Surely it is a strong measure to call that a new-fangled system. Is it not a most extraordinary thing that if all these vices which my hon. Friend charges upon the system are really chargeable upon it, all those who have got it should have kept it, with the single exception of France, who has a peculiar reason, which I will mention in a moment, for rejecting it? I have never heard that there was serious controversy in any of those countries with regard to its maintenance. And what is the reason that this controversy is prosecuted so vehemently in France between the scrutin d'arrondissement and the scrutin de liste? It is obvious that by scrutin de liste there is a desire of giving a more sweeping and resistless effect to the will of the majority. For my own part, I firmly hold that the majority ought to prevail; but I am not one of those who hold that the majority ought so to prevail that there shall be no check upon it whatever which might somewhat moderate its courses. And I wish the House to understand that, because if you except the single case in which scrutin da liste is vehemently supported in France, the whole of the representative systems of the civilized world which have this single-Member system do not show the least desire at present to get rid of it. It is the general system of Europe, and, I believe, of the Colonies and America. However, we shall have opportunities of discussing it hereafter. My hon. Friend himself says that such is its character that if you once enact it you cannot get out of it My hon. Friend made a very touching reference to the memory of Mr. Fawcett, of whom I have spoken on a former occasion. But my hon. Friend has hardly done justice to the facts of the case. Mr. Fawcett, I believe, upon a recent occasion expounded an argument very much in the nature of that which my hon. Friend has addressed to us. How was it received by his constituents? That is rather an important question. It is in vain that we argue, in a short and simple explanation of an hour long, that a system is perfectly clear and simple, unless you can in some way or other find an entry for it into the minds of ordinary and average people of the country. If I am not mistaken, Mr. Fawcett himself placed it upon record, after laying that exposition before his constituents, that he had never made a speech which was so little successful in obtaining their approbation; and I believe that there is also to be noted this fact, that my hon. Friend (Professor Stuart) who now occupies, and worthily occupies, I may presume to say, the seat of Mr. Fawcett, has come into Parliament after having been called upon to make a pretty decided expression of his own views on this matter in opposition to those of Mr. Fawcett. That is not very encouraging, after all, for the adoption of the system of my hon. Friend. Now, it is impossible to vouch for this universal acquiesence in a scheme which is so bad as my hon. Friend represents this scheme to be. If it had all these mischievous consequences, it could not have the patient acquiescence and the general adhesion of that portion of mankind who are interested in the representative system of the country. Sir, the real truth is this. It is a choice of evils. When we come to the Committee on this Bill we shall have all these different plans placed in fair comparison one with the other. We shall then show what is to be said in mitigation of the charges of my hon. Friend, and we shall also know much more clearly than we do now what is to be said in favour of the scheme he propounds. He has kept back, however, the great authority which he might have quoted on behalf of his view—the authority of The Quarterly Review.


I was not aware of if.


My hon. Friend's reading, wide as it is, does not extend, apparently, to Conservative publications. He is afraid lest his mind should be poisoned. Now, I do not mention that for the sake of referring to the practice of my hon. Friend, or the circumscription of his reading, but for this reason. This is a favourite scheme of The Quarterly Review. But my hon. Friend says that this is a scheme by which you are to give a completeness of triumph to the principles of Democracy that cannot be attained in any other way. The Quarterly Review, however, does not take it in that light. It seems to take it for the opposite reason—namely, that it would check the triumph of Democracy. But, then, if these two authorities are so fundamentally in difference and St variance upon the effect of the working of the scheme, are we to be told that it is so very simple that it ought to be acceptable to the intelligence of us all in a few moments, when its very propounders represent it some as leading to one pole in the political system, and some as leading to the other pole? Sir, I will not go further into this matter, for I own I do not think that more than a respectful acknowledgment of the argument that we have heard to-night is due from me at the present time, for the reason that this is not a period when practical discussion can be had in this matter. My hon. Friend said that the one-Member system was rejected in 1832. No, Sir; the one-Member system? was never raised in discussion in 1832 It was adopted experimentally, and as a foundation, and the adoption of the experiment led, after an experience of 25 years, to an extension of the system. To say it was rejected would, I think, be not only an exaggeration, but would be a statement absolutely beside and beyond the mark. It must be upon a careful examination of the details submitted by my hon. Friend and of many other details that the House can alone arrive at a safe and specific judgment. Of this I am quite sure, that no judgment which the House can arrive at will enable you to present a plan free from evils. You must take your choice about it. I do not say that the judgment we have arrived at is necessarily a solid and a irrefragable judgment. Do not let us set out with a fundamental misapprehension, such as my hon. Friend himself makes out, because he really does think that he has got hold of a perfect nostrum by which he can not only solve the main difficulty and which he can not only present as preferable to any other scheme, but which is, in his eyes, a system of perfect and faultless beauty—an allegation which, I think, upon reflection, he will find is convicted of the fault of exaggeration. Sir, I am glad that my hon. Friend has not thought it necessary to offer any objection to the second reading of this Bill. He will understand, I hope, that I am in no degree complaining of the fulness with which he stated his views. He was perfectly entitled to do so, and, from his point of view, he was bound to do something of the kind; but it appears to me that upon another occasion we shall more advantageously aim to bring into comparison our minds and ideas in respect to this undoubtedly very difficult portion of the subject; and in the meantime I am glad to think, and I hope it may be the case throughout the evening, that there has been no indication of a disposition to refuse to recognize by an affirmative vote the second reading of this Bill.


in rising to move the following Amendment:— That, in the opinion of this House, the principle of Representation in proportion to Population should be adopted in place of arbitrary figures as a basis, in order to obtain a logical, judicious, and permanent settlement of the question of Redistribution of Seats, said, he was unable to agree with the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) that the system he advocated would be better than the single-Member districts provided by this Bill. In placing on the Paper this Amendment, he intended no disrespect to Her Majesty's Government or to those Members of the Opposition who had been engaged with them in modifying the Bill to some extent. On the contrary, he wished to give them every possible credit for their labours, as he was sure they had earnestly devoted their time and attention to the subject with a view of adapting the measure to what they believed to be the good of the country. The present proposals were, however, neither logical nor final, and whatever the result of the debate to-night or to-morrow might be, there would be increasing discontent expressed with regard to them. There was no principle establishing any connection between the numbers 15,000, 50,000, and 105,000, which were the key-notes of the Bill. There was no reason either why Wales should be more represented than other parts of the Kingdom, and why she should still retain 30 Members. This Bill left anomalies almost as glaring as those which now existed. Liverpool with 550,000 inhabitants would only have nine Members, while there would be 20 boroughs returning 20 Members whose aggregate population did not exceed 350,000. Then there was growing dissatisfaction with the Bill in the large towns of the North. This was merely an attempt to patch up a temporary settlement; but in the end they would have to come to dividing the country into equal electoral districts. Perhaps on the Conservative side equal electoral districts might be thought to be somewhat of a Socialist scheme; but believing that it was a good principle in itself, he had no hesitation in advocating it. He did not believe anyone could forecast what would be the result of the next Election after the passing of this Bill; but if the basis were adopted of dividing the country into districts averaging, say, 54,200 inhabitants, or, roughly, 8,000 electors each, then, at any rate, Conservatives, Liberals, and Radicals would all have had fair play together, and each constituency would contain a manageable number of electors. He, therefore, begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.


having risen.


asked if the noble Lord rose to second the Amendment?


No, Sir.


Does any hon. Member second the Amendment?


said, he would do so. It appeared to him that the Amendment would have the effect of curing the defects of the Bill, especially the defect as to the disproportional representation of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The Bill was good as far as it went, but it ought to go a little further. The hon. Member for Harwich (Sir Henry Tyler) asked that representation should be based on the principle of equal population, and he (Sir George Campbell) was of opinion that that was, if not the best, at all events the most practicable, method of dealing with the subject. In Scotland it was thought that some consideration might be given to intelligence, taxation, and other points as well as to population. They could see that there were practical difficulties in the way, and he believed he expressed the views of the Scottish Representatives when he said that if upon a fair principle of share and share alike they obtained representation according to population, they would be content. He regretted that the Government did not go as far as the hon. Member wished, because by not doing so they were forcing the country to make two bites of a cherry, as the settlement would inevitably require revision at an early date. They were going to acknowledge the system of equal, or nearly equal, electoral districts in the counties and large towns, and the same principle ought to be acted upon all through. He was not anxious to address any observations to the House on the general subject of the Bill; but the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) referred to certain objections which fell from him (Sir George Campbell). It was unfortunate the hon. Member should have selected him, for he was not at all a bigot on the subject. When he came into the House to hear the hon. Member's speech, his mind was in a fluid state; but he was convinced by the hon. Member's speech that they must come to single-Member constituencies, because the hon. Member proved too much when he said the single-Member constituencies would degrade the character of the Members, and had supplied no other satisfactory plan. How could his hon. Friend expect Scottish Members to accept that doctrine? They had in Scotland single-Member constituencies, and they were not willing to believe that these Scottish Members were of a lower class than other Members. Their experience was that single-Member constituencies did not degrade a country. Coming to his own grievance, which he believed would be cured by the suggestion of the hon. Member opposite, he admitted that the scheme of the Government gave Scotland within a fraction of its fair share of representation, supposing the House to be confined to the number of 658 Members; but when he compared the treatment of Scotland with Ireland and Wales, no one who studied the figures could say that a uniform principle had been applied to the three divisions of the Kingdom. Take a few instances:—Lanark in 1881 had a population of 387,000, and it was to have six Members—equal to a Member to every 66,000 of population; but Cork, with a population of 391,000, was to have seven Members—equal to one to every 55,000 of population. Tyrone, with 197,000, was to have four Members—equal to one to every 49,000 of the population; and Glamorgan, with 235,000, was to have five Members—equal to one to every 47,000. From those figures it was plain there was great inequality, and that preference had been shown to Ireland and Wales; but he could quote another case in which inequality was even more palpable. The county of Armagh, in Ireland, might be compared with the county of Ayr, in Scotland. In 1881 Armagh had a population of 157,000. It was to get three Members, while Ayr, with a population of 162,864—more than 5,000 in excess of Armagh—was only to have two Members. The figures he had quoted were founded upon the Census of 1881; but when they went a little more minutely into the matter they found that the county of Armagh was rapidly decreasing in population, while the county of Ayr was rapidly increasing in population. The consequence was that before the Bill came into operation the county of Ayr would be in excess of population over Armagh by at least from 15,000 to 20,000, and yet the Scotch county was to have one Member less than the Irish county. The President of the Local Government Board said that in Scotland they must take the counties as a whole, and that, considering the number of sparsely-populated counties, if Lanark were to get a larger number of Members, Scotland would have, on the whole, an excess of representation. But was this the fact? He had taken the trouble to analyze the figures, and he found that under the provisions of the present Bill each county Member in Scotland represented a little over 54,000 constituents, while each county Member in Ireland represented a little under 52,000, and each county Member in Wales represented a little under 49,000. Therefore, whether they took particular cases, or whether they took the aggregate of county Members of each of these divisions, it was palpable that Ireland and Wales were treated very much more favourably than Scotland. He could understand the reasons why some of the minor countries might receive a larger share of representation than the population warranted. The Prime Minister had given distance as one reason for such a course, although he did not think there was very much in that. But when a great country and a small country were united together, the small country was very apt to be overborne, and there was a tendency to that in the case of Scotland. The Scotch Members were too meek and mild, and did not combine sufficiently in opposition to get the things they wanted; but this argument about a minor country receiving a larger representation than the numbers warranted must not be applied to one country and not to another. He admitted that one uniform principle of disfranchisement had been applied to all; but with regard to enfranchisement there was an evident partiality shown to Ireland and Wales. He protested against the political opportunism which gave Ireland more than its fair share because it was a very troublesome country. He also protested against the earmarking of the 12 seats to be given to Scotland, as if they were new seats in the case of Scotland, while, in regard to England, these were simply old seats revived. Scotland was entitled to this extra number of Members; but, by way of favour and partiality, Ireland was to have 11 more Members than her population entitled her to, and Wales 4 or 5. An hon. Member had said to him that when the Bill got into Committee, Scotland would not get those 12 extra Members. His reply was he could not believe such a thing, and if it took place he was inclined to say the people of Scotland would be prepared to secede from the Union. They ought to deal with the different portions of the country on a fair and uniform plan. He claimed one of two things,—either the division of the number of Members to the House between the different divisions of the Kingdom on the principle of population, or the application of equal rules of disfranchisement and enfranchisement to every division; and he supported the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite He thought the effect of its adoption would be to take away a certain number of Members from Ireland and Wales, to which they were not entitled.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the principle of Representation in proportion to Population should he adopted in place of arbitrary figures as a basis, in order to obtain a logical, judicious, and permanent settlement of the question of Redistribution of Seats,"—(Sir Henry Tyler,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that at the present stage of the Bill he desired merely to enter his protest against it, and to add one or two remarks as to what he considered would be its effect in Ireland. When the Franchise Bill was passing through the House last Session, several hon. Members on his side desired to exclude Ireland from its provisions on the ground that, in the present political and social state of that country, it would be highly dangerous to throw the whole power into the hands of the lowest, most ignorant, and most disaffected classes, and, further, that under the operation of household suffrage the peaceable, loyal, and well-affected minority, or over one-third, of the population of Ireland, would be almost entirely swamped and deprived of that share of political power which it was admitted ought to be accorded to them. But they were me t by the argument—"Oh, trust to the Redistribution Bill to be afterwards introduced, which will remedy nil that." Now, having scanned the provisions of the present Bill carefully, he utterly failed to discover any of the promised safeguards. On the contrary, he must say that the result of his examination had led him to the conclusion that if the object of the framers of the measure had been to annihilate the political power of the loyal and well-affected portion of the population, to completely destroy the influence of those who were anxious to maintain the integrity of the Union, they could not have devised a more effectual scheme for the purpose than that now before the House. He had always looked to the undivided representation of the great Protestant constituencies of Belfast, Down, Armagh, Antrim, and possibly Deny, to redress the disadvantage which the Loyal Party in other parts of Ireland must inevitably suffer; but the system of single-Member constituencies which was put forward as a protection for minorities would probably give the Nationalists a seat in each of these constituencies, while it would give no chance whatever to the minority of obtaining a seat in the three Provinces of Munster, Leinster, and Connaught. As the Nationalists had it practically all their own way in those three Provinces, they might be left to take care of themselves in Ulster, where they were the minority. Again, he protested against the absurd pedantry of fixing the line of disfranchisement for boroughs at 15,000 in Ireland simply because they applied that line to England and Scotland. The circumstances of England and Scotland were totally dissimilar from those of Ireland. If they applied that principle to Ireland, there would not be more than eight borough constituencies in that country that would in future return Members to Parliament. And if the Boundary Commission used the pruning knife, as they probably would do, the number would be reduced to seven, because Galway, if shorn of its rural area, would hardly come up to the required standard of population. Practically, therefore, the proposed Bill would reduce the Irish representation to one uniform level of county constituencies; whereas, if they had drawn the line of borough representation at 10,000 inhabitants, they would have to some extent rectified this inequality, and also have preserved three or four seats which would have returned to the House Representatives of the loyal minority to which he had alluded. Further, if the authors of the Bill were so enamoured of the principle of uniformity, why did they not apply it in its integrity? In Scotland and in Wales they left groups of boroughs which had answered very well. Why did they not extend grouping to Ireland? He had sat for many years as a Member for Enniskillen, one of the boroughs which would disappear under that Bill. He knew well the value of such towns in the Irish representative system, and he believed that by some judicious method of grouping in Ireland they might have maintained an element in their representation which was both necessary and dseirable. Another point to which he wished to refer was a somewhat painful one for an Irish Member to touch upon, nevertheless, he felt it his duty to draw the attention of the House to it. He meant the number of Members which it was proposed to leave to Ireland. Why, he would ask, when the representation was about to be thrown into the hands of the disloyal, did they propose at the same time to further favour the disloyal section by leaving Ireland a larger number of Members than she was entitled by her population? He knew he should be told that it would be dangerous to tamper with one of the Articles of the Union; but he thought that argument had been pretty well disposed of in 1869, when the House showed very little tenderness for what was called a fundamental and essential Article of the Union—he meant the maintenance of the Established Church in that country. But what had been the state of three-fourths of Ireland for the last five years? Had the conduct of its Representatives in that House been such, and was the prospect of an amelioration in it such as to entitle that country to exceptional favour at the hands of the House? If they accorded it that exceptional favour, and if the party of disorder were reinforced, as it was likely to be in the next Parliament, they would yet bitterly repent it. He did not ask for any vindictive measures, or that Ireland should be deprived of one seat to which she was fairly entitled; but, in justice to all the other parts of the United Kingdom, she ought not to have those exceptional privileges over them. He believed that the second reading of the Bill was not to be opposed. If it had been, he should have felt him- self bound to vote against it. Believing, however, as he did that the Bill would enormously decrease the forces of loyalty, order, and progress in Ireland, and that it would make a corresponding increase in those of sedition and disunion, and he feared he must add of dynamite and the dagger, he, for ones, hould take every opportunity in his power of protesting against it.


said, he should detain the House but a very few minutes, because, as he understood it, the discussion to-night was not really to be considered as a discussion upon the second reading, but rather as an extended discussion upon the first reading of the Bill. The real discussion in which they should be called upon to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with regard to the main principles and details of the Bill would be on the Motion, after the Recess, that the Speaker leave the Chair. He should that night only speak on the one point which had concentrated all the interest in Scotland at present. It had been admitted on both sides of the House by the introduction of this Bill that a large increase of Members for Scotland was a right; it was no longer a disputed claim. The Bill proposed that Scotland should have 12 additional Members. If that was not a very generous proposal, he thought most of them would be inclined to say that, at least, it was not inadequate; and he thought he might say for his Colleagues who represented Scotland, and he believed he might almost say for the people of Scotland, that they should be well satisfied with the 12 Members if Scotland got them. But the question was—from what source were these 12 Members to come? Different proposals had been made and suggested. There was one proposal that the principle of liberation, as the Prime Minister had called it, should be extended from the minimum of 15,000 to 20,000 or 25,000 inhabitants, and that the seats so liberated should be given to Scotland. Another proposal was that seats should be taken from the over-represented parts of the United Kingdom—he meant Ireland chiefly, and Wales—and that these should be given to the under-represented part of the United Kingdom—namely, Scotland. There was a third proposal—that the precedent of 1867 should be followed, and that there should be an Instruction to the Committee that certain constituencies should be named, and should be transferred from England or Wales or Ireland and given to Scotland. A fourth proposal had been made, the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) having stated that he would move an Instruction to the Committee that the University seats should be disfranchised, and that these should be transferred to Scot-laud. [General Sir GEORGE BALFOUR: Hear, hear!] He did not know what sympathy that Motion might meet with on the part of different Members; but, speaking for himself, he was bound to say that it did not much commend itself to his mind. He should be very sorry indeed that the whole of the University Representatives should be taken from the House, as he believed they added interest and colour to the House which they did not get from the existing constituencies, and could not get from the new constituencies about to be formed. Then there was a fifth proposal—the proposal in the Bill that there should be an addition of Members to the House. Well, he believed that in Scotland they should accept any of these proposals, provided they got their 12 Members. He was satisfied that they would not refuse the proposal of the Bill, and he supposed that the Scottish Members would be united in supporting the Government on that matter, provided they made it a really important and vital point of the measure. But the two Front Benches were not the only people to be considered in this matter. He was certain there would be a very strong feeling on the part of English Members that the numbers of the House should not be increased. It was quite possible the House might take this matter into its own hands, and defeat the proposed addition to its numbers; or the proposal might be defeated in the House of Lords, and where would the Scottish Members be? They would be left with their 60 Representatives, with not another Representative added, although it was admitted that they were entitled to a large increase of Members. The Prime Minister declined pointedly and determinedly to state what were to be the vital principles of the measure. No one would claim that the Prime Minister should state nominatim one by one what the vital principles were; but when a question was put to him upon a definite point, not by one Member or by a particular district, but by a whole nation—a nation to which the Prime Minister owed a great deal—when he was asked to assure the Scottish Members that it should be a vital point that they were to have their 12 Members, considering that this question affected a whole nation, he thought they might claim that on this point at least the Prime Minister should give them an answer. They were entitled to say that they should not have the go by in this matter; and the only manner in which they could secure this was by the Prime Minister, or one of his Colleagues in the Cabinet, assuring them that this should be considered a vital principle of the Bill. A question on this subject was asked on Monday by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan). The Prime Minister spoke in a cordial manner, but said this was not the time to state what were vital principles and what were not. When was the time? Was it now, or was it when they are going into Committee, or when they were in Committee, or when was it? There was considerable satisfaction in Scotland with regard to the Bill; but the satisfaction was mainly because it was printed in the Bill that they were to have 12 more Members. The hon. Member for Harwich (Sir Henry Tyler) had given a graphic and pathetic description of those who would have to pass the Speaker's Chair, with the words Morituri te salutamus! on their lips. No doubt he was speaking as one of those who, it was suggested, were to die. He felt a certain pang at his unexpected and violent liberation; but he hoped that these pangs would pass away with the Recess, and that, as a whole, even the doomed ones would not feel dissatisfaction with the Bill, provided, and provided only, they got some adequate assurance from some influential Member on the Front Bench that it should be a vital point that Scotland should get the Members given to it by this Bill. If they had that assurance, he believed there would be very little trouble given by Scottish Members in this matter; but if not, he could only say that he would raise the question on every stage of the Bill. If they got that assurance, they should be able to go down to Scotland with a clear conscience and say that this was a Bill which ought to have the warm support of the country.


said, he did not think that any hon. Gentleman on the Opposition side of the House had said a word in favour of the proposition raised by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney). This was not, he believed, because there were no Members on his own side of the House who were not in favour of the proposition. On the contrary, he understood that there were a large number of Members on the Opposition side who were in favour of it. The Prime Minister, in dealing with the question raised by the hon. Member for Liskeard, appeared to him to touch very lightly on the points raised. It seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman passed over the question in a joking kind of way, and threw a certain amount of ridicule on the subject which amused the House very much. When the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was considered, however, he thought it would be difficult to find in it any argument which had been brought forward against the proposal. He was of opinion that the mode of voting advocated by the hon. Gentleman was as simple as the mode of voting in use at the present time. There might be some difficulty in the counting of the votes or in the allocation of the votes to the candidate, but surely there could be no difficulty in finding persons sufficiently educated to do this kind of work. He thought they were bound to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the Leaders of the Government and to the Leaders of the Opposition for the patriotic manner in which they had saved the House and the country from a grave Constitutional crisis. Four or five gentlemen meeting together could not, in the course of a few days, find out every possible complexity that might arise. They had submitted to Parliament a foundation on which Members of Parliament could build a good system of representation. The Prime Minister, however, stated that the House of Commons, notwithstanding the circumstances under which the Bill came before it, had the fullest liberty in regard to it. If the Bill had proposed a uniform system of representation, it might have been more difficult to ask the House to alter it; but this was not a uniform system. Whereas the greater part of the country was to be split up into single-Member districts, certain boroughs were still undividedly to retain two Members. He trusted that there might be such a concensus of opinion in favour of minority representation that the Government would be inclined to give to that proposal a very favourable consideration. If the old system of three-cornered constituencies had been further developed, the demand for minority representation might have been made with less force. But they were to be entirely abolished. His hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) had consulted the Members returned by three-cornered constituencies as to its working, and the greater proportion of them spoke favourably of it. He know that it worked well in Berkshire, which now returned two Conservatives and one Liberal. If this Bill came into operation as now drafted, he had been informed by persons acquainted with that county, that Berkshire would certainly not return another Liberal. One of the great drawbacks of the present system was the undue preponderance which it gave to a small majority. Thus, it appeared that at the General Election of 1874 in Great Britain, there were 978,000 votes polled for the Conservative Party, and 921,000 for the Liberals. Yet the number of Conservative Members returned was 312, as against 230 Liberals, or a majority of 82, which was 72 more than the Conservatives were entitled to on the proportion of votes. In 1880 there were 325,000 Liberal votes, and 208,000 Conservative, and the Liberals had a majority of 127 Members, or 89 more than they were entitled to. He objected to the division of the large towns into wards, and it appeared that the large towns themselves were not likely to be satisfied. Manchester, at any rate, did not at all care for the proposal. He believed the Prime Minister had made an honest endeavour to get some form of minority representation; but it was a rough and ready form. In his opinion, the scheme for the division of constituencies into wards was a leap in the dark. They had had no experience of any such plan, and they might find that its effects would be directly contrary to what was anticipated. The Prime Minister had said that one-Member constituencies had returned some of the ornaments of the House. But one-Member constituencies were very different to the separate divisions of one great town. There was another point he wished to mention, and that was that this system of single-Member wards was likely very much to reinforce the Party of the hon. Gentleman who sat below the Gangway on the Opposition side of the House; and he thought that ought to have the serious consideration of the House and of Her Majesty's Government. Although those who were in favour of the proposition for minority representation did not propose to go to a Division on the present occasion, they were determined to press the matter on the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and he trusted the Government would give their favourable consideration to the proposition. They were going to have a somewhat lengthened Recess, and if the country had not made up its mind with regard to the question of proportional representation it would have an opportunity of doing so by the time Parliament again met on the 19th of February. If there was such great difficulty in driving so simple a proposition into the minds of the electors of this country—although Members of that House admitted to him they could not understand it—then he did not think they were persons to be intrusted with an extension of the franchise. Those who thought with him, and he himself, were determined to press forward the suggestion of the hon. Member for Liskeard, and every endeavour would be made in the course of the Recess so to educate the people of the country that they would look with a favourable eye on the proposition for minority representation.


said, he wished to make a personal explanation, not so much on his own account as on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote). He had heard that evening with the greatest possible surprise that a story had got about with respect to the division of the large towns which would lead to the inference that the right hon. Gentleman had committed an unwarrantable breach of confidence in betraying to him the communications that had passed between the Leaders of the Opposition and Members of Her Majesty's Government. He did not know how such a story could have originated, nor should he care in the least what anybody said about himself; but he thought the House would see that if he did not take the first opportunity in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman utterly and flatly to deny the truth of that charge, it would be thought that the right hon. Gentleman had committed such a breach of confidence. All he wished to say was that he never had the smallest idea what the scheme of the Government was going to be, and, as far as he was concerned, he was entirely guiltless in the matter.


said, he feared that, under the proposed scheme of redistribution, a class of persons whose presence in the House of Commons he considered desirable would have scant opportunity of finding a seat. He alluded to civil and military officials who had done good service abroad—Consols, Colonial Governors, Ministers—and also men of learning and science, many classes, whose knowledge and experience would be very valuable in Parliamentary debate, who would not wish to inhabit a large town or its immediate vicinity, and would not become known in those communities which were so largely favoured by the Bill. He was glad that they would have ample time to consider how the different portions of this Bill would affect their constituents, and to ascertain the opinion of the electors upon it. He would suggest to Her Majesty's Government the advisability of acquiring between this and the Committee stage full information as to the single-Member system abroad.


said, that in the earlier years of this Parliament, when he had the honour of suggesting to the House the limit of 50,000 population, and also that the divisions of counties should be named by the names of boroughs associated with their local history, he was not confident that the present stage of Parliamentary Reform could be disposed of by this Parliament. He then thought there would be a waste of three or four years in barren conflict on the subject between the two great Parties in the State. When an independent Member had a strong conviction on this subject, he should not hesitate to acknowledge that if within the span of this Parliament there was a measurable prospect of a settlement they were, first of all, in debted to the profound wisdom and statesmanship of the Prime Minister in determining and in adhering to his method of procedure. The House of Commons had declared in favour of that method, and the Prime Minister had not swerved from it in the slightest degree. He regretted that the interviews between the Government and the Opposition had been so ostentatious; he believed such proceedings had been much more common than was generally supposed, and he did not condemn any reasonable desire or efforts for accord in the presentation of a Bill. He had no doubt that the Prime Minister would have received suggestions for a Conference from any quarter of the House. Passing to the Bill itself, there were three salient points on which he wished to offer a few observations. The first was that upon which the Prime Minister justified the introduction of the Bill—namely, "the gross anomalies still remaining in our representative system." He would not deal with those which were removed by the Bill, but with those which would remain if the Bill should pass into law. The Prime Minister carried the House with him entirely when he said that the scheme of the Government would have reasonable regard to the maintenance of communities; but if the continuity of undivided existence was to end in the case of constituencies like Manchester and Salford, what reason could there be for retaining 16 communities in England with separate representation and under 20,000 population? Where was the principle in bidding the House to look upon the figure 54,200 as the pivot of redistribution, and to sacrifice the unity of the most active municipal life in the country, while in the same breath it was declared that 16 English boroughs, with an average of about 17,000 population, were to be maintained? That was the most atrocious anomaly of the Bill and had not a rag of justification to cover its naked absurdity. He now came to the second anomaly. In the county of Lancaster it was proposed that the townsmen of Salford as well as the citizens of Manchester and Liverpool should have but one vote; but in other Lancastrian boroughs, and notably in Oldham, which was second to Salford in the rate of increase of population since the last Census, every townsman would have two votes. Legislation of that kind could have no finality. He felt confident that the proposal of the Government to increase the number of the House by 12 Members— to a total of 670—would not be sanctioned by the House. In 1866 the present Prime Minister said— The House would be disinclined to add to its numbers because, if the proposal to increase were once assented to, it would be difficult to resist the continual intrusion of new places. That, he thought, would prove a conclusive argument with the House against acceptance of this part of the Bill, especially as the anomalous preservation of 16 English boroughs with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants presented the means of providing extra seats for Scotland. In 1866 the Prime Minister suggested that "England out of its abundance should minister somewhat to the poverty of Scotland;" and he felt sure it would be better that she should do so in 1885 than that the already enormous number of the House should be increased. So far from agreeing with the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire (Mr. Craig-Sellar) in wishing that the Government should make this a vital point, he was gratified to learn from the Conservative meeting that the increase of the present number of Members was not to be considered a vital point in the Bill. He regretted that the Bill did not deal with the anomaly of University representation. He hoped that it would be altered so that in future there might be no dual representation of any University. If there was any principle in the Bill, why was it not applied to the University of Oxford with 5,382 electors, to Cambridge with 6,458, and to Dublin with 4,074? Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities had each as many electors as Cambridge, and but one Member apiece. He should ask the House to adopt a principle in this matter, confident that if there was any valid claim for academic representation it would be found most efficient where the Universities each returned a single Member. He now came to the last and most difficult point—namely, the sub-division of the great boroughs. He had felt in the four years during which he had sat in that House that the representation of nearly 200,000 of his fellow-countrymen was the highest honour he could ever hope to attain. Was a Bill which would deprive him and others for ever of such an honour justifiable? Hon. Members in his part of the House, who represented millions, while other equal sections of the House represented hundreds or even only tens of thousands, had always contended that any equitable scheme of redistribution must give a large increase of Members to the great towns. He had often mentioned the figures six and three, for Manchester and Salford respectively, as representing the fair acquittance of their claims. He acknowledged with hearty thanks that the Government had in this Bill satisfied the demands of those who shared his views in respect to the number of Members. He had a certain degree of preference even in the return of six Members for what was termed scrutin de liste, or the return of the whole number by a majority in the case of each candidate—for, in fact, retaining the present mode of election. This would lead to diversity of representation, for in no great community would it be possible to obtain the united support of either Party for any six or three candidates that could be selected. But he acknowledged that this system was costly and inconvenient unless some other arrangement could be made for filling vacancies occurring by death, resignation, or the acceptance of Office. The House was, therefore, forced to consider the alternative of some plan of subdivision, or some plan of proportional representation, which, however, did not necessarily exclude the plan of subdivision. In France there was a rule that every constituency must consist of 100,000 people; and if he were drafting a new Constitution there would, perhaps, appear many good reasons for limiting the number of the House of Commons to about 350, with single-Member constituencies of that magnitude. The great constituencies alone had been free from corruption. A Member representing a large constituency always felt confident that his political action would be judged upon broad grounds. He could not but feel that this comfortable assurance was endangered by the system which it was proposed to adopt. Experience taught that there was danger of corruption in constituencies with fewer than 6,000 electors. It was proposed to sub-divide our great towns into constituencies just above that level, for a constituency of 54,200—the Prime Minister's figure—would contain, roughly speaking, about 6,000 electors. He could not face the prospect without some misgiving. When, in 1882 and 1883, he spoke at length in that House upon that figure of about 50,000, he did not argue for the subdivision of large communities, but that no constituency should contain a smaller population. Everyone must, however, admit that the reasons which, 600 years ago, led to the two-Member system, when Members of Parliament were corroborating witnesses, not Representatives, had passed away, and that there were distinct and peculiar advantages in the single-Member system, as there were also in the dual system. The Prime Minister had referred to Cobden's opinion in favour of this plan. But in his well-known letter Cobden made no mention of constituencies smaller than 10,000 electors. The proposals of the Government would give increased force to the recommendations of proportional representation. That plan would be fully considered during the Recess. Mr. Fawcett once said that the three-cornered system in great towns was "a cloud" upon the fortunes of proportional representation. That cloud had been removed by the Bill of the Government. But Mrs. Fawcett, writing in conjunction with her lamented husband upon this subject, said of Mr. Hare's scheme— It is not too much to say that some method must he contrived for removing the uncertainty as to the second vote before Mr. Hare's plan can be applied in practice. In that opinion he entirely concurred. He did not see that that uncertainty had been in any manner removed. Then it was to be considered that proportional representation, equally with election of the whole number of Members by a bare majority, made no provision for what were known as bye-elections; and the people would have to consider whether they could approve of a new method of election applied only in certain parts of the country. He had endeavoured to show that there were grave objections to the proposals of the Government; but because they were all sensible that there was so much in the Bill that they were not disposed hastily to part with, not only did they raise no objection to the second reading, but he was sure that they would part, after the second reading had been adopted, with a strong and confident hope that in the early part of next year this Bill might, by their united efforts, be fashioned into even a yet more complete and satisfactory reform of the representation of the people.


said, he entirely agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down that there were many grave objections to the measure of Her Majesty's Government. He (Mr. Chaplin) was one of those who viewed with much dislike the Bill and the means to which they were informed it owed its birth; and he should be glad if the House would allow him to make a few observations. His observations, however, must be necessarily brief, because, within the limited time at their disposal, it was impossible for him or for anyone to form as critical and accurate an estimate of its probable effect upon the destinies of the country as one would desire to arrive at before addressing the House on the subject. He regretted above everything what seemed to him the unseemly haste with which the second reading had been pressed upon the House. It was not very long ago that a distinguished Member of the present Government, a Cabinet Minister, and one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, described the measure of the Government in relation to this subject as one of the greatest revolutions which the country had ever seen, or was likely to see for many years. The right hon. Gentleman was probably not much mistaken as to the consequences of this measure. He had himself, since his entrance into Parliament, been a witness of many important measures; but not one of them would compare for a single instant with this Bill in the extreme gravity and importance of the effects which it would have upon the future of the country. And yet in their case, one and all, it was invariably agreed by the Leader of the Government then, who was the Leader of the Government now, and by the Leader of the Opposition at that time, who was Mr. Disraeli, that it was right, imperative, and absolutely necessary that the House of Commons should have adequate and even ample time for the consideration of those measures before it was committed to their principles. With respect to this measure, however, which from its very nature must be of a peculiarly intricate and complicated character, which must influence the fortunes of the country, and re-settle its Constitution, or ought to do so, for a generation at least, and which he should have thought would be of special interest to every Member of that House, they were asked and expected by the Government to read it a second time almost at a moment's notice, and within 48 hours after the Bill had been placed in their hands. And that was done with the perfect acquiescence of the Leaders of the Opposition, and apparently of the majority of the House. He supposed that the approach of the Christmas holidays had a great deal to answer for on this occasion, because the thoughts of Members were naturally directed to far happier and more pleasing scenes than discussions in the House of Commons; but these considerations ought not to account for the conduct of the Government and the Leaders of the Opposition. He had wondered what could have been the motive of this unprecedented hurry; but he ceased to wonder since looking into the particulars of the Bill. He was strongly of opinion that unless the second reading had been taken at a time when it was manifestly impossible for the House, as a whole, to grasp the real meaning and effect of the Bill, it would, if not obnoxious to the whole House, have met with a very different reception at the hands of the Conservative Party as a whole from what it was likely to meet with to-night. The Government had told them over and over again that the main object and principle of their measures in connection with Reform was the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourer in the counties. How was that to be accomplished? He found upon reference to the Bill that there were 150 towns in England with a population which varied between 15,000 and 50,000. Of these 150 towns, 79 were boroughs having their own Representatives, and they would retain their Members; but the remaining 71, with a population which he believed he considerably under-estimated when he said it amounted to 1,500,000, were chucked straight into the counties, without any adequate provision whatsoever for the separation of the rural and urban interests. He would give the House a single illustration of what he meant, and he did not doubt that others could be found if time permitted. The county of Stafford now had 19 borough Members; under the new Bill it would have 17. Its six county Members would, under the new Bill, be increased to seven; but how would they be elected? They would be elected not only by the extended household franchise in the counties, but by the household franchise in the following towns:—Lichfield, with a population, in round numbers, of 8,000; Tamworth, 14,000; Audley, 11,000; Brierly Hill, 11,000; Brownhills, 11,000; Burton, 39,000; Cannock, 13,000; Handsworth, 32,000; Leek, 12,000; Rowley Regis, 27,000; Smethwick, 25,000, or a total of 208,000 inhabitants. The whole population of the county, excluding the boroughs that would still exist, was 411,300; and therefore 200,968, or just half that number from whom the voters were to be taken to return the county Members, would not be rural, but strictly urban, in their character. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite said "Hear, hear!" He quite understood that cheer. They naturally rejoiced because that would, happen of which he was afraid, and which they desired, that the agricultural labourer would be swamped, and the new vote which was to be given to him overruled by urban votes, a state of things which he had always understood it was the policy of the Conservative Party to prevent. Hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side were taunted with their new conversion to the cause of the agricultural labourer. So far as he was concerned, he denied that there had been any conversion whatsoever. ["Oh!"] An hon. Gentleman said "Oh!" but when he (Mr. Chaplin) first stood as candidate for a seat in that House he was asked to state his views with regard to the extension of the suffrage to the rural population. He said then exactly what he should say now—that, although he thought it most unwise for any country to be perpetually tampering with its Constitution, yet, as household suffrage had once been conceded in the boroughs, it was impossible to withhold it for any lengthened period from the counties, and it was only a question of expediency as to the time at which it should be granted. Upon the question of expediency of time he would not dwell. It was sufficient to say that in the condition of Ireland—a condition which was sufficiently attested by the devilish and dastardly outrage committed only a few days ago on the home and family of Mr. Hussey, and with the present condition of affairs at home and abroad, he had always looked upon it as little short of a political crime on the part of a Minister of the Crown to raise this controversy at such a time. But having raised it, it was the business of the Government to make the new vote a reality, and not a sham, and to have placed before the House provisions for a just separation of urban from agricultural districts. But on this subject the Government had told the House nothing whatever, except as to some hazy instructions which had been given to the Boundary Commissioners, who themselves were bound by certain geographical considerations, and whose recommendations, no matter how distasteful they might be, were to be subject, with the consent of the Government, to no alteration whatever. Then, one of the chief merits claimed for the Bill was finality. He did not see how any measure could possibly be final which, like this, was full of anomalies from beginning to end. If finality was wanted, care should have been taken that votes should have approximated to something like an equal value. The Bill was full of anomalies. He would give the House a few instances which he had found on a most cursory search. The borough of Bedford, with 19,000 inhabitants, was to return one Member, while Luton, which was much larger, was to be a part of the county. The county of Bedford had 129,000 inhabitants and returned two Members—one for every 65,000—whilst the borough of Bedford had one for 19,000. Birkenhead, with 84,000, had one Member; Stockport, with 59,000, two Members. Macclesfield, with a population of 37,000, was to have no separate representation, because it was corrupt; while Chester, which was equally corrupt, was to retain a Member. Then Pontefract, with 15,000 population, was to retain a Member; while Burton-on-Trent, with 40,000, Rotherham, with 35,000, Gorton, with 33,000, and Aberdare, with 33,000, were to have none. So he might go on ad infinitum exposing the extraordinary anomalies of the Bill. A great deal had been said on the subject of single seats, and if that system did afford any kind of representation to minorities it would be better than nothing at all; but upon its merits, as applied to large boroughs, he absolutely detested it. There was something to be said for it in the counties on the ground of convenience and practical work. There it was probably a necessity; but no reason of that kind could be given for the application of the single-seat system to the large boroughs. He believed its effect would be most pernicious to the standard of our public life; and, to coin a phrase, it would vestrify the House of Commons. He had often thought that there were already too many elements of the vestry in that Assembly. The system seemed to him to be calculated to destroy all esprit de corps, and what he might describe as the public and the corporate spirit of those great communities. Divided as the large towns would be, into wards, the spirit of the vestry would be dominant among them; and they would fall into the hands of the local wire-pullers, who would be nothing but agents and creatures of the Caucus, whose petty objects and private ends would become their chief and principal aims. The House would perceive that upon the grounds which he had stated—and they were by no means complete on account of the limited time that had been given for its consideration—this measure did not commend itself much to his approval. The Bill was full of anomalies from beginning to end; and finality, in his opinion, was out of the question altogether. He objected altogether to the system of single seats as applied to the large boroughs of the country, and believed that a general hostility to the Bill was growing from day to day. But what was the position of- the Conservative Party with regard to it, and what was the position of the House of Commons? If he spoke with perfect sincerity he should offer his most humble congratulations to the Prime Minister, for never on any occasion had he seen the victory of a Minister more triumphant, or the rout of his opponents more complete. They heard a good deal during the Recess about the iniquity of a Government seeking to pass a Bill for Redistribution under the pressure of a Franchise Bill already passed into law. He remembered the brilliant and unanswerable manner in which Lord Salisbury vindicated the rights of Parliament to a free and independent judgment in this matter. But, alas, "How are the mighty fallen!" It was lite- rally, the truth that as far as their position in Parliament was concerned, the position they occupied then was precisely the position which they so bitterly denounced before. [An hon. MEMBER: Not at all.] He apologized to the hon. Member. There was a difference, and that was that the rope which was round their necks—which he seemed himself to feel already—was being pulled and tugged at by Lord Salisbury and the Leader of the Opposition in conjunction with the Government, instead of by the Government alone. He hoped, however, that the House of Commons would determine to vindicate the freedom and independence of Parliament, and would not submit blindfold to secret arrangements made behind its back, whatever might be the secret understandings and the pledges so carefully concealed, with reference to which he had failed to elicit the slightest information from the Prime Minister tonight. Whatever their secret understanding might be, he hoped the House of Commons would refuse to pass this measure in its present shape—a measure which he believed to be utterly unfair to our labouring population, injurious to the rural interests in the counties, degrading to our public life in the great towns and centres of industry in the Kingdom, and which he was honestly convinced would be detrimental to the best interests of the community at large.


I must really offer my heartfelt condolences to the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Chaplin), because I am sure it must be an exceedingly painful position for the hon. Member to feel that rope round his neck to which he has made such an eloquent illusion, and to know that one end of it is in the hands of the Leaders of his own Party. I did not see, when he sat down, that any right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench made any sign of rising to reply to him, or else I should have waited with patience, in order to see what reply could be made to his observations. I may also say that I greatly regret the absence to-day from the House of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and especially the cause of it—namely, his indisposition, which we must all be sorry for. I am not sure that he might not have felt it to be his duty, if he could have been present, to have risen to move the second reading of this Bill. But, in his absence, I should have thought that his duty in that respect might have been very fairly and ably discharged by the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners), who might have expressed to us his satisfaction at the result of those private conferences, which he denounced so eloquently and with so much earnestness a few days before they took place. There is one point on which I entirely agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down. I do not think that a certain amount of debate on this Bill at this stage is thrown away. It has been stated that the debating of the measure at the present stage is rather discouraged by Her Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister himself has said that there is no practical issue before us; but, in my opinion, we have a Bill before us of a magnitude and scope, and marked by general features bearing on the future Legislature of this country, such as have not characterized any Bill which has been introduced into the House of Commons since the great Reform Bill of 1832. I do not think, looking at the magnitude of this measure—a measure as great as, or possibly greater, in its effect upon the future of the country, than the Bill of 1832—that it would have been right that there should have been an absence of debate in this House on the present occasion, even before we broke up for the Recess. No doubt the time is short, and our information is incomplete, and any discussion on the question must necessarily be conducted under great disadvantages; but if we were to pass the measure at this, its most important stage, without any discussion whatever, and without giving some indication to the public of our views, the House of Commons would not, in my opinion, be discharging its duty to the constituencies. I do not think that we should be doing right in separating for some two months or more if the Members of this House, in their places, did not express some opinion with regard to the great principles of this Bill—principles involving the future efficiency of the House of Commons—and if we were to leave the whole discussion with regard to those principles to the local political organizations, to the platform, and to the Press. It is our duty to see that the wishes of the different localities and communities are attended to; but we have a duty beyond and besides that—namely, to see that we pass a Bill which will send to this place an efficient Parliament, capable of battling with the increased business that must necessarily come before us. These are points with regard to which the Members of the House of Commons are competent to give, and, in my opinion, ought to give, an opinion. Therefore, in my judgment, those who interpose in this debate at this stage of the Bill ought not to be thought to be speaking at an inconvenient time, when they are really only discharging their duty to the country by endeavouring to throw some light upon this measure, the magnitude of which all of us must be prepared to admit. And, looking at the matter from that point of view, I hope the House will allow me to say a few words. While the Leaders on both sides of the House are agreed, in the main, with regard to the leading features of the Bill, there are many points of detail in it which I think should be left freely to the judgment of the House. For my own part, I deprecate the many questions which have been put to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as to what he considers are vital portions of the Bill, and I hope that in reference to those questions he will commit himself as little as he possibly can. I hope, further, that there will be that confidence in the interchange of opinion between the Leaders of both Parties as may enable their followers on both sides of the House freely to discuss the details of the Bill; and I trust that they will not present the measure to us, as the hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Chaplin) remarked, with a rope round our necks, but that we shall be allowed to discuss it with the feeling that Party influences have been, to a great extent, removed by the joint authorship of the measure, and that, therefore, the free judgment of the House of Commons may be taken upon this, one of the most important measures that has ever been submitted to Parliament. There are, of course, parts of this Bill which doubtless must be considered as vital, and I do not say that Her Majesty's Government would not be right to declare that the entire disfranchisement of boroughs up to a certain line of population, and the partial disfranchisement of other constituencies up to another line, and a large enfranchisement of others, and an increase of representation to be given to others, are vital points in the Bill. For my own part, I say let the Bill be large, let it be even sweeping, let its lines of disfranchisement and of enfranchisement be drawn boldly; but when we go beyond that, and when we come to the questions of increasing the numbers of this House, and as to how the seats to be gained by disfranchisement are to be distributed, and as to how the voting is to take place, we ought not to be worse off in discussing such points of detail than if no arrangement between the two sides had been made; and I am sure from the tone of the Prime Minister's observation we are not to be coerced into accepting any preconceived settlement, even if it may have been agreed upon by the responsible Leaders on both sides of the House. Let us look, for a moment, at this proposal to increase the number of the Members of the House. I cannot help congratulating Her Majesty's Government upon having hit, by a most extraordinary piece of luck, and by a most curious coincidence, upon certain lines of disfranchisement and enfranchisement, the application of which particular principles to those two portions of the United Kingdom, Wales and Ireland, leave them in precisely the same position, as regards representation, as that in which they stood before this Bill was introduced—neither of them is to have one Member more, nor is to have one Member less. Difficulties might doubtless have been expected to arise; but so fortunate was the line which the joint authors of this measure struck that when they determined to adopt it, they found, to their great surprise, no doubt, but to their great gratification, that Ireland would be entitled under it to 103 Members, as she is now. The only fault that I can find with the arrangement is that the Government did not take the total number of Members of this House as they stand, and divide them fairly between the different portions of the United Kingdom. It is a decided flaw in the measure that it involves an addition of 12 Members to the numbers of the House, though I frankly admit that the claim of Scotland to additional representation has been, made out. It appears to me that any increase at all in the number of Members of this House is a critical point. As we substitute, in the future, for the disfranchised places, centres of great political activity, there will probably be an increase in the number of those who will desire to take a part in the discussions in this House, which will still further increase the difficulties with which we have at present to contend in carrying on the Business of the country. With regard to the disfranchisement of the smaller boroughs, while I should certainly not oppose the line which has been agreed upon, it is a singular circumstance that the line which, according to our information, had been drawn by the Liberal Government—namely, 10,000 for the boroughs returning single Members, and 40,000 for the boroughs returning two Members, should have been raised, in concert with the Conservative Party, to 15,000 for the one set of boroughs, and 50,000 for the other set. That is a point upon which I should like to have heard the views of the Front Opposition Bench. But there is another point in this Bill to which I should like to call attention. Even in the next list you will find that boroughs between 50,000 and 165,000 have been far less favourably treated than the very big towns above 165,000. Now, I ask—although this is a matter on which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are more entitled to speak than I am—is this a Conservative move? I am not sure that there is not sometimes a tendency among hon. Members opposite to look rather how they may get Conservative votes than how they can maintain Conservative principles. I am now referring to those boroughs which are disfranchised—I do not say by the action of the Conservative Party or their Leaders, because I know nothing of the negotiations that have taken place—but which were not before to be disfranchised, but? which have been disfranchised by the joint labours of the two sides. We have been informed by the Prime Minister that no one who might have listened at the door would have known which was the magistrate and which the thief. I can quite understand that no one who had listened would have known which was the Conservative and which the Liberal. But in disfranchising, or partially disfranchising, such towns as Oxford, Cam- bridge, Exeter, and Worcester—towns whore there must be some Conservative force, although they may return Liberals—and transferring the Members for those cities to such places as Bethnal Green, Rotherhithe, and Battersea. [An hon. MEMBER: The Strand.] Well, the Strand may possibly be Conservative; but I trust that hon. Members opposite will do me the favour to listen seriously to this argument, because I think there is more in it than may strike them at first sight. I say that in such a transfer of Members the Conservatives, from their own point of view, will be committing a great error by neglecting the great forces of the middle classes of this country. They may disfranchise towns which now send Liberal Members in order to enfranchise places which may support advocates of the Tory democracy. If they have studied the addresses and speeches of such able men as Mr. M'Alister, who recently contested Hackney, they will understand what I mean. It appears to me that it is not sound Conservative policy to remove power from a certain number of boroughs which stand between the small boroughs and the very large boroughs, in order to concentrate power even on the Tory democracy of the large towns. I should like to make one observation upon the towns between 50,000—the line where a borough commences to be entitled to dual representation—and 165,000, which is the line where the large towns begin to have additional representation. Now, I admit that I am speaking without accurate information, and lam, therefore, throwing this out simply for information from those who understand these electoral questions better than I do; but I cannot help thinking that I have established, on the present information, that towns between 50,000 and 165,000 have been somewhat badly treated as compared with some very large towns above that line, and that the tendency has rather been to give Members to the very large towns, some 15 in number, than to distribute more equally among other towns the Members which will be gained from the small communities. There are three towns which I will take—Oldham, Newcastle, and Stoke-on-Trent—each having a population of about 150,000 and having a population of 450,000 together. They have six Members, and will still con- tinue to have six Members. Then take Sheffield and Birmingham. Birmingham has at present about 400,000, and, with the constituency which will be added by the contemplated change of boundaries, may have about 450,000. Birmingham will have seven Members, with the same population as these three towns, which will only have six. That appears to me an error in policy, unless it can be explained. Then take two of these towns—Oldham and Newcastle. They will have four Members, with a population of 300,000; while Sheffield, with 285,000, will have five allotted to it under the Government scheme, though its population is 15,000 less. I should have thought that when you have to deal with increasing limits of population you ought not to concentrate more and more Members upon the very largest towns. I should have thought that it was undesirable that there should be seven towns, including the Metropolis, returning 100 Members to this House. I saw somewhere, this morning, in reference to the Proportional Representation Society, that the new system only applied to 17 towns. But when you have 17 towns and they receive nine, seven, six, and five Members apiece, having in the aggregate such an enormous number of Members, it is a matter of the utmost importance to see how this aggregate of Members acting for places of enormous importance, yet similar in character, and in a position in which they will be able to vote together, will be moved in their political course. How is that question to be dealt with? That leads me to the last point with which I wish to trouble the House. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has in many ways acted up to those principles which he laid down even before he came into contact with the Radical tendencies of the Conservatives, who have joined him in framing this Bill. There are, however, some points on which we see a departure from the principles which my right hon. Friend laid down. He has approached nearer to that numerical representation of the big towns than at one time we had reason to suppose he would. He has acted in the direction of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), from whom he seemed to differ at the time; and, on the other hand, he has departed, I am sorry to say, on one essential point from one principle which it appeared to me he was anxious to act up to, and that is the continued representation of communities. The community is that which has hitherto been represented in this House, and when we come to the sub-division of the big towns we seem to me to be departing from that principle. When the Conservatives joined with my right hon. Friend in cutting down the representation of the small communities which have a small population less than 15,000 they were acting in a manner to which all the Parties in this House practically were pledged. Those communities could evidently not be preserved. I rejoice to say that in one respect the Bill is very satisfactory—that in regard to the large number of boroughs which exist having between 50,000 and 165,000 inhabitants, the principle of the community has still been preserved. But above that limit, and in the counties, the principle of the community has more or less been abandoned. And there, I think, we ought to lay to heart, to a great extent, much that fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) in his most able speech this evening. The House may, or may not, agree with the particular application of his principles; but in his picture of the danger arising from the abandonment of the community as the body to send Members to this House, I believe my hon. Friend had with him the sympathies of a great portion of this House. I entirely agree with the Prime Minister that there are difficulties upon every side. There are difficulties which we must set ourselves in as harmonious a spirit as we possibly can, and I trust without introducing Party spirit in the least, to overcome. But the danger of this system of abandoning the community is one which I should wish the country to well consider in the interval which will elapse between the second reading of this Bill and our next meeting in February next. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister mainly answered my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) on the general principle of single-Member constituencies. Now, I confess I do not see the great objection to single-Member constituencies, provided that a single-Member constituency represents a community by itself. But it is one principle to assign a single Member to a community which exists as an entity, and still more if it has always existed as an historical entity, and it is a very different principle to cut the Metropolis into 60 equal portions, and to say that every slice of the Metropolis is to send a Member to this House. That is a totally different thing. Let us, whatever our opinions may be, endeavour to see this matter clearly in all its bearings. Supposing you have a county which is not a community in itself, I can conceive that, for the sake of geographical convenience, there is no objection to dividing it into so many divisions. There is no corporate existence in a division of a county. There is, indeed, a Parliamentary tradition, and I am surprised to see with what readiness the existing two-Member condition of the county is to be abandoned—if it is to be abandoned—by the Party opposite. But still there is a great distinction. In a county which sends one Member—in that slioe of a county which you are going to make—the probability is that, at all events, you will find representatives of various classes of the community. You will find landlords, farmers, tradesmen, and agricultural labourers. They will all be in one division. But look at the division of the towns as it is drawn in the Bill and in the Schedules, and you will see that there you may have that which we have not yet had in this country, and that which I hope we shall not strive to arrive at in this country—namely, constituencies composed almost exclusively of one class. It has been the strength of this Constitution and the glory of English politics that in electoral contests the master and his servant, the manufacturer and his foreman and his factory hands, have served on the same Committees, have voted for the same candidates, have canvassed for the same men, and have influenced each other's opinions, not only at the time of election, but they have had their political education by the combination of all classes together. And are we to change that in our great towns? Are we to have representatives of the Proletariat in the East End of London and of the rich districts in the West? Are we to have a Member for St. George's-in-the-East and a Member for St. George's, Hanover Square? I admit that all classes must be represented; but I should wish them to be represented by still remaining to- gether and fighting out their differences between themselves, each man being secured a chance of representing his own interests—by some such means, if necessary, as those which have been sketched by my hon. Friend. It may be said that that is difficult to arrive at; but the object is well worth the trouble, and in the Recess all men should attempt to arrive at something which, if it is not equivalent to that which I was sorry to hear the Prime Minister call the pons asinorum, at all events may be a mode of solving this difficult question. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke with satisfaction of the single-Member system, which exists in all other countries, in our Colonies, and in America. My hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) dissented from that expression of satisfaction. But I would ask the House, and I would ask the country—Are the conditions the same? They would be the same if this question were mainly a question of areas in the counties where you have men following the same pursuits and living under the same conditions. But it is a peculiarity of the Metropolis and of the big towns, which is only shared in a slight degree by other cities, that there is a separation of classes by localities; and geographically you have enormous differences in our big towns in England. It will be said that the big towns on the Continent have these differences also, and that they have this geographical separation. But what is the result? Are the Parisians satisfied with the representation of Paris? Should we be content in this Metropolis that its Representatives should be regarded in the future in the same light as the Representatives of Paris returned upon the single-Member system? I might ask the same question as to Germany. Are the people of Berlin satisfied with the mode of voting there? The cutting-up of big towns into single-Member districts has nowhere been a success. The result has been that these great towns, although they have been prominent in the politics of the country, have not redeemed their position as intelligent capitals of the countries in which that system prevails. I trust the House will forgive me for having touched on this point at this stage; but it may be too late afterwards, unless it is now understood what are the issues involved. I have listened to the able argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard on the question whether single-Member constituencies would send better or worse Representatives to this House; and I would wish to add to what he said, that if these constituencies send even the same class of men to this House, they will send them here in a different character and under a different bond. Let us beware that the single-Member constituencies do not develop into one-class constituencies whose Members will come here feeling themselves responsible, not to the whole people of the country, but to the particular class living in the district by which they are returned. The Prime Minister spoke of the single-ward system as applied to municipalities; but surely that is a very different thing. And even in that respect, notwithstanding the success of our municipal life, I do not know how far it can be traced to the single-ward system. It is precisely because we do not wish simply to resemble the municipalities, great as they have been in serving their country—it is because we must shake off the idea of simply representing particular wards, and remember that there are great historical communities which have to be represented in the House of Commons—it is for that reason that we must weigh seriously the proposals which are embodied in this Bill. It is not against the Bill as a whole that I wish to raise my voice. I see that the Bill is necessary, and that in many respects its provisions are wise. I would wish to conclude, as I began, by expressing my hope that we may approach this question unfettered in every way, and not treat it as a matter between Conservatives and Liberals, because I feel confident that, however this may end, if we adopt the single-ward system, it will be disastrous to the character both of the Conservative and the Liberal Party. We have heard arguments to-night as to whether the Conservatives or the Liberals will gain by this system. I believe that both will lose; and it is parochialism, it is class interests, it is those who separate themselves from the general interests of the country who will gain. Let us endeavour to fall back upon the principle so eloquently laid down by the Prime Minister when he said that it is to the communities we must look, and that it is communities that shall be represented in this House in the future as they have been represented in the past.


It was scarcely necessary for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Gosehen) to comment upon the speech of the hon. Member who addressed the House in the early part of the discussion, and to remind us that the best and most perfectly established concert between the Parties may be broken up by the independent action of Members on the two sides of the House. To-night the speech of the right hon. Gentleman has had a double bearing. Whereas he generally poses as the Mentor of Her Majesty's Government, on this occasion he has been able to pose as the candid friend of both Front Benches at once. I listened to the speech with the admiration which we always feel for the oratorical exercises of the right hon. Gentleman; but I confess that in regard to his conclusions I have experienced the disappointment which always accompanies his best efforts, because we always know that whatever the right hon. Gentleman says it is entirely hopeless to expect him to give to his convictions any practical effect. I think this debate, from its outset, has been somewhat prejudiced by the fact that it commenced with an interest which was felt in a distinctly personal question; and it is because we commenced it with a certain amount of curiosity to know what was to be said by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) as to the reasons which led him to break his connection with Her Majesty's Government that the discussion has been allowed to drift into a consideration of one particular part of the question rather than into a consideration of it as a whole. I will not deny that the speech which was made by the hon. Member for Liskeard was a very remarkable and a very interesting speech; but the earlier portion of it partook rather of the character of a sort of eulogy of his own official career; and when he quitted that view of the question the hon. Member proceeded to address himself chiefly to the Members who sit around him, indicating to them the various advantages which the single-Member system of the division of the great towns might give to the Party opposite. Perhaps, in so doing, the hon. Member has carried conviction as to the merits of the Bill to the minds of some of the more timorous of my Friends who sit on this side of the House. At all events, I am inclined to think that he has been more successful in producing that effect on these Benches than on reconciling his Friends around him to any theory of proportional representation. Now, upon the question of proportional representation, and even to the extent of the particular scheme indicated by the hon. Member for Liskeard, I am very much inclined to support the hon. Member. I believe, myself, that if you could ever get the transferable vote introduced into your system for the election of Members of Parliament in this country, you would probably obtain the best representation which our institutions will admit of; but I confess that I am not so sanguine as the hon. Member for Liskeard. I do not think it will be possible, at any time at all events in the course of the next quarter of a century, to recommend that scheme to the mind of the English electorate. If we could see our way to experimentalize upon a single constituency, I should be glad to see the experiment tried; but in our anxiety to obtain this great good, and to secure the transferable vote, I am afraid we might find ourselves landed in a position in which we should obtain neither the one thing nor the other. And the hon. Member for Liskeard was so warmly enamoured of the scheme as even to express his willingness to submit the destinies of this country to a House of Commons elected by the scrutin de liste, because he is thoroughly satisfied that at the end of the first Parliament or two so elected the country would be thoroughly sick of the system, and extremely glad to get rid of it. But I venture to think that in two such Parliaments there would be a readiness to get rid of a good many other things also, and that after they had run their course there would be little occasion to care as to what form of representation was adopted for the future. I, therefore, felt that there was a certain amount of weakness in the argument of the hon. Gentleman, because a politician who is prepared to make so great a sacrifice in order to carry out a particular hobby of his own can hardly be supposed to approach with calmness the solution of this philosophic proposition. The hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen)—and it was the strongest part of their position—contend that the adoption of the ward system of election would necessarily deteriorate the character of the Members of this House. I should like to ask upon what ground? What possible argument can be brought forward, from anything which has passed in former times, to show that their theory is correct? This is a matter which, I think, is really more a question of experience; and I fail to find that any argument, supported by experience, has been brought forward to show that the constitution of the House of Commons would be less satisfactory. I would not like to say that it is not possible for the House of Commons to be deteriorated; and although we have already had, perhaps, some experience as to the process of deterioration—I will not say by such process as that upon which the Prime Minister has descanted—I fail to see how this process of deterioration is to be accelerated by the fact that Members are returned by comparatively small constituencies instead of large ones. The House will remember that the Reform Bill of 1867 made one sub-division in the case of an important Metropolitan borough. The borough to which I refer was the then borough of the Tower Hamlets, which was divided into two, and the borough of Hackney established. If those dreadful results which are now anticipated by squeamish politicians follow from such a step, we ought to have seen an immediate deterioration in the representation of the boroughs of Hackney and the Tower Hamlets. But what is the fact? Has the representation of Hackney deteriorated? According to the argument of the hon. Member for Liskeard, the Members for Hackney ought necessarily to have been of the vestryman type, instead of which the borough for many years returned Mr. Fawcett, whose loss this House has so recently deplored, who, no doubt, like the hon. Member for Liskeard, was opposed to the principles upon which the Government have framed the present Bill. Only the other day, when there was an election to supply the place of Mr. Fawcett, did the people of Hackney go out of their way to select a vestryman or a politician of that type? On the contrary, they selected a Gentleman who had already won his spurs in political life by obtaining some 1,300 votes in the most cultivated constituency in England. I think that, as that has has been the case in connection with a large and important Metropolitan borough, we have no right to contend that an extension of the principle of the further sub-division of boroughs would tend towards a deterioration of character in the Members returned. It, therefore, appears to me that there is no force whatever in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen). He talks about the separation of classes, and about the unconstitutional departure from the ancient traditions which have governed the history of our representative institutions involved in the separation of one locality from another. It may chance that, in some cases, persons of one class may be situated in a particular locality; but if this objection is to prevail, how can the separation of the Tower Hamlets from the City of Westminster be justified? Surely, if it was justifiable to cut up the Metropolis into larger boroughs, it is equally justifiable to cut it up, as now proposed, into smaller boroughs. I certainly fail to see upon what ground the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon can justify his argument, unless he is prepared to go the whole length of contending that the whole of London ought to form one constituency. We are told that in the great Provincial towns there is seldom so definite a local demarcation between classes than there is in London. That is probably in some degree the case; and, for my part, I would be happy to accept the scheme of the hon. Member for Liskeard, if I thought there was the faintest chance of its becoming law, because I think it would be a better scheme for testing the opinion of the community than that which is now proposed by the Government. But I am afraid it is absolutely impossible to reconcile the House of Commons to the transferable vote, and everyone who has heard the debate will fully realize that fact. Our object is to secure such a representation of all classes of the community as is compatible with the true theory of representation; and it appears to me that the only course which can be trusted for bringing about that result is the course which has been adopted by Her Majesty's Government in the present case. If we are going to have the large towns divided into wards, we shall have, no doubt, a sufficient representation of all the interests in those towns; but if you do not make a subdivision, and allow all the Members to be returned by the majority, you will have men elected who will represent the class which happens to be in a majority for the time being. It is really a choice of whether you are to elect your Members by the scrutin de liste, or whether you are to give to the various interests and different classes which are to be found in the large towns such a fair share of the representation as may make the representation a sort of microcosm of all the classes proposed to be represented. And now, with the permission of the House, I should like to say a word or two on another matter which was particularly dwelt upon by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), although I do not think it has been noticed in the same degree by other speakers who have taken part in this debate. I allude to the question how far the Government have not thrown away a great opportunity of equalizing the representation by grouping together the smaller towns. The Government limit of disfranchisement was originally fixed at 10,000. I know it is the fashion to say that Her Majesty's Government are not responsible for the draft plan of a Redistribution Bill which appeared in one of the newspapers some time ago; but it is no secret that it was the original intention of the Government to limit the absolute disfranchisement to 10,000; but from representations since made from outside they have been induced to raise the limit to 15,000. For my part, I should have been perfectly content if they had raised the limit still higher—say to 25,000; but if that had been done, it would have been necessary to protect the interests of that particular class of boroughs, by grouping into constituencies which would bring them up to nearly 50,000. [Mr. ARTHUR ARNOLD dissented.] The hon. Member for Salford shakes his head. The hon. Member is himself an example of how a borough may be improved by the process of sub-division; but I think it is felt by all parties that there is a different scope of middle-class life in the smaller boroughs from that which exists in the large towns—and that there is a very numerous class of such boroughs which has no desire to obtain representation by being merged in the large cities or in the county districts. If Her Majesty's Government were to set themselves to work to create a number of groups of what I may call the third-rate towns, of from 10,000 to 25,000 inhabitants in each, I think they would very much tend to diminish the anomalies of the present scheme, and they would introduce a much more equal representation, while, at the same time, they would preserve those historic traditions which attach to many existing communities which we are all sorry to part with, if we can avoid it. Let me take the town of Lewes as an example. It is a small town, containing about as many people as the town of Warwick. Warwick is to have the good fortune of being preserved, and we are all of us glad that it is so; but it preserves its existence because it happens to be in the immediate neighbourhood of Leamington, a large and important watering-place. But I may point out that in the case of Lewes there is another very large watering place—a town of great and rising importance of a similar character to Leamington—the town of Eastbourne, containing more than 20,000 inhabitants, and at no great distance from Lewes, which, with Lewes, is now to be merged in the county of Sussex. If Eastbourne were grouped with Lewes, the representation might be continued, in the same way as that of Warwick, without merging it in the county representation. Then, again, take the case of Scarborough. We have heard a good deal of Scarborough lately. It is proposed by the Bill of the Government that Scarborough in future shall put up with only one of the two Members who now adorn its representation. This, no doubt, will be a loss to Scarborough; but perhaps the country might gain if the constituency of Scarborough, which at present numbers only 30,000, were augmented by throwing in the borough of Whitby, a town of exactly the same character, which the Bill proposes to disfranchise. Whitby contains 14,000 inhabitants, is only three-quarters of an hour, by railway, from Scarborough, and, as I have said, is a borough of precisely the same character. I put a question to the Prime Minister, when the Bill was introduced, with regard to the groups already existing; but I am sorry to say that I did not obtain from him any information which I could regard as particularly satisfactory. I do not wish that I should be at all misunderstood in the reference I made to the Welsh contributory boroughs; but what I desired was to point out that, whereas the right hon. Gentleman had made a great point of the fact that Wales was to be treated as part of and under the same conditions and in the same way as England, by admitting the fact that the contributory boroughs were still continued in Wales and in most instances without any proposed re-adjustment whatever, he had thereby opened the door for the creation of groups in this country. Of course, the grouping system is not altogether unknown in this country. The borough of Hythe is coupled with the town of Folkestone; and there is also another constituency in Kent, which includes three, I think, of the old Cinque Ports. Then, again, there is the borough of Huntingdon, which includes Godman-chester and Penryn and Falmouth. We have, therefore, had various examples of places contiguous with one another being formed into a system of groups. I would ask the Government, in the Recess, to see whether something cannot be done to raise, by grouping, the constituencies of the minor boroughs to a reasonable size, so as to preserve the ancient traditions of these corporate communities, by making them contribute to district groups of boroughs, and by that means lightening the load of urban population, which will otherwise necessarily fall into the counties. There is another point which I think it is desirable to take notice of in the interval which must elapse before the House meets again—and that is the way in which it is proposed to deal with the Scotch boroughs. I do not think that any Member of the House can have any idea of the utter enormity of the present system of Scotch boroughs. I have here a list of one or two, to show how utterly without rhyme or reason these boroughs have been grouped together. Take the case of the Falkirk District of burghs. That group, which contains altogether the respectable total of 50,000 persons, includes the town of Falkirk in the county of Stirling, the town of Airdrie in the county of Lanark, and the town of Linlithgow in the county of Linlithgow. That is to say, that it embraces towns which are to be found in three separate and distinct Scotch counties, It may be said that if these were the only boroughs in those three counties there was nothing else to be done; but Falkirk, as a matter of fact, is not the only town in Stirlingshire, because the town of Stirling itself forms part of another and a distinct group; Rutherglen, in Lanarkshire, forms part of another group—namely, Kilmarnock; and Linlithgow is not the only town in the county of Linlithgow. Take also the case of another well-known group—the Kilmarnock District of burghs. That group of burghs embraces the town of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, the town of Dumbarton in the county of Dumbarton, the two towns of Renfrew and Port Glasgow in the county of Renfrew, and Rutherglen in the county of Lanark. In that case there are five distinct burghs selected from four counties. Then, again, the Elgin group comprises towns in three counties—Elgin in Elginshire, Banff and Cullen in Banffshire, and two burghs, which are in the county of Aberdeen. In the same way I find that in the Ayr District of burghs the towns of Ayr and Irvine, in Ayrshire, form parts of a group with which are coupled Campbelltown, Inverary, and Oban, three towns in the county of Argyll. If anyone will take half-an-hour to study the map of Scotland they will see at once that it is sown broadcast with anomalies. In fact, it is impossible to point to anything that can be more absolutely indefensible, on any ground whatever, than the existing state of the Scotch burgh representation; and I am sorry to say that the Bill of Her Majesty's Government proposes to leave it altogether untouched. The Prime Minister, however, told us that this is a matter of such delicacy that it ought not to be entrusted to the Boundary Commissioners; but I trust that it may come under the consideration of the House before our debates on the Bill are concluded; and I also hope that the hon. Member who was the first to call attention to the matter will provide us with some scheme which will obviate, at all events, some of these anomalies. And now, Sir, I desire to say one word as to the Welsh boroughs to which I referred just now. I do not know whether the House is generally aware how these district boroughs, scattered as they are over entire counties, are made up. By this means one of these boroughs reaches a population of 24,000 altogether, and therefore escapes the limit fixed by the Government in their Bill; it contains altogether eight towns, three of which have together a population of nearly 20,000; but five out of the eight towns only contain between them 5,000 people. Are you going to continue these anomalies in the contributory boroughs when you are disfranchising towns like Guildford and Lewes, with 12,000 and 14,000 inhabitants? Two of the existing Welsh borough districts fall short of the standard of the Bill—namely, Beaumaris, with 14,000, and Cardigan also with 14,000. Both of these districts are to be disfranchised, although it does happen that the Beaumaris District contains Holyhead, the most important town in the whole of North Wales—perhaps not the largest, but which must ere long become the most important, and the Cardigan District contains the town of Aberystwith, the most important town in Mid Wales. There is a place called Kenfig in the Swansea District in South Wales, which, although it has the honour to be a contributory borough, contains a population of 631 only; and there are several other places in other parts of the Principality which contain about 1,000 people each. I think it will not be a waste of time if the Government would depute some one of its subordinate Members—say my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. George Russell)—to turn his attention to the question of these Welsh and Scotch boroughs during the Recess, with a view of providing us with a certain number of clauses in connection with the present Bill, which would probably be all the more acceptable to the House if they proceeded from one who bears my hon. Friend's historic name. I have ventured to dwell on this point because it appears to me to be a great omission in the Bill; and if the representation of Wales is still to be governed by the same principles the Government ought to be prepared to extend that principle of grouping to the English boroughs. If, on the other hand, it is considered undesirable to extend the principle of grouping to England, the Government are bound, although I should see it done with regret, to extinguish this exceptional system of representation in Wales. I entreat the House not to be led away by any of these interesting and plausible pro- posals for securing the representation of minorities until they are quite certain that the adoption of any such proposals may not land them in the position of having no representation of minorities at all. The hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) told us that he, for one, is prepared to face all the danger of the representation of simple majorities; but I fear that in rejecting the proposed scheme of minority representation we may lose an opportunity which will never recur.


Sir, no one could have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister without appreciating the conciliatory spirit by which it was animated, and his anxiety to settle that great question in a just and equitable manner. The fact that this Bill comes before us in a form approved by the Leaders of the two great Parties in the State no doubt renders any attempt to modify it in important particulars unusually difficult. On the other hand, it has this advantage—that the discussion ceases to be a question of Party politics, and the House is all the freer to express its independent opinion. Everyone must, of course, speak with diffidence in venturing to criticize a Bill which comes before us backed by such eminent authorities; still I trust the House will allow me very respectfully to state why I cannot but regard it as, in some respects, of a retrograde character. So far, indeed, as it gives a more equitable distribution of political power, it is, no doubt, a great improvement; but in so far as it is an attempt to give the majority of the country their just power in this House, so far as it is an attempt to improve in any way the representative character of the House itself, I fear that it will prove a failure, and that a great opportunity will be lost if this Bill be adopted in its present form. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), in his very able speech, I deprecate the proposal to cut our great cities into wards. It is one of the most remarkable phenomena of history how seldom any nation will condescend to learn from others. One after another they fall into the same mistakes. Just when America, having tried large constituencies, with mere majority voting, and found them a failure, gave them up and adopted single seats; Geneva, on the contrary, having tried single seats, and found them a failure, gave them up as unfair and not securing a just representation of public opinion. Now, what has been the experience of other countries which have adoptod ward representation? The hon. Member for Liskeard told us that there are a number of men in this House who already represent single-Membered constituencies; but there is all the difference in the world between a contituency which is whole in itself, and another which is a mere fragment of a larger body. We might just as well compare an animal taken as a whole with the limbs and fragments torn from a living being. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) asked for some evidence as to how the system which we advocate works where it has been tried. I would refer him to the Report upon the subject by a Committee of the Senate of the United States. The difference in the character of politics and politicians between England and America has long been a subject of comment. It may be difficult to say how far that difference is due to the system of ward representation which exists in America, and which this Bill proposes to introduce here; but that this system is one main cause can hardly be doubted. In 1869 the Senate of the United States appointed a Committee to report on Representation Reform, and the Committee made an unanimous and very able Report, which is of great interest. They emphatically condemned the system of single seats, which, they say— Has not secured fair representation of political interests; and it has continued in existence, in a somewhat mitigated form, the evils of the plan of election by general ticket, which is superseded. Still, one body of organized electors in a district vote down another; electoral corruption is not effectually chocked; and the general result is the unfair representation of political interests in a popular House of Congress. Besides, the single-district plan has called into existence inconveniences peculiar to itself, and which did not attach to the former plan. It excludes from Congress men of ability and merit, whose election was possible before, and this exerts a baneful influence upon the constitution of the House. Two causes operate to this end; in the first place, no man who adheres to a minority in any particular district can be returned; and, next, great rapidity of change is produced by the fluctuation of Party power in the district. Single districts will almost always he unfairly made. They will be formed in the interest of Party. One great evil of the American system, as they point out, is that Members are never secure in their seats, and of this they report that the system of single seats is the chief cause. In fact, a large number in the House only sit for a single term. The single-seat system has carried the idea of local representation to excess. This insecurity of seats, they say, prevents Members from devoting themselves to Public Business with zeal or confidence. They are engaged in a perpetual struggle for existence. The Committee say— In brief, his time, as his efforts, instead of being expended for the public, must he expended on personal objects, if he desires to remain for any considerable time a Representative of the people. Undoubtedly, many of the best men of the country must be deterred from entering upon a Congressional career, continuance in which requires such sacrifices to an evil system, so much of unpleasant effort, attended with uncertainty and probable mortification. Again, the system of single seats necessitated a continual re-arrangement of boundaries, and this gives rise not only to great trouble, but, to say the least, to suspicions of unfair dealing, which have given Governor Gerry an unenviable immortality. The Committee go on to say— There is hardly a State of our Union in which the Congressional districts are not gerrymandered in the interest of Party. And, in conclusion, they endorsed the opinion of Mr. John Stuart Mill that the result of the single-Membered system, which we are now asked to adopt here, has, in the United States, brought things to such a pass that— It is an admitted fact that in the American Democracy, which is constructed on this faulty model, the highly cultivated members of the community, except such as are willing to sacrifice their own judgment and conscience to the behests of Party, and become the servile echo of those who are their inferiors in knowledge, do not allow their names as candidates for Congress or the Legislatures, so certain it is they would be defeated. They then proceed to point out another evil, which is that if you are to have single-Membered seats, which are to be at all equal, it will be necessary to make re-arrangements of boundaries. Well, Sir, I will not advert to the case of France, because at this late hour I am anxious not to detain the House at unnecessary length. France also has a similar system; but it is perfectly notorious that the single-Membered system does not work with satisfaction in France, and particularly the Liberal Party in France complain that it works badly. We are told by the Prime Minister that the system has been supported by The Quarterly Review. I do not know that that is any objection to it; but I would remind my right hon. Friend that if it is supported by The Quarterly Review it is also supported with equal energy by The Edinburgh Review. The Prime Minister seemed to regard it as a remarkable fact that it is advocated by The Edinburgh Review because it is a Liberal system, and by The Quarterly Review because it is a Conservative system. The system of proportional representation is, however, supported by Members of both Parties, because it is the only way in which to secure at the same time a hearing to the minority and power to the majority. It combines the two advantages for which both sides of the House contend—a secure hearing for the minority, and the certainty of power to the majority. Sir, I will not venture to express any opinion how far our great city communities may approve of being sub-divided in the manner proposed by the Bill. That is a matter of feeling. But I confess that I have grave doubt whether the tendency of this course would not be to weaken that local patriotism, that pride in their own community, by which many of them have hitherto been so honourably distinguished, the effect of which has been so beneficial. No one, I think, can question that anybody would rather represent a great historical community, such as Liverpool or Edinburgh, than a mere ward. Moreover, this Bill contains no provision for double elections. Now, in the Liberal Party there are always great differences of opinion. There are many ways of moving; but only one of standing still. I confess that I see in this a great danger to the Liberal cause. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister whether he knows more than one or two cases in which an Assembly is chosen by single-Member constituencies without double elections? Without such a provision it would very often happen that, owing to some division in their ranks, or some miscalculation of their strength, the majority would fail to secure their candidate. In the recent German elections, out of 397 con- stituencies, it has been found necessary to have a second election in no less than 97, or, in round numbers, 25 per cent. Then I come to bye-elections; and I was surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) mention it as an objection that when we come to a bye-election the result must be decided by a bare majority. Of course, it must; but I confess I fail to see that that is any argument against our system. It reminds me of the remark of an old woman when 1d. papers were first introduced. She read The Daily Telegraph through, and then said she was a good deal disappointed, for the Id. papers did not seem to be any bettor than the 4½d. ones after all. So we are told that at a bye-election proportional representation is no better than mere majority voting after all. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister devoted a considerable part of his speech to a criticism of the mode of voting recommended by my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney). He seems to be greatly impressed with the difficulty of the system, which he said was so great that nobody would understand it. My hon. Friend, however, showed that, as far as the electors are concerned, there is no difficulty whatever about it. But then it is said that the Returning Officer would find himself in a difficulty; and that my hon. Friend, in attempting to explain the points of the scheme, found it difficult to do so. But if the attempt were made in a few words to explain almost any Act of Parliament, which must necessarily be very complex, and contain technical language, it would be found difficult. My right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) has himself acknowledged that it was quite impossible to explain his own instructions to the Boundary Commissioners in answer to a Question. The complexity, however, such as it is, would not effect the elector. So far as he is concerned, it is simplicity itself; while, as regards the Returning Officer, all that would be required of him would be that he should have a knowledge of subtraction and addition, which, moreover, is requisite even now. That, I think, is a conclusive answer as to the difficulties of the system. Moreover, the system has been at work in Denmark for over a quarter of a century without hitch or difficulty. Indeed, when the Danish Constitution had to be re-modelled at the end of the German War, the system had worked so well that it was re-introduced again. It is absurd to tell me that a system which is working well in Denmark is so difficult that it could not be worked here. With all respect I must maintain that that argument is not worth listening to. We are told that there would be a certain amount of uncertainty about the second vote. I admit frankly that there would be a certain amount of uncertainty in that case. I cannot say that there is none; but what does it practically amount to? Mr. Parker Smith has calculated—and Mr. Andrae, whose eminence as a mathematician is unquestioned, has put it still more strongly—that even if out of 10,000 votes for the favourite candidate so large a number of votes as 4,000 have to be transferred, there would not, on an average, supposing them to be equally divided, be a difference of more than 11, while it is 2,000 to 1 against the chance of making a difference of 60. For practical purposes, therefore, this is infinitesimal. I would now like to say a word or two about the question of the representation of Ireland as affected by this Bill. I have no desire to say anything discourteous to the followers of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). I have always listened with respect to what they have said, and I can assure them with a sincere desire to meet their views, as far as possible. Neither do I, in the least degree, suggest that they should receive a lesser amount of representation than that to which their numbers fairly entitle them. But, believing, as I do, that the adoption of the main principle of the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his supporters would very likely land the country into civil war, I cannot support a Bill which, as I am informed, will to so great an extent silence and exclude both Liberals and Conservatives in Ireland, and give far more than their fair share of power to those who wish to destroy the Union. Our position at the moment is something like that of America before the Civil War. Now, the Committee of the United States Senate, in the Report to which I have already referred, shortly after the close of that great war, expressed their unanimous opinion that if America had adopted proportional representation instead of single seats, that disastrous conflict might have been prevented. They said— The absence of proportional representation in the States of the South when rebellion was plotted, and when open steps were taken to break the Union, was unfortunate, for it would have held the Union men of those States together, and would have given them voice in the electoral Colleges and in Congress. But they were fearfully overborne by the plurality rule of elections, and were swept forward by the course of events into impotency or open hostility to our cause. By that rule they were largely deprived of representation in Congress. By that rule they were shut out of the electoral Colleges. Dispersed, unorganized, unrepresented, without due voice and power, they could interpose no effectual resistance to secession and civil war. That, I take it, is very much our case at the present moment; and I do say that it would be sheer madness on the part of this country to adopt a system that would silence our friends in Ireland, and give an undue share of the representation to those from whose principles we entirely differ. Sir, I would implore my countrymen to take warning by the example I have cited, and on this account, if on no other, I should hesitate to support the Bill. I will not trouble the House with any remarks about the desirability of protecting minorities, because I imagine that enough has already been said on that point. There is, however, one other question—Will this Bill really secure to the majority in the country their fair power in this House? In this respect, also, it is open to great question. Hitherto, when public feeling outside has not corresponded with the preponderance in this House, it has generally been assumed that this was due to the small constituencies and the anomalies of our representative system. But this is by no means a complete explanation. My hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) quoted a number of foreign cases that were very much to the point, and would seem to be conclusive; but I would venture to call the attention of the House for a moment to what our experience has been in our own country. Let me turn, in the first place, to the representation of Ireland. I am not now in the least degree questioning how far the voting for the Gentlemen who advocate Home Rule represents public opinion. I will merely take the votes as they were polled in contested elections in 1880. At the General Election 86 seats were contested in Ireland out of 103. If I were to put in the uncontested elections it would make no material difference in the argument, but it makes the case more clear to take the contested seats only. Fifty thousand Liberal voters and 55,000 Conservatives—that is to say, 105,000 electors in all—only secured 34 seats, while 48,000 Home Rulers obtained 52 seats. This shows clearly how such a system of mere majority voting completely failed. It has been stated, and I believe accurately, that at the General Election of 1874 the Liberals in Great Britain polled 200,000 votes more than the Conservatives, and yet were hopelessly outnumbered in this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Heading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) disputes these figures. Without admitting the accuracy of his figures, I will accept them for a moment for the purpose of argument. My right hon. Friend himself said in an article in The Contemporary ReviewIn 1874 the polling strength of the Conservative Party for Scotland and Ireland was 978,000, that of the Liberal Party was 934,000—a difference of only 44,000, or about 2 per cent of the aggregate voters. If the Members returned had been in the same proportion, the numbers would have been about 276 Conservatives and 266 Liberals—a majority of only 10. In fact, the elections resulted in the return of 312 Conservative Members to 230 Liberals—a majority of 82, or 72 in excess of what should have been their majority in proportion to the votes given. In 1880 the polling strength of the Conservative Party was 1,022,000, while that of the Liberals was 1,199,000—a majority of 177,000, or about 7½ per cent of the aggregate votes. This majority on the proportional system would have given 290 Liberal Members, and 252 Tory Members—a majority of 38. The actual return was 335 Liberals and 208 Tory Members—a majority of 127, or 89 in excess of the true proportion. This was not due to any Conservative preponderance in small boroughs, as was sometimes supposed; indeed, the small boroughs which were to lose seats under this Bill returned a considerable majority of Liberals. Nor had it anything to do with the Liberal wave of opinion which passed over the country in 1880. That affected, of course, the number of votes, but not the effect of those votes as votes; yet, according to the right hon. Member for Beading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) himself—one of the ablest of our opponents—chance gave the Liberal Party 72 seats too few in, 1874, and 89 too many in 1880, in proportion to the votes—a difference of 161 out of 658. Surely the country cannot consent to trust the result of a General Election to such chapters of accidents. Pure accident made a difference of 161 seats in two General Elections. It is sometimes said that the effect of mere majority voting is to give the majority rather more than their fair share. But this is not so. You may have a small majority in the country, and a large one in the House; but you might equally have a large majority in the country, and a small one here. The result really leaves the matter very much to chance. The noble Viscount the Member for South Wiltshire (Viscount Folkestone), who made a most admirable speech in the early part of the evening, said that my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) may have made some Members opposite think that, after all, the Bill was better than they had any reason to suppose. What I wish to point out to hon. Members opposite is that under our system they would always have that minority in the House to which they are justly entitled, whereas without the adoption of it they may be swept away almost entirely. It is most important, I think, that both Parties should be represented in this House approximately according to their strength in the country generally. But it is clear that the system of majority voting would by no means invariably give to the majority in this House a majority in the country. But there is another consideration pointed out by Mr. Mill, which has never been answered, and which clearly proves that proportional representation alone can insure to the majority of the country their just preponderance in the Legislature. The majority on a Division in Parliament is arrived at by eliminating two minorities which together might largely outnumber the so-called majority. This is no imaginary case. In Switzerland it can be brought to the test, because in that country, after laws have been passed in the Assembly they are submitted to the whole electorate, by whom they are often rejected. Thus, for instance, in 1882—to take a single year—a law on the reorganization of the Departments of Justice and Police was rejected by 214,000 to 150,000; a Revised Penal Code by 202,050 to 159,000; one on Patents by 190,000 to 174,000; and an Education Bill by 317,000 to 170,000. Thus, we here see proved to demonstration in practice what is in theory perfectly obvious—that the majority of a majority may be and often is a minority. We have been taunted over and over again by our opponents with having no plan, no one system, on which we are all agreed. We have not, however, allowed ourselves to be hurried or dictated to. We carefully collected all the information we could bring together, and weighed as well as we have been able the relative advantages of the different possible systems. I hope Her Majesty's Government will not commit themselves too deeply on this question. I do not understand my right hon. Friend to have committed himself absolutely against the system. No doubt, he pointed out certain difficulties which struck him; but I hope I understood him correctly that he would give the matter his consideration. I am satisfied, if he does so, that he will find many of the objections he has brought forward to the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) will fade away when they come to be looked into more closely. My right hon. Friend objects that the Gentlemen who are in favour of this system have no plan. I hope, however, that he will not commit himself too deeply. At the general meeting of the Society held yesterday, the single transferable vote, as suggested by Mr. Hare, but confined to each constituency, was unanimously adopted. That represents a great principle. It would place Representative Government on a new basis. It is to the theory of government what gravitation is to astronomy, or evolution to biology. It is the representation not merely of the majority, but of all. It does not appeal only to Conservatives or to Liberals; it appeals to all. The principles for which we contend, and which we shall endeavour to introduce into the Bill in Committee, are—firstly, to leave the great local communities undivided; and, secondly, to provide that in such constituencies each man should have one vote, so that every vote would have an equal value. The result would be that able and trusted Leaders on both sides would be sure of their seats, that the minority would always secure a hearing, and last, although not least, the majority would obtain the preponderance to which they are justly entitled.


said, that if he had been able to obtain a hearing at an earlier period of the evening he should have gone at some length into the question of the reduction of the representation, of the City of London. As it was, he contented himself by giving Notice that he should go into the question on the Motion for going into Committee. It was perfectly true that the sleeping population of the City was only 50,000; but there were as many as 261,000 whose daily work was in the City. The electorate of the City was 26,000, and the rateable value was as much as £4,000,000. As regarded the general scheme of the measure, they had no course left to them except to give their support to it. In many particulars he thought it was a good. Bill. For his part, he believed in the one-Member constituencies; and as regarded disfranchisement he should have liked to have seen it go a little further—he should have preferred to see the limit of disfranchisement raised to 20,000. Indeed, if his hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) would modify his Motion in that respect and disassociate it from the question of University representation, he should be very glad to support him.


said, that at that late hour (12.20) he should not detain the House more than a few minutes. There were one or two points, however, on which he wished to say a few words. The first point was that of the proposed increase in the number of Members returned to the House. He was aware it was felt by many Members of the House that they wanted, large numbers for the purpose of Committee work; but he desired to remind those who took that view that if they got rid of the Private Bill Committees, those large numbers would not be required. He also desired to remind the House that the tendency of all recent changes had been very greatly to increase the number of Members in permanent attendance on the House. Fifty years ago, there were seldom 150 Members in regular attendance; now, there were between 300 and 400. With the new constituencies, they would probably have an average attendance of 500. He did not put this view forward with any regard to the accommodation which the House afforded, but he put it forward on the ground that they would become more than what Mr. Bagehot called them, "a public meeting." With such an enlarged attendance he did not hesitate to say they would have a House of less gravity and sobriety. He could not help thinking that this point would be carefully considered before they went into Committee on the Bill, and that some means would be found to provide for the altered circumstances without any increase in the numbers of the House. He would have liked, had time permitted, to have called the attention of the House to the representation of the Universities; he would, however, reserve any remarks he had to make on that subject until the Motion was made to go into Committee. He had, however, one or two words to say about the addition to the representation of London. It was not amiss that something should be said about London, because, under this Bill, London would contribute one-eleventh part of all the Members of the House. Some of the hon. Members who had spoken that night had shown very little knowledge of what London constituencies were like; they had spoken as if London constituencies were sure to take up with an inferior class of candidates. He hoped that would not be the case. Even if London were sub-divided, he believed the advantages would be great in one or two ways. In the first place, the areas would be much more limited; and, in the second place, the expenses of a contest would be very much diminished, and the seat would be available to many persons who now found a difficulty in entering upon a contest owing to the expense they were required to incur. None of the existing divisions of London could be called natural; therefore, the sub-divisions would not necessarily do harm. Nor did he believe that the division of the Metropolis into popular constituencies would tend to the acceptance of what were called parochial candidates. He thought it would be found that the same feeling which led the constituency of Hackney to accept their present junior Member (Mr. Stuart would be found in smaller divisions. People were apt to talk of one local man having great influence in a place; but it must be remembered that it constantly happened that in a locality there were a number of persons of influence, and, therefore, the political parties were inclined to obtain a candidate from outside. He should also like to remind the House that there was one point in which, no doubt, the one-Member constituencies, even in London, was of the greatest advantage, and that was the difficulty at present of maintaining a good political local centre. He could not help feeling that it would be desirable to have somewhat larger constituencies than were proposed; but there were, of course, objections to every scheme which could be suggested, and the objection to the scheme which was propounded to them always seemed the greatest. In conclusion, he would tell the House what was the opinion to which the representatives of the local organizations of London were led. Their view was that their objections to one-Member constituencies were so serious as to make them not desire any pis aller, though they were of opinion that one borough might return seven or eight Members. One point on which they were quite unanimous was the opposition to the minority vote or to anything like a proportionate system of representation. He thought that in every constituency the minority vote or cumulative vote had been condemned by experience, and that it was admitted that proportionate representation was a thing that could not be made out. He believed that in London, at any rate, the general feeling was that the best thing would be to have scrutin de liste—that was that the boroughs should return five, six, or seven Members as the case might be, or that London should be split up into an increased number of boroughs, each returning two Members. He could not help hoping that the Government might see their way, before the House went into Committee on the Bill, to abandon the uniform and cast-iron system which they seemed to have determined to adopt. Politics, after all, was the next experiment to science. If he had time he thought he could convince his hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) that the experience of the United States was entirely the opposite of that he imagined, and that, so far from furnishing argument against one-Member constituencies, it furnished argument in favour of such a system. In the same way the people of France favoured scrutin de liste, because they wanted all the Members to be elected without the minority vote. He thought it would be well to try election by different systems. There were several large boroughs in the country; why should not the House assign different methods of election to different communities, or allow the municipalities to determine in what way their Members should be returned? He admitted it would be a novelty; but they were in a position in which novelties might fairly be given a chance, and if the House would try the experiment of allowing different methods of election to prevail in different localities, they would have a much better chance of reaching a satisfactory system than they would have by noting the experience of other countries. He hoped that particular care would be taken to see that a system was adopted, at all events as regarded London, which would not too greatly narrow the political life of the boroughs.


asked the indulgence of the House for a few minutes, while he made one or two remarks in answer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen). He thought that when an hon. Member of the right hon. Gentleman's weight and influence made a statement which was entirely delusive, it was well some correction should be given as soon as possible. The right hon. Gentleman began by complaining that the Bill had treated the boroughs between 50,000 and 150,000 population with gross unfairness as compared with the boroughs over 150,000 population, and to prove his case he took three boroughs—Stoke, Newcastle, and Oldham—which had an aggregate population of 450,000, and compared their treatment with the treatment of Birmingham.


said, he did not speak of gross unfairness, but said there seemed to have been a tendency to favour the large boroughs.


said, he would take it, then, that in the right hon. Gentleman's opinion there was a tendency to favour the large boroughs against the medium boroughs. He maintained it was not fair of the right hon. Gentleman to pick out the three boroughs which stood at the top of the list. If he wanted to make a contrast between the two classes, the right hon. Gentleman should have taken all the boroughs between 50,000 and 150,000 population, and if he had done that he would have found they worked out an average of somewhere about 50,000 inhabitants to one Member, or some 4,000 below their fair proportion—they were over-represented to that extent. Stoke, Newcastle, and Oldham were to have six Members; with Hanley, which was to be taken out of Stoke, they would have seven. Therefore, as compared with Birmingham, they would have a population of 450,000 as against 400,000. If the right hon. Gentleman would take the case of other boroughs, especially the large Metropolitan constituencies, he would soon find that the Bill had not unduly favoured large urban populations at the expense of the smaller boroughs between 50,000 and 150,000 population. The right hon. Gentleman also laid great stress upon the importance of representing communities rather than individuals. If they were to represent communities, and not sections of communities, they must obviously adopt what was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes)—they must represent London as one gigantic unit. But what was more opposed to the representation of communities than that which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) seemed to support—either proportional representation or minority representation? Because, if they took communities and represented so many of the majority and so many of the minority, they no longer represented communities, but they represented individuals according to their individual opinions. Proportional representation was a most absolute contradiction of the representation of communities; and so emphatically was that proved, that when formerly some Members of the House introduced Bills on the subject they agglomerated boroughs near one another to make the aggregate electorate sufficiently large as to enable individuals, according to their numbers, to be fairly represented. He did not think, however, it would be well to go into the merits or demerits of proportional representation. He had risen because he thought it was fair to make it clear, in the first place, that there was no tendency to favour large boroughs at the expense of small boroughs; and, in the second place, that the vexed question of the representation of the people would not be solved by minority or proportional representation.


said, that in the earlier part of the evening his hon. Friend the Member for Haddington Burghs (Mr. Craig Sellar) called attention to the invidious position in which the Scotch representation was put by the fact that the addition to it that was proposed was made contingent on the House agreeing to an addition to its numbers. What he (Mr. Buchanan) wished to urge upon the Government was that this question of increasing the numbers of the House of Commons was one affecting the United Kingdom, and not one that should affect Scotland alone. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon had stated that the claim to increased representation on the part of Scotland was acknowledged; but the satisfaction of that claim should be kept totally distinct from the question of an addition to the Members of the House. That was the view which he (Mr. Buchanan) wished to enforce. The question of an increase to the Members of the House was one upon which a good deal of adverse feeling existed in various quarters, and intimation of that opposition had been shown in the course of the evening by the hon. Member for Sal-ford and others. Scotland was not without experience of proposals similar to this in past times, by which an increase in its representation was made dependent on an addition to the Members of the House. In 1868, in the Bill for Scotland, Mr. Disraeli proposed that additional Members should be given to Scotland in this way. The hon. Member for Salford had alluded to the fate of that proposal; but he had rather understated what actually took place. So strong was the opposition that was developed, that Mr. Disraeli abandoned the proposal not only without Division, but without debate, and a decision was taken between two rival substitutes—one proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) and the other by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Northamptonshire. More than this, both these Amendments reopened the question of English redistribution that had been settled the previous Session, thereby showing the strength of feeling that existed against the idea of increasing the Members of the House. Nor was this the only experience that Scotland had had of such a proposal. In the previous year, 1867, the Scottish Reform Bill of the Conservative Ministry implied an increase of the Members of the House. And what was the view taken at that time by the present Prime Minister? This was the advice which he gave to the Scottish Members. Speaking on the 31st May, 1867, he said— Scotland will have to meet the whole face of that adverse judgment which a very large proportion of this House have formed against the increase of Members of this House. I would earnestly invite the Scotch Members to hear in mind the assailable nature of the position in which they would stand, if they have no other available fund out of which to answer the credit which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to us in favour of Scotland, except the speculation of an increase of the number of Members of this House."—(3 Hansard, [187] 1426.) That advice was sound then, and it was sound now. He (Mr. Buchanan) was sorry that again Scotland was placed in this disadvantageous position. One of the most satisfactory features of the present Bill was that it was a Bill for the United Kingdom; the same numerical standards of population for enfranchisement and disfranchisement were to be applied throughout the country. Why should not the results also be worked out uniformly for the whole United Kingdom. Scotland should be treated as an integral part of the United Kingdom; and if so treated, Members from Scotland would abide by the result.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday 19th February.