§ [FIRST NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause I (Short title of Act) agreed to.
§ Extension of the Household and Lodger Franchise.
§ Clause 2 (Uniform household and lodger franchise).
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
in moving, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 9, at beginning, to insert the words "Subject to the provisions of this Act hereinafter contained," said, that, whatever might be the opinion of individual Members of the House as to the merits of the Bill, there could not be the slightest doubt as to one question—namely, that it was extremely well drafted. No one could have the slightest doubt as to the meaning of the authors of the Bill. If hon. Members had had the experience he had had of seeing Bills drafted by the hands which he was quite sure had drawn up the present Bill they would know that the whole spirit of the Bill was to be found in the first three or four lines of the 2nd clause. If those three or four lines were practically passed right hon. Gentlemen opposite knew that the whole scheme of the Bill would be, in reality, confirmed. The object he had in moving to insert at the beginning of the clause the words "Subject to the provisions of this Act hereinafter contained," was simply to guard against its being said that if the first few lines of this clause were passed without some such words, when they came later on to the several Amendments that were to be found on the Paper, they might be told they were inconsistent with the first three lines of the Bill they had already passed; and by that means they might be shut out from modifying in any way whatever the principle inserted in the first three lines of the Bill. He looked upon this as a matter of very consider- 1485 able importance. He was quite sure the Prime Minister did not wish to pass any part of the measure without its having received a full and fair consideration at the hands of the House; and he had no doubt, if the words he suggested were inserted, they would gain a very great point when they came to the beginning of the third line of the Bill—namely, "that a uniform household and lodger franchise at elections shall be established in all counties and boroughs throughout the United Kingdom." The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would then have carried the main principle he desired to establish. He (Sir R. Assheton Cross) could not conceive any objection to the words he now proposed. If those words were not inserted he was afraid this would happen—that they would have to debate the clause at very much greater length than would otherwise be the case. At all events, if the interpretation he put upon the clause was a reliable one, and this Amendment were not inserted, the Committee might be shut out from considering many of the Amendments which were subsequently intended to be moved, and they would have no further opportunity of discussing them. He had no wish to take up the time of the Committee in arguing this point further; and he hoped the Government would at once meet him by stating that they had no objection to the insertion of these words. If the Prime Minister rose to say that he had any serious objection to the Amendment, then he was afraid he should be only more and more confirmed in the belief that the right hon. Gentleman did not desire that the Amendments later on the Paper should be thoroughly discussed. He proposed now, at the commencement of the clause, to insert the words he had placed on the paper—"Subject to the provisions of this Act hereinafter contained." If those words were inserted, they would, no doubt, be able to discuss modifications of the first three lines as they wenton; but if they were not inserted, then he was afraid they would have to discuss those three lines at much greater length than would otherwise be the case.
In page 1, line 9, at beginning, to insert "Subject to the provisions of this Act hereinafter contained."—(Sir R. Assheton Cross.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted,"1486
As far as I can make out, I am not aware that the adoption of the clause as it stands would exclude subsequent Amendments from the discussion of the Committee; but with respect to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman I must say that it appears to me to be open to serious objection. The right hon. Gentleman says that if the House should enact that a uniform household and lodger franchise at elections shall be established in all counties and boroughs throughout the United Kingdom it will be virtually establishing what is the principle of the Bill. No doubt that is so, and that is the principle for which we have contended through all the preliminary discussions, and which we have now to deal with in Committee. We do not believe, and we do not admit, that there ought to be any derogation from that principle. To establish a uniform household and lodger franchise at elections in all counties and boroughs is the very object for which the Bill is introduced. If, therefore, I should agree to insert the words "subject to the provisions of this Act hereinafter contained" I should distinctly convey by implication that the Government intend to derogate from the principle of the Bill. If there are to be derogations from the principle of the Bill, let us know what they are. We are totally ignorant of any derogation or departure that ought to be made from that principle. We have never for a moment either concealed or thrown into the shade the main and broad proposition contained in the Bill that it is our intention to establish a uniform household and lodger franchise in the counties and boroughs. That is the head and front of the offending of the Bill in the eyes of many hon. Members opposite; and it is the pith, and virtue, and credit of the Bill as it is understood on this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman will see that his Amendment is distinctly a departure from the principle of the Bill. If we are expected to make Amendments in the subsequent clauses of the Bill, that will be virtually and tacitly a distinct departure from what we have always professed as the principle of the Bill itself; and, consequently, I am not able to agree to the Amendment.
§ SIR. ASSHETON CROSS
In order to save time, I may say that I have not entered fully into the effect of the words 1487 of the clause; but the Prime Minister has said frankly what it is. No doubt the clause does propose further Amendments in household and lodger franchise. It goes on to say—After the passing of this Act every man possessed of a household qualification or a lodger qualification shall, if the qualifying premises be situate in a county in England or Scotland, be entitled to be registered as a voter, and when registered to vote at an election for such county; and if the qualifying premises be situate in a county or borough in Ireland be entitled to be registered as a voter, and to vote at an election for such county or borough.So that unless there is some modification not simply of the qualification of the voter, but also of the time that qualification is to come into operation, those questions will practically be settled by the first three lines. That is the proposition I lay before the House. Undoubtedly, Amendments as to when the Bill is to come into operation are of vital importance; and I, for one, am very doubtful, indeed, whether they can be introduced into the Act, unless some such words as "subject to the provisions of this Act hereinafter contained" are inserted at the commencement of the clause.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
desired to say a word or two on the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman; and he wished to do so because he had hitherto abstained from discussing the Bill, and he had no desire to be included in the body of hon. Members on the other side of the House, who seemed to be prohibited from discussing it altogether. He wished to state, in regard to the clause and the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, that he, as representing a very large constituency, entertained no objection to the equalization of the county and borough franchise. He might say that he himself had no fear of it; and he did not see why hon. Gentlemen sitting on that side of the House, and representing county constituencies, should have any fear of it. The principles by which Party tactics were guided permeated all classes; and he could not help thinking that the manner in which the franchise was exercised in the large boroughs proved that to be the case. As a matter of fact, the agricultural labourers were in the main Conservative; and he would venture to illustrate his position. In the last Parliament he represented a borough which was largely composed of agricultural labourers—namely, Christ- 1488 church; and although his Successor, as a Conservative candidate, was not successful, and although the borough returned a Liberal, yet the Liberalism of the hon. Member was, in some respects, of a subversive character; and, politics apart, he thought the hon. Member was an ornament and acquisition to the House. He would take three boroughs which were, to a great extent, assimilated to counties; and he thought those three boroughs carried out his proposition—that the county franchise, reduced to the proportions of the borough franchise, contained all the elements of Party that were desirable. The three boroughs to which he referred were the Rape of Bramber, forming the borough of Shoreham, East Retford, and Crick-lade. It would be found that Shoreham sent two strong Conservatives, one of whom was a gentleman belonging to an old family very much associated with Conservatism, and with the representation of that particular constituency. East Retford, on the other hand, was represented by two Liberals; and the other borough—Cricklade—returned one and one, a Conservative and a Liberal. Therefore, it was perfectly plain that these three constituencies were equally divided; and it might be assumed that if the borough franchise were introduced into the counties generally the representation of the country would be divided just as it was at the present moment. He must say, from the experience he had gained of the Parliamentary borough of Christchurch, that the landed interest had much more to fear from the tenant farmers than from the agricultural labourers. Agricultural labourers invariably followed their landlords rather than their masters; and it appeared to him that the agricultural interest would be as equally safe in the hands of the labourers as it was in the hands of the tenant farmers. Another allegation made against the agricultural labourers was that they were not sufficiently educated. He himself thought that education generally followed the franchise, and after the borough franchise was lowered in 1867 the extensive system of education which was now in force was made law. But there was another point, and it constituted the reason why he called on the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to consider with more favour the Amendment of the right hon. Gentle- 1489 man the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir E. Assheton Cross). There was a very justifiable fear on that side of the House that it was the intention of the Government, or, at any rate, of their advanced supporters, to force on a Dissolution upon the Franchise Bill without a scheme of distribution. The desire of hon. Gentlemen opposite was, he was told, to drive away the present county Members sitting on that side of the House; and they hoped to be able to give effect to that desire by a Dissolution on the present Franchise Bill. As he had said, he doubted whether that could be carried out; but a Dissolution on the present Franchise Bill would create such great anomalies that he thought the Government should pause before they declined further to give some assurance that the anticipations of that side of the House, as to the intentions of the Government to dissolve on the Franchise Bill without a Redistribution Bill, were unfounded. Supposing for a moment that the Government were to dissolve on the Franchise Bill alone they would be creating greater anomalies than those which at present existed. [Cries of "Order !"] He thought he was quite in Order. They would be creating in the next Parliament not a Legislative Assembly, but a Constituent Assembly. By establishing a House of Commons elected upon a diminution of household suffrage without redistribution, they would elect a House of Commons that would be unable to undertake any legislative measure until a Redistribution Bill had been passed; and then it would be necessary to have a second Dissolution before the Redistribution Act could be applied to the work of Parliament. Therefore, on the hypothesis of not having a Redistribution Bill they would elect a Constituent Assembly, and not a Legislative Assembly. A Constituent Assembly ought to represent all interests; and, speaking not for the counties alone, but for the urban districts also, they would suffer still more if this Bill were passed without a Redistribution Bill. He would not detain the House long by giving illustrations; but he would point out what great anomalies would exist among the urban constituencies if they passed the present Bill without a Redistribution Bill, and by so doing double the electorate in the counties. At the present moment there 1490 were 42 boroughs with a population of less than 7,000 people, 30 with less than 6,000, 48 with less than 2,000, and altogether 230,000 returned 76 Members. On the other hand, there were 178 urban communities which were entirely unrepresented with a population of more than double that which he had mentioned, and which would, under this Bill, have a constituency of more than 500,000. Then would it be wise to pass a measure, without a Redistribution Bill, which would enable 176 Members to sit for comparatively small constituencies, while 178 communities with double the number of electors contained in these small boroughs would be thrown into the counties? How was it possible, under these circumstances, to get a fair Redistribution Bill? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would help them out of the difficulty, and give them some assurance that if this Bill were passed both by the House of Commons and by the other branch of the Legislature it would not be allowed to come into force until some scheme of redistribution was established. It was for this reason that he supported the Amendment, which would delay the practical operation of the Bill until the House had an opportunity of considering the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey). The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was, no doubt, at the head of a very powerful Party; but he was also the head of the Government of the country, and should be bound to take into consideration any reasonable arguments, if they were even brought forward by his opponents. He believed there were many hon. Members on that side of the House who were not opposed to a diminution of the franchise in itself, but who considered that no Reform. Bill should be passed even to carry out the wishes of the Liberal Party unless, at the same time that the franchise was lowered, there was a large redistribution of seats.
I do not wish to detain the Committee except to answer the appeal of the hon. Gentleman, who asks for an assurance that the present Bill, if passed into law, should not come into operation until a Redistribution Bill has also been passed. Now, it is certainly, in my opinion, a most unreasonable pledge to ask of the Government that the franchise should not come into operation 1491 until the enactment of a Redistribution Bill, because if such, a compromise were made it is impossible to say what redistribution might be passed. It might be possible for persons to object to the Redistribution. Bill, and by preventing it from being passed they might wreck the fortunes of the Franchise Bill also. I, therefore, think that this is a demand which ought not to be made upon Her Majesty's Government. Short of that I go entirely with the hon. Gentleman. The Government admit that it is desirable, and even in a certain sense urgent, that a Redistribution. Bill should be passed. We have announced our full intention, as far as it depends upon us, that an effort shall be made to pass a proper Redistribution Bill before the Dissolution of the present Parliament shall arrive in the natural course of events. Well it seems to me that that is all that can be fairly asked of the Government. We go a great way to meet the hon Gentleman; but I will not undertake to say that the whole labour of the House upon the Franchise Bill should be lost until there is further legislation in reference to the redistribution of seats, because I hold that the Franchise Bill itself is a good Bill, although perfection may not be obtained, or anything like perfection until a Redistribution Bill is passed. As to the precise moment when this Bill is to come into operation I never said anything that would tend to make that a sine quâ non as to the provisions of the Bill. That is a matter which will naturally arise after the consideration of the first line of the clause.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he supported the Amendment, from which the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) and the Prime Minister, in the observations they had made, had wandered. He would venture respectfully to suggest the great importance of the words proposed to be inserted. He felt fully the force of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench—that these words were of the greatest consequence; and he trusted that earnest and persevering efforts would be made to have them inserted in the clause. He wanted the House to start fair in discussing the Bill in Committee. He thought nothing could be more unsatisfactory to the House than for hon. Members to be 1492 satisfied with an assurance given by the; Government, and then to find that the Chairman of Ways and Means, in the conscientious discharge of his duties, was unable to give effect to that assurance. The way in which the House was treated not only in Committees of this kind, but upon the Estimates, was often productive of disappointment and difficulty. An assurance was given that a full opportunity would be afforded for discussing a particular matter afterwards; and then the Chairman, in the conscientious discharge of his duties, was compelled to take a proper view of an Amendment, and to rule out of Order a great number of points which, strictly speaking, were out of Order, but which the House had been led to believe, by an assurance given by some Minister in the course of the debate, would be discussed. He was not at all satisfied with what the Prime Minister had stated. The right hon. Gentleman told the Committee that he had looked over the Amendments. It was very kind of the right hon. Gentleman if he had done so; but the right hon. Gentleman was under the impression, having looked over them, that they could be discussed, in due course, without the insertion of the prefatory words moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross). But was the Prime Minister sure that the Committee would not be called upon to deal with Amendments besides those already on the Paper? If that were so, they might find themselves met, later on, by this argument—"I never foresaw these Amendments at all; I saw those which had been placed upon the Paper, and thought they might be discussed; but these raise entirely fresh matters." The consequence might be that, long before they get the Bill through Committee, one Member of the Government would rise up after another and tell hon. Members that it would not be in Order to discuss the questions they were anxious to raise. He contended that these words wore necessary, because, without desiring to use harsh words, it seemed to him that it almost became an artifice to put in a Bill words that required consideration, and then to tell hon. Members afterwards—" You have passed those words. The whole spirit of the Bill is framed upon them, and all your arguments are inconsistent, and, therefore, out of Order." 1493 The chairman would be required to rule conscientiously that the Amendments were inconsistent, and that was the reason why he (Mr. Warton) wished to secure the insertion of these very proper precautionary words. He thought the clause had been drafted, so to speak, in a manner to deceive the House. The very phrase "uniform" was misleading in itself. The very construction of the clause was wrong, and they ought to have had household franchise in a clause separate altogether from any clause relating to lodger franchise. The effect of passing the very first line of the present clause would be that the Committee would be committed to the main principle of the Bill in consequence of passing two or three at the commencement of it without their importance being sufficiently impressed upon the Committee. He said this in a friendly spirit towards the Prime Minister. He confessed that he was not often animated by such a spirit; but he did say in a friendly spirit on this occasion that the right hon. Gentleman would save his own time and the time of the House if he would consent to the insertion of these words. It was his deliberate belief that such a course would very much tend to save the time of the House, and no one could doubt that the course proposed was a prudent one. If it were not assented to, the Committee would be compelled to dwell at very great length on every word of the clause, because every word in the clause would be then of the utmost importance; whereas if they were not to be absolutely binding they would be of less importance. Without they were to be taken as binding, it would be the duty of the Committee to discuss them with great completeness. He hoped the Prime Minister would, at the outset of the proceedings of the Committee, feel that it was always the best policy to treat his opponents with full consideration, and that it was not the best course to make vague promises which he could not keep, and to tell the House that future Amendments might be discussed, when the Chairman would be compelled to say that most of them were altogether irregular. He presumed that the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees, in the discharge of his duties, would properly rule that several of the Amendments already upon the Paper were not in regular form, and, therefore, could not be dis- 1494 cussed, and that, in point of fact, they were beyond the principles of the Bill. If that were done, hon. Members who had been misled by the Prime Minister could only get up and say that the right hon. Gentleman had promised to discuss them. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman had given the Committee a vague and general assurance that they might be discussed; but it was because he (Mr. Warton) had found from experience that such assurances generally betrayed those who accepted them, that he considered it would be better to insert words in the clause which would set the matter entirely at rest. Such a course would be far better than relying upon any promise whatever; and, therefore, he would say once more in the most friendly spirit that he thought it would be better for the Prime Minister to consent to the Amendment.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that, so far from thinking the Prime Minister wrong in refusing to extend the power of putting down Amendments, he was sorry the right hon. Gentleman had not limited it still more. It appeared to him, from what had already transpired, that there was an intention on the other side of the House to make second reading speeches in order to obstruct the passing of the Bill. He had simply risen to state why he should vote against the Amendment, and against every Amendment on the Paper, except clerical ones on both sides. He was for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. Speaking as an advanced Radical, he was sorry that the Bill had not been made wider in its scope than it had been. He thought that many persons might have been given votes who had not been given them, and that others who were still left with more than one vote might have more than the one vote taken away. But the Prime Minister had never said that the Bill was perfection. The Prime Minister had simply submitted the Bill. At the last General Election the country distinctly endorsed the issue whether there should be an equalization of the county and borough franchise. That was the basis of the present Bill, and it was upon that basis they ought to vote. For his own part, he was ready to declare that he would not look into the merits or demerits of the Bill; but, in regard to the Amendments which had been put upon the 1495 Paper, he should vote against every single one of them. As far as the Bill was concerned, he put himself entirely in the hands of the Prime Minister, on the understanding, of course, that the right hon. Gentleman did not, either from good nature or any other cause, yield one iota to Gentlemen on the other side of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman did that, he would promise to vote with him against every single Amendment, whether proposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, or by hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal side of the House.
§ MR. SCLATER- BOOTH
said, the hon. Gentleman had promulgated some sentiments which, no doubt, would be approved by the Treasury Bench; but it would be very unfortunate and very unusual if hon. Members were to endorse the principle that no Amendments were to be allowed in any Government Bill, even although it might be a Franchise Bill. The reply he had expected on the part of the Government to the Amendment of his right hon. Friend was that they looked upon it simply as a qualifying Amendment, which would render it competent for hon. Members to bring forward subsequent Amendments, and give facilities for putting such Amendments in order, having regard to the context of the Bill. What they had a right to expect, and what the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister ought to have informed them, was that the Government would not raise the technical objection that for want of these qualifying words such Amendments could not be put from the Chair. Everyone knew that the words proposed to be introduced by his right hon. Friend were simply the common phrases of the draftsman of a Government Bill. It was seldom that a Bill was drawn without those qualifying words being introduced into it, and which they could not reasonably object to. There were, however, no such qualifying words on this occasion, because, as far as the Bill was drawn, it proposed and anticipated no qualifying paragraph or provision to interfere with the simple construction of the words of the clause. But the question was, whether the absence of these words was to be pleaded in bar of subsequent Amendments? If the Government would tell the House that they did not propose to take that technical objection, and would say that subsequent Amendments might 1496 be discussed without these words being inserted—that, in point of fact, hon. Members would not be precluded from urging that all the Amendments which appeared on the Paper, together with others which might be suggested, might with propriety be inserted in the Bill—if the Committee agreed to adopt them then, he thought hon. Members on that side of the House would be satisfied. He did not intend to follow his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) into the discussion which he had initiated, and which, probably, might more fitly be considered a question for second reading. The Prime Minister, however, had taken no objection to it himself, but had followed in the same strain. He would only say this—that his hon. Friend scarcely expressed, with accuracy, the position which many of the county Members took in regard to the Bill. Their point was that they would be voting for the Bill in the dark, unless they know what steps would be taken hereafter to continue that distinction between the county and borough representation which in the most solemn manner the Prime Minister had announced his intention to perpetuate. They did not dispute the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to do so; but what they doubted was his power. They said that if the Bill was passed in the shape in which it now stood it might not be in the power of the right hon. Gentleman to carry out that pledge. That was their fear and their anticipation. They had no fear that the extension of the suffrage in the counties would produce any mischief, provided the relations between the county and borough representation, and the separate existence of the areas now familiar to all of them, could be by some means or other preserved and maintained.
§ MR. SEREANT SIMON
said, that, with all respect to his right hon. Friend, he thought his observations were not well founded, and that the insertion of these words was not necessary in order to admit Amendments into the Bill, although they undoubtedly would prevent the introduction of Amendments which were not within its scope. Reference had been made to an Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey), and the whole of the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Ports- 1497 mouth had been directed to the question of redistribution. Now, whether the Amendment under consideration was adopted or not, the discussion of an Amendment such as that which stood in the name of the hon. Member for South Northumberland would not be precluded, for it amounted simply to this—that the Act should not come into operation as soon as it received the Royal Assent, but upon a given contingency. It was a very common thing in Acts of Parliament to fix the date when the Act should come into operation; and it was only another form of fixing the date to say, as the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland said, that the Bill should not come into operation before a certain event. It did not require the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in order to admit such an Amendment as that; but, of course, it would not be competent to introduce any Amendment which, at the present moment, was beyond the scope of the Bill. He, therefore, opposed the Amendment, because he could see no advantage that could be derived from its insertion.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would excuse him, as one of the county Members whose constituents would be affected by the Bill, if he asked the Attorney General what this uniformity meant as to houses and as to lodgings, seeing that there was no uniformity already existing or established by law in the United Kingdom. Uniformity implied a standard, although there was no rental value attached as descriptive of the house or of the lodging. Was he to understand that the Irish standard of a lodging and of the Irish standard of a house was to be applied as a qualifying test to houses and to lodgings in the Metropolis and in England generally? He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would see that this was an important question. Until in an evil hour the late Mr. Disraeli, while still a Member of the House of Commons, advised the House to adopt household qualification without any rental standard, which meant the mere possession of a house without specifying what the house was to be in value, there had been an intelligible qualification. The lodging qualification was adopted in haste, in the absence of any adequate 1498 discussion upon an Amendment proposed by Mr. Kirkman Hodgson in 1867. The sudden adoption of household suffrage with no definition of the value of the house, together with the sudden adoption of the lodger franchise, with no proper definition of what was to constitute a proper and an adequate lodging, was the "leap in the dark" which was then taken. It gave to the Act a name, which it had never since lost; and when he saw the Committee about to take "another leap in the dark" in respect to uniformity of franchise between the counties and boroughs, he thought he was entitled to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he took the lowest standard of a house and the lowest standard of a lodging, which lowest standard existed in Ireland; and whether he proposed, under cover of the words contained in the clause, to extend the franchise under this lowest standard to the counties of England and Scotland?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he ventured to hope that the Committee would be allowed to adhere to the clause as it stood. The matter stood in this way. The right hon. Gentleman opposite desired to insert the words "subject to the provisions of this Act hereinafter contained." But the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that without those words any Amendment could be moved upon the 1st clause unless it were absolutely to negative a clause which had already been passed. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman said he wished to have these words inserted because he wished to alter the words "after the passing of this Act." But the right hon. Gentleman had power already to move any Amendment upon those words, or to leave them out altogether if he desired.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that what he had said was that if the clause were passed with those words "after the passing of this Act" in it, it would shut out any Amendment as to the Act coming into operation at any other time; and he had mentioned as an instance the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey).
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that no consideration of that kind would arise on the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland. The Government 1499 could not accept the Amendment; and when the clause was agreed to, the only effect would be that it would prevent the consideration of succeeding Amendments that were contradictory to it. He thought the Government were entitled to know the character of the subsequent Amendments which arose out of this one, because, unless they did so, an Amendment upon the principle of the Bill might be moved such as might cause the measure to be given up. What the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) virtually asked was that the Government should not adhere to the clause after it was passed if subsequent Amendments were proposed in it. If the Committee did not insert these words the first two lines of the clause would run—A uniform household and lodger franchise at elections shall be established in all counties and boroughs throughout the United Kingdom.He was ready to admit that if they passed those two lines they could not afterwards move anything that would be contradictory to them; but they did not intend to move anything that was to be contradictory to them—namely, that there was to be a uniform household and lodger franchise in all counties and boroughs throughout the United Kingdom. Hon. Members on the other side of the House did not object to that principle; but, as far as he could see, there was no Amendment on the Paper which could be moved now without the insertion of those words. The right hon. Gentleman, from his point of view, desired that there might be power hereafter to move Amendments that might be contrary to the principle contained in the first two lines of the clause. As he had pointed out, those who had supported the first two lines were entitled to know what Amendments were going to be moved before they gave any implied promise of the kind, because, if the Government assented to these words being placed in front of the clause, they would admit that they were necessary, and they would certainly leave a door open for Amendments of which nothing was at present known. They could not, without knowing what Amendments were intended to be moved, take any course which would imply an approval of subsequent Amendments contrary to the principle of the Bill. That was the 1500 whole reason why the Government could not accept these words.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to him to have entirely mistaken the nature of the case. The hon. and learned Gentleman said the Government did not wish to commit themselves now to the acceptance of any Amendments which would induce the belief that they intended to accept any subsequent Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say, almost in the same breath, that the Government would be leaving the door open to the subsequent acceptance of Amendments. Now, those two things were very different. He could perfectly well understand the Government declining to perform any act of any kind that would be held by the Committee to bind them to the subsequent acceptance of any Amendment, specific or otherwise; but the hon. and learned Gentleman went far beyond that when he asked the Committee to support him in practically closing the door against subsequent Amendments, without those Amendments having been fully considered by the Committee. The hon. and learned Gentleman talked about any Amendment being now in Order which was not inconsistent with the principle of a uniform household and lodger franchise. He (Mr. J. Lowther) had himself an Amendment of the character referred to, which he had not yet put upon the Paper, because he did not wish to anticipate the action of the House prematurely in supposing that they would go as far in regard to the Bill as to reach the Committee stage at all. But, now the House had gone into Committee, he should, of course, in accordance with the understanding he had entered into with the House on the second reading, place on the Paper an Amendment, which he certainly thought was inconsistent with the principle of a uniform household and lodger franchise, in so far as he intended to propose that the representation should be apportioned to the voters in relative proportion to taxation, and that the old Constitutional doctrine, to which he had referred on the second reading—namely, that taxation and representation should proceed pari passu, should receive fair consideration. The hon. and learned Gentleman had put him on one side with great coolness, and told him that he must speak now or for 1501 ever after hold his peace. He was perfectly willing, if the Committee wished it, to give them even now some of the reasons for desiring them to adopt the course to which he had referred; but he thought that it would be far more in accordance with the general practice of the House, and also he thought more convenient to the Committee, if he were to defer the making of those observations until he had drafted his Amendment, or proposed a new clause, distinctly raising that issue. The Government apparently wished now to adopt the curious process suggested by the Attorney General of closing the door to any suggestions or Amendments, owing to the fear of the hon. and learned Gentleman that if they left it open they might allow a doubt to remain on any score. He wished to know if the Prime Minister deliberately accepted the statement that had been made, and whether he had finally made up his mind to close the door against any Amendments which did not happen to fit in with preconceived ideas, and which were to take effect in Clause 2? He would certainly accept the Prime Minister's statement in preference to the apparent qualification of it which his own Legal Adviser suggested he intended to make. What was the effect of the decision at which the Government had arrived? It was this. They were told that on Clause 2 they were to debate every conceivable Amendment or suggestion any hon. Member might desire to propound at any subsequent stage of their proceedings. Was that a course calculated to save time? Reference had been made to the important proposal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey); but they were told in substance by the Attorney General that the discussion upon that proposal must be raised on Clause 2, or not at all. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir Henry James): I never said so.] He (Mr. J. Lowther) was glad that he had misunderstood the hon. and learned Gentleman, because he thought it was an error which was generally shared by the Committee. He was glad that he had been mistaken, for the very candid complacency with which the Prime Minister had received his remarks had certainly led him to fear that there was some such idea in his mind. He was glad to find that if there had been it had been given up. 1502 What was the objection to the words proposed by his right hon. Friend? His right hon. Friend simply proposed to carry out what it was now evident were the intentions of the Government. The Government apparently, after the disclaimer just interjected, did not desire to tie the hands of the Committee in order to prevent them from considering subsequent Amendments upon their merits. That being the case, he was at a loss to understand what objection there could be to the acceptance of these words. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) deprecated the making of vague speeches or second reading speeches, as he called them. Certainly, the speech of the hon. Member was not vague, although whether it might not more appropriately be delivered on the second reading was a matter he would not now go into. He would only say that he did not wish his own few remarks to be either vague, or to partake of the character of second reading speeches. He wished it to be understood that his point was simply this—that the Committee should be placed in a position by the Government to deal with any subsequent Amendment which might be ruled by the Chair to be legitimately in Order, and which might be put for the acceptance of the Committee. On the other hand, the Government wished to preclude the Committee from going into subjects which they had a perfect right to deal with. He hoped the Government would make it clear what the interpretation was which was placed upon the clause. From what the Prime Minister had stated, it might be inferred that, unless his right hon. Friend's words were accepted, it would be impossible to move Amendments if the clause were agreed to; but the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had given some reason to hope that he (Mr. J. Lowther) was mistaken.
I really did think that the position was perfectly clear to all hon. Members who are acquainted with the character of the proceedings of the House in Committee. The Committee have riot yet been permitted to consider what are to be the enactments of the clause. When the Committee are allowed to come to the words of the clause they will reject them, or will modify them, or will adopt them as they think fit; but what we are now 1503 dealing with is a preliminary Motion, which goes to provide that after we have considered them, after we have rejected, modified, or adopted them, there should he no result from our action at all; but that the clause should be still liable to be reversed on subsequent consideration. It is really a question whether u preliminary Motion of this kind is, by anticipation, to nullify—not to stereotype anything that has happend—but to nullify the work we are about to do. The right hon. Gentleman complains that the Government are endeavouring to shut the door. Whenever we adopt any proposal in Committee, we shut out something else; and the right hon. Gentleman asks us now to accompany our conclusion by saying that we may accept something else.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
wished to put u question to the hon. and learned Attorney General. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in the remarks he had made just now, had omitted the word "lodger." He had spoken of a uniform household suffrage as being necessary; but the word "lodger" had been omitted. The word was in the Bill itself, but there was no provision for a uniform lodger franchise; and he confessed he viewed with some dismay the effect which the proposal might produce in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would be aware that the provision for Scotland was different from what it was for Ireland and England; and it appeared to him (Sir John Hay) that to pass the clause as it stood now, and to extend to the Scotch counties a lodger franchise in the Scotch boroughs, would open the door to all the evils which had been so strongly repudiated in regard to fagot votes in Scotland. He would ask every Scotch Member if he did not agree with him that if the present proposal really amounted to the extension of the lodger franchise in the Scotch boroughs to the counties all the evils of fagot voting would be again reestablished in Scotland? He had noticed that the hon. and learned Attorney General had omitted, in the course of his remarks, the word "lodger." He had no doubt that it was by accident, but it was omitted in two or three instances; and instead of quoting the lodger clause the hon. and learned Gentleman only wont as far as the household franchise. He was, therefore, desirous of ascertaining 1504 whether there was to be any change in the lodger franchise, or whether it was to be uniform both in regard to counties and boroughs. He awaited the answer with some interest.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that if he had omitted the word "lodger" the omission was altogether unintentional. The Prime Minister had mentioned it over and over again, and ample opportunities would be afforded for discussing the lodger question in connection with the point referred to by the right hon. Gentleman even if the words of this Amendment were not inserted in the clause.
§ MR. SALT
said, he thought the Amendment which had been moved by his right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Lancashire was necessary, having regard to the Bill itself. There was one point upon which he wished to ask for a definition. In Clause 7, upon page 3 of the Bill, a definition, of the household and lodger qualification and other franchises, together with the application relating thereto, was given. Well, the definition of lodger and household qualification was taken from certain Acts relating to England, Scotland, and Ireland, which differed in each case. He did not know whether he was mistaken; but he wished to know whether it would not be necessary to insert some qualifying words in order to explain the word "uniform?" The Amendment of his right hon. Friend was merely a technical one, which would not take five minutes to discuss, seeing that its object was simply to make the Bill intelligible and complete. He certainly thought that the Amendment was necessary, unless the lodger franchise, in all parts of the United Kingdom, was made absolutely identical.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that even from the point raised by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) the insertion of these words was altogether unnecessary.
§ MR. R. H. PAGET
said, he had entertained the hope that the Government would have accepted the Amendment; and he could not help feeling a suspicion that there was some reason for refusing to accept it. It was idle for the Prime Minister to say that anything contained in the words of the Amendment would virtually anticipate concessions. The words themselves were nothing but pure matter of formality, and it would be 1505 perfectly easy to insert them and leave the franchise as it was. There could be no reason why this simple and harmless Amendment should not be accepted by the Government in order, at any rate, to prevent hereafter any doubt arising as to whether any particular Amendment would be in Order or not. Surely, the Prime Minister had got at his back sufficient strength and numbers to enable him to feel sure as to what he could do in regard to the Bill; and the least that could be expected of him was a generous action in order to prevent the possibility of any doubt arising whether an Amendment could be moved or not. The Amendment itself consisted of plain and simple words which were usually put in in the drafting of a Bill. If the Committee were to discuss the Bill with temper and in a spirit of conciliation, it was highly desirable that an Amendment so simple and harmless as this should be accepted by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he also supported the Amendment, and wished to point out that, as the Bill was at present drawn, the provisions of one clause were contradictory to those of another, and unless full opportunity were afforded for the insertion of subsequent Amendments there would be great doubt as to the position in which the counties would be placed.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, a statement had been made that the Bill, as far it went, made no provision for giving effect to a uniform lodger franchise. The Committee certainly expected an answer to that statement; and when they came to the words "lodger franchise" it would be a proper time for inserting any qualifying words to meet the case which had been mentioned by his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wigtown (Sir John Hay). Inconveniences would immediately arise, because they would have passed words declaring that a uniform household and lodger franchise should be established, without establishing any machinery for enabling lodgers to come upon the Register. As he understood the Attorney General, some words might be inserted qualifying the uniformity of the lodger franchise. But, surely, that would be a most inconvenient and most indecorous course, because the clause would have to run somewhat in this way—"A uniform household and 1506 a quasi-uniform lodger franchise at elections shall be established in all counties and boroughs throughout the United Kingdom." Surely, it would be a far better course to adopt the words of the Amendment of his right hon. Friend, which were not unusual in Acts of Parliament. The present discussion would then cease, and the Committee would proceed to the consideration of the rest of the clause.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
wished to put a Question to the Chairman upon a point of Order. His hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) had pointed out that the wording of Clause 6 was inconsistent with that of the present clause. The words of the present clause were—A uniform household and lodger franchise at elections shall be established in all counties throughout the United Kingdom.Clause 6 modified that provision, and specified that the definition of household and lodger franchise should be in accordance with enactments upon those questions concerning the Three Kingdoms. He wished to ask the Chairman whether the 6th clause would be in Order, seeing that it materially modified the words and meaning of the clause now under discussion? Certainly, if Clause 6 were not out of Order, it would be competent for hon. Members to move Amendments modifying the provisions of Clause 2.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
wished to say, on the point of Order, that Clause 6 had no reference whatever to uniformity of franchise, but simply enacted that—A man shall not by virtue of this Act be entitled to be registered as a voter or to vote at any election for a county in respect of the occupation of any dwelling-house, lodgings, land, or tenement, situate in a borough.As there was nothing in a county which enabled a man to vote for a borough, so, also, it was provided that no voter should vote for a county in respect of occupation of property in a borough.
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
asked the Chairman if he adopted the definition of uniformity implied by the Attorney General, because the whole discussion would turn upon what was uniform within the meaning of the clause?
With regard to the hypothetical ease put to me by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), I can only say that the question would be one for the Committee to decide, and not for the Chair.
It is not a point of Order, but a matter for the Committee itself to decide. It is not a point of Order at all.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he was anxious to know what the Committee were really doing? The insertion of the words moved by the right hon. Gentleman was a matter of the highest importance. The Bill had been drafted in a clumsy manner, and the Government were now pursuing a course which could only result in the packing together of ideas that ought to be kept perfectly distinct. In his opinion, there ought to be a separate clause for household franchise and another for lodger franchise. It could not be imagined that both household and lodger franchise were uniform. There seemed to him to be an anxiety to draft the Bill so that it would upset the real meaning of the English language and make things absolutely unintelligible. Every hon. Member knew that household and lodger franchise were not uniform, but were based on different considerations and different qualifications. There appeared to be a wish on the part of the Government to deceive the Committee as to their object, and to introduce words into the clause without any proper consideration of their meaning, using their mechanical majority to enforce anything and everything. It was very clumsy drafting indeed to introduce the word "uniform" into the clause at all, because there was no such thing in existence as uniform household and lodger franchise. The household and lodger franchise were not uniform, and were not intended to be uniform. What was intended was that there should be some uniformity between household franchise in boroughs and counties and between lodger franchise in boroughs and counties; but to speak of a uniform household and lodger franchise was perfectly ridiculous, and the Judges hereafter would be very much puzzled to know what was meant by the expression "uni- 1508 form household and lodger franchise." The difficulty resulted entirely from a bad habit of bringing proposals together in concentrated language, and in comparing things that ought to be kept perfectly distinct. It was very easy to see that the Committee were starting on this long and protracted inquiry with a disposition on the part of the Government to drive the Bill through, by means of their mechanical majority, at a pace which Members on that side of the House would not stand. He was glad to see the Lord Advocate in his place, and he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would be prepared to answer the Question which had been put by the right hon. and gallant Member for Wigtown (Sir John Hay).
said, he did not agree with the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) that there was any great danger of the Bill being driven through the House at an improper speed, seeing that they had already been engaged for an hour in discussing an Amendment which the Attorney General told them was of no practical importance or necessity whatever. The hon. and learned Member for Bridport would be aware that they had been discussing an Amendment which was not yet before them, and which he had no doubt they would discuss when the proper time arrived. He quite agreed with and endorsed the opinion which had been given by the Attorney General and the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) that the Amendment was of no practical importance or necessity. The clauses of an Act of Parliament were always to be read with reference to one another, and whatever was passed subsequently would be taken into consideration by the Judges, who would interpret the Act by reading the whole of its provisions together. If the Committee were satisfied that these words were not necessary, was it worth while to put the House to the trouble of dividing upon them? If, however, there was a desire to take the sense of the Committee upon these words, why not go to a Division at once, and then, when they had decided the not very important question now before them, they would be able with greater advantage to enter upon the more important subjects which were involved in subsequent Amend- 1509 ments? That would be a more businesslike mode of proceeding. He desired that the Bill should be properly considered, but in a business-like fashion. They had now discussed the present Amendment for a long time, and he wished them to settle it at once.
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
said, he had not intended to address the Committee on this Amendment; indeed, he thought they were about to divide when his noble Friend rose to put a Question to the Chair. But he could not allow the remark, that the matter was confessedly of little importance, to pass without contradiction. It was not confessedly of little importance. But the question was, whether, by allowing the language of the Bill to remain as it then stood, discussion upon some points might not afterwards be burked? It might be that some hon. Members thought that the only principle affirmed by the Bill was that there should be an extension of the franchise. If the clause were drawn in the ordinary form, and not, as it appeared to him, with settled care to prevent discussion hereafter, it would not have been necessary to raise this question; but it was because it had not been so drawn that an attempt was made to obtain a ruling from the Chair. There appeared reason to apprehend that Amendments might be ruled out of Order, not because they were inconsistent with the principle of the Bill—the Prime Minister knew that—but because they were inconsistent with the word "uniform," whatever it might mean. Some hon. Members, while willing that the lodger franchise should be extended to the counties, believed that it would be necessary to adopt machinery proper to that particular franchise; but they feared that the moment the word "uniform." became part of the clause it would render any modification impossible. But for the ruling of the Chair, it might have been argued that, inasmuch as the word "uniform" had been passed, no Amendment that interfered with the supposed uniformity was admissable. Had it been clear from the first that the Committee would be allowed to discuss Amendments interfering with the uniformity of the subject, then he agreed that the Amendment of his right hon. Friend might have been unnecessary; but it was because they thought it was otherwise that the Amendment had been proposed.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 149; Noes 263: Majority 114.—(Div. List, No. 85.)
§ MR. CUBITT
said, he inferred, from the remarks made just now by the Prime Minister to his right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) to the effect that the lodger franchise was the very essence of the Bill, that he could not hope for the right hon. Gentleman's support to the Amendment he was about to move, which was to leave out from the first line of Clause 2 the word "uniform." But, whatever the Government might consider to be the essence of the Bill, he believed the Prime Minister would concede that the House, in consenting to its second reading, did not go any further than this—that they agreed to establish a household franchise in counties similar to that existing in boroughs. Therefore, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman, would deem it a fair subject for consideration whether that household franchise in counties and boroughs should be necessarily absolutely uniform. Before the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 there was an absolute and positive separation between the county and the borough franchises; the county franchise being simply an owner's franchise, and the borough franchise being simply an occupation franchise, the qualification in both cases having been originally very low. But the Act of 1832, with regard to boroughs, established a £10 occupation franchise; but with regard to the county franchise a much more serious step was taken. The Government included in it another qualification, which he might call a sort of hybrid modification between the freeholder and occupier; they proposed to include copyholders and leaseholders in the county franchise. The Chandos Clause provided that tenants at £50 a-year should be included in the county franchise. From the moment the occupation franchise was extended to counties—from that day there had been constant proposals to lower the franchise. From £50, which was the franchise of the Act of 1832, they had gone to the present franchise fixed by the Act of 1867 at a £12 rating, and now it seemed they had arrived at household franchise. It was interesting to think how fast they went in matters of this kind. A great 1511 change had taken, place since his Friend and former Colleague (Mr. Briscoe) was returned to that House. That Gentleman had described to him the manner in which his first election was conducted. He said that all the freeholders of the county of Surrey went down to vote at Guildford; that they went there in postchaises; that two only could travel in a chaise, and that they drank only port. The cost of all that came out of his hon. Friend's pocket; and the story of his election would show how rapidly they had since travelled, and though they had levelled many mountains and filled up many chasms, he feared they might now reach an arid plain on which there was neither water nor shade. If the Bill passed in its present form, the question must soon arise whether they had not reached such a degree of uniformity between the county and the borough franchise as would make it impossible to maintain the distinction that was left? It seemed to him that the lodger and service franchise had been unnecessarily introduced into the counties for the purpose of keeping up this uniformity. The experiment of the lodger franchise had, as he believed he could show, been from one point of view a complete failure. Was it, then, necessary to take these two franchises into the counties? And if they were introduced, could they put a stop to freeholders in boroughs voting for the county? But these questions imported a difficulty already alluded to. They must not look at this Bill alone as about to pass into law; they must remember that there was a larger Bill behind it. However, he asked, what was to be the position of freeholders in boroughs under the Bill? As the Committee would know, certain places in the Kingdom were called counties of cities, in some of which—not in all—freeholders had the right of voting for the county. They were Lichfield, Bristol, Exeter, Norwich, Nottingham, Haverfordwest, and Berwick-on-Tweed. East Stafford, with a population of 138,439, and an electorate of 11,728, included four boroughs—Lichfield, Tamworth, Walsall, and Wednesbury—in respect of which, and putting aside for one moment how many of these would be disfranchised by the Redistribution Bill, there would be this anomaly, that the freemen of three of the boroughs would continue to 1512 vote for the county, while the freeholders of Lichfield would vote for the city. Again, under the Bill, Bristol and West Gloucester would have an identical franchise, the only difference between the constituencies being that a certain number of freemen would continue to vote for the city and none for the county. He believed the Committee would see that the distinction between the county and borough franchises could not be maintained if the Bill became law. Bearing in mind what the Prime Minister had just told them was the essence of the Bill, some would say this was a step towards the establishment of electoral districts. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Gentleman below the Gangway cheered that statement; but he could assure him that this was not the opinion of the Prime Minister nor of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, as would appear from what they had stated in that House. The right hon. Gentleman, when he introduced the Bill, said—I am not personally at all favourable to what is called the system of electoral districts, or to the adoption of any pure population scale. I cannot pretend to have the fear and horror which some people have with regard to the consequences of electoral districts. My objection is a very simple and would be a practical one. In the first place, electoral districts would involve a great deal of unnecessary displacement and disturbance of traditions, which, I think, you ought to respect. But my second objection is—and I regard it as a very important one—that I do not believe that public opinion at all requires it, and I doubt whether it would warrant it. Next, I should say that in a sound measure of redistribution the distinction between town and country, known to electoral law as borough and shire, ought to be maintained. Although our franchise is nearly identical, that is not the question. The question is, whether there is not in pursuits and associations, and in social circumstances, a difference between town and country, between borough and shire, which it is expedient, becoming, and useful to maintain? "—(3 Hansard,  129.)Such was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman when he introduced the Bill; and it likewise received the assent of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, who, on the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, expressed himself thus—Speaking for myself, I may say that if I believed this Franchise Bill was introduced morely to prepare the way for a reconstruction which would involve the destruction of the separate political existence of all but the largest cities and counties, and the division of 1513 political power between the inhabitants of the great cities and the rural populations scattered over areas of great extent—if I believed this, and that an attempt was to be made to introduce some uniform system, such as that of equal electoral districts, then I should not be prepared to support this Bill,Now, comparing these statements of the Prime Minister and the noble Marquess with what he had endeavoured to show—namely, the almost complete identity of franchise contained in the Bill—it seemed to him that they were coming to electoral districts of wide area and sparse population in counties, and of small area and dense population in boroughs. Then they had this, that the amount of representation would vary as the distance from the seat of Government. He thought this was a fair description of the proposal of the Bill, and that the distinction between the county and borough in future would have no other existence than in their old historic names. He came now to the question as to whether it was necessary to include a lodger franchise in the Bill in order to get uniformity. He believed he should be able to show that the lodger franchise, as he had already stated, would be a failure. But, first of all, a word or two as to the Party bearing of the matter. As far as he knew, nothing had been proved definitely as to the Party character of the lodger franchise; but, wherever it had been exercised, it had probably gone to increase the majority rather than to alter the opinion of the constituency.
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
rose to Order. He asked whether the right hon. Gentleman was in Order in the observations he was then making with respect to the lodger franchise?
§ MR. CUBITT
The lodger franchise came before the House originally as one of those fancy franchises, many of which, the Prime Minister in his speech said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) had killed with a phrase; but it had been so favoured, that the right hon. Gentleman included it as an occupation franchise under the new borough franchise. It was proposed, in 1859, by Mr. Disraeli, and it had been proposed in various Reform Bills brought before the House and generally received with 1514 favour; the discussions which took place upon it were not as to whether the lodger franchise should be allowed, but as to the restrictions to be placed upon it, and as to how the claims under it were to be made. Mr. Disraeli, on the second reading of Lord John Russell's Reform Bill of 1860, spoke with favour of the lodger franchise, which was not included in it. In the same year, Sir George Lewis said—The persons in lodging-houses who would obtain the franchise would belong mostly to the working classes—persons flitting about from one place to another, and less fitted, in many respects, for the exercise of the franchise than householders subject to residence and paying rates."—[3 Hansard,  2180.]So the question of the lodger franchise went on, until Mr. Disraeli introduced it, in 1867, with the words—"There is no doubt a wish on both sides to establish this franchise." In that year, the lodger franchise was established without any debate as to principle, but simply upon debated Amendments. He (Mr. Cubitt) asked the Committee to consider what the result of that franchise had been, and he thought it would rather startle some hon. Members to hear that in the whole of the borough constituencies of England, which contained more than 1,500,000 electors, there were only 29,918 lodgers on the Register. In Scotland, according to the Return of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold), there were 323 lodgers; 173 in Glasgow, out of 63,716 electors; and 50 in Edinburgh, where there was an electorate of 28,931. In Ireland, there were 1,213 lodgers, 1,082 of whom were in Dublin, where there were 13,580 electors. Returning to the lodger franchise in England, he found what he believed would create surprise—that was to say, that of the 21,918 lodgers on the Register, nearly 16,000, or three-fourths of the entire number, were in the Metropolitan districts; and in looking through the Returns relating to the other great towns he found that the number of lodgers on the Register was almost ridiculous, as would be seen by the following table:—
Liverpool 379 Lodgers, 63,436 Electors. Manchester 115 Lodgers, 52,831 Electors. Leeds 120 Lodgers, 50,675 Electors. Birmingham 72 Lodgers, 63,221 Electors.
In the other towns, with the exception of Devonport, where there were 430
lodgers and an electorate of 5,421, the number of lodgers did not reach 200. The largest number of lodgers on the Register in the Metropolitan area were in Westminster, and he thought he could give a good reason why the franchise had been chiefly exercised there. In 1865 there took place a great Party conflict in the City of Westminster, and it was the duty of the political associations to put as many lodgers on the Register as possible. The lodger franchise was, in short, an agent's franchise, and it was almost impossible for a lodger to get on the Register without the assistance of a political agent. The Prime Minister, on the 12th of March, 1866, in introducing his Reform Bill, said—
Now, I can give no information, and I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was unable to give any in 1859, as to the number of persons who would, perhaps, be enfranchised under the title of lodgers; but this I may say, that, in the first place, my firm belief is that it will be a small one; and, in the second place, my firm belief likewise is that this what I now speak of is a middle class rather than a lower class enfranchisement. The operation of claiming, and of claiming too, year by year, is one that must be very burdensome to working men; whereas young men, such as clerks and men of business, familiar with the use of pen and ink, if educated and intelligent persons, and desirous of obtaining the franchise, will estimate the trouble far more lightly. We calculate, there fore, on a certain amount of middle class enfranchisement by the provision I have de scribed; but I should be misleading the House were I to pretend to entertain the opinion that any large number of the working class, or any very large number even of the middle class, will come upon the Register by virtue of that which we term a lodger franchise."—(3 Hansard,  47–8.)
That was the opinion of the Prime Minister in 1866, and an examination of the Return of the hon. Member for Salford would show that, to a certain extent, it was a correct opinion. He repeated that the lodger franchise was an agent's franchise. It had been fenced round with many restrictions, which made the exercise of it exceedingly difficult. There were extant no less than five forms of claim in connection with it—namely, a new lodger form of claim and declaration; an old lodger form of claim and declaration; a form for new and old lodger as joint tenants; and a form for successive occupation. Those forms required the signature of the claimant and the signature of a witness, which in itself had been a great incentive to forgery, and a good deal
had gone on in connection with the lodger franchise, which had at last been the cause of Parliamentary interference. The Committee would remember the Parliamentary and Municipal Registration Act of 1870 which was brought in by Mr. Martin, the then Member for Cambridge, and supported by the right hon. Gentleman the present Head of the Local Government Board. The Bill was referred to a Select Committee; and hence arose the difficulty that very little record remained of what was said at the time—the debates on the clauses of the Bill were not reported. However, the Act dealt with the lodger franchise, and it contained a penal clause with regard to lodgers which it was important the Committee should bear in mind, as throwing considerable light on the working of this franchise. The clause inflicted fine and imprisonment for not exceeding one year for making false claims. Now, Parliament had always been unwilling to enact franchise penalties without grave consideration; and therefore it would be clear to the Committee, from this clause having found its way into the Statute Book, that the lodger franchise was open to some grave drawbacks. Were it not so, the provision in the Act he was quoting would not have been passed; although he might add that since that event took place the evils in connection with lodger franchise claims had not been cured. The registration, as a matter of fact, came on at a time of the year when nearly all the Members of that House were taking their holidays, and thus the reports of what occurred in the Registration Courts did not come before them. If they did, hon. Members would see that the time of the Revising Barristers was taken up with the settlement of fraudulent lodger claims. One or two cases had also been before the Police Courts, and a conviction had taken place at the Central Criminal Court. And yet such a point had been reached that they were asked to look upon the lodger franchise as a model franchise. Again, they had heard a great deal of the redistribution of seats which was to follow the passing of this Bill; but they had not heard much about the third Bill which the Prime Minister announced, and it was that Bill to which he now desired to direct the attention of the Committee. In his introduction of the present measure the
Prime Minister made a statement to the House, which, with the permission of the Committee, he would read—
Sir," said the right hon. Gentleman, "as to registration, all I will say is this—that our Bill is framed with the intention of preparing a state of things in which the whole occupation franchise, which, I believe, will be about five-sixths of the franchise, shall be a self-acting franchise, and the labour, anxiety, and expense connected with proof of title, which is, after all, according to our view, an affair of the public and the State rather than of the individual, will, I trust, be got rid of. But, at the same time, our Bill is not a complete Bill in that vital respect, and we look to the introduction of another Bill for the purpose; with this we shall be prepared immediately when the House has supplied us with the basis on which it wishes us to proceed."—(3 Hansard,  124.)
Now, he would ask the Prime Minister, or the Attorney General, how it was proposed to make the lodger and service franchise a self-acting franchise? If no answer could be returned to that question, he thought they were entitled to ask why the Bill in its present form had been placed on the Table? He had consulted many agents and Gentlemen in that House upon the subject, and they had failed to tell him how this franchise could be made self-acting. He would refer to Clause 9 of the Bill, to which attention had been called on the second reading, and which, in his opinion, was of importance inasmuch as it showed, so to speak, which way the wind was blowing. The clause was, in part, as follows:—
In Scotland, Section fifteen of the Representation of the People (Scotland) Act, 1868, shall apply to counties as well as burghs, and in the application thereof the word tenant shall include any inhabitant occupier within the meaning of this Act, and it shall he the duty of every person rated in respect of any lands and heritages which comprise any dwelling-house when applied to by the assessor to give an accurate written list of the names and designations of all men other than himself, being inhabitant occupiers of any dwelling-house forming part of such lands and heritages, and if he fail to do so he shall be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding five pounds, and the proviso in Section two of the Act for the Valuations of Lands and Heritages in Scotland, passed in the Session of the seventeenth and eighteenth years of the reign of Her present Majesty, Chapter ninety-one, shall be repealed.
And the clause subsequently provided, with regard to England and Ireland, that—
If any overseer makes default in giving such notice as last aforesaid, or any person rated
or rateable as aforesaid, makes default in furnishing the list so required to be furnished by him, such overseer or person shall on summary conviction be liable to a penalty not exceeding forty shillings.
Now, if it were necessary to introduce the new penalties provided in that clause, he thought it not unfair to say that under the so-called self-acting Registration Bill there would be many summonses before the Police Magistrates, and that, instead of subscriptions to Registration Societies, there would be penalties for misdemeanours. He would make no apology for having detained the Committee at length upon this important question, because he considered it necessary that it should be discussed fully before the Bill passed into law. In conclusion, he would ask Her Majesty's Government how they could arrive at uniformity of franchise in boroughs and counties without making absolute the identity between them, and whether they did not propose to introduce the lodger and service franchises into counties for the simple purpose of enabling them to establish electoral districts?
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 9, leave out "uniform."—(Mr. Cubitt.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman is quite correct in stating that this question is one of considerable importance, and that I have described it as the essence of the Bill. I appreciate, then, the importance of the Amendment, the adoption of which would alter the Bill in its very essence. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that because the Amendment is important it was necessary to handle it at very considerable length. ["Oh!"] That is what he himself said. But I do believe, although the Amendment is important, that the considerations connected with it are of a simple character. I decline to go into the question of the 9th clause of the Bill, for it is a most inconvenient method of dealing with a Bill to discuss any clause other than that with which the Amendment may deal. I think the right hon. Gentleman has stated his case very fairly, and he has not at all disguised the feeling in his mind that an error was committed when the occupa- 1519 tion franchise was introduced in 1832, and which was found to work in such a way that a large extension of that franchise was made in 1867. Having done so much, we have a large number of persons who are not included in the occupation franchise of the counties. Yet we have included them in the boroughs, and have had experience of their capacity to exercise the franchise with benefit to the country. The question now is, whether, having admitted the principle of the occupation franchise, having subsequently extended it, having reached a point at which a gross anomaly exists, and there being no suspicion of unfitness attaching to the parties, we can stop there? We think not. There is, I think, a great mistake pervading the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. I agree with him in desiring to maintain the distinction between shire and borough in our representative system; but I think he is wrong in supposing that that distinction rests mainly upon distinctions of franchise. He puts this question at the close of his speech—"Will you, after establishing a uniform occupation franchise in boroughs and towns, be able to maintain any distinction between the franchise in counties and the franchise in boroughs? "In the first place, I see no reason why that distinction should not be maintained. Looking at the spirit of this country and of this Parliament, it appears to me that the right hon. Gentleman is scarcely justified in his remarks as to the rapidity with which changes of this kind go forward. I regard the period of 20 years that has passed as one of probation, and I say, on the contrary, that these changes were adopted very deliberately and after full experience. But I do not see any reason to believe that a uniform occupation franchise would destroy the distinction between counties and boroughs, which rests upon the property qualification in counties. But, even if you did so, still, I say, you would not destroy of necessity the distinction between borough and shire, because it does not rest so much on what disqualifies a man as on the man himself. It is in the difference of pursuits and habits of life, the different conditions on which property is held, the differences between class and class, upon which, in my opinion, the distinction rests, more than upon any artificial con- 1520 ditions created by the Legislature, and I know not why these should not be for a long time, or permanently, maintained as the distinction between counties and boroughs in our representative system. We are dealing with two classes of people whom we are going to enfranchise. We are dealing with the artizans now scattered over the counties who form the bulk of our borough constituencies, and with whose exercise of their power yon are satisfied. We have also, as has been observed by the hon. Member for Portsmouth to-day, had quite sufficient test and specimen of the action of the peasantry under the present Parliamentary franchise to know that we are perfectly safe in their emancipation. And I must say there are questions connected with the condition of the rural labouring population, such as have recently been discussed by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), with regard to which I may say that if it be not a blot, yet it is a defect, in our representative system that those persons have not a larger influence than they have in this House for the representation of their peculiar interests. The lodgers in the Metropolis and in other great towns are mainly of the labouring class. In the counties they will consist in a much larger proportion of persons not belonging to the labouring class, but to a class whose feelings are much more associated with the Party opposite in political principles than they are with the feelings of those who sit on these Benches; and, therefore, it is rather hard that objection to the extension of the lodger franchise should come from Gentlemen opposite. This matter lies really at the root of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman had shown there was some modification of uniformity which it is desirable to introduce there would have been something to argue about. But he has not attempted to do anything of the kind. He has met us with objections of the most vague and general kind—objections which go against the occupation franchise in counties root and branch. His speech, if he will allow me to say so, was a speech against the fundamental provisions of the Bill; and, certainly, I do not think that any of those who have voted for the Bill in its previous stages will be inclined to admit the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, he wished to point out that the lodger franchise was of great importance in Ireland, where the artizans chiefly resided in lodgings. It was desirable, if the lodger franchise were extended over the whole of Ireland, that the provisions with regard to it should be the same as in England. In England the lodger franchise could be obtained by written application; whereas, in Ireland, personal application was required, which had prevented many persons desirous of exercising the franchise being placed on the Register. There would be considerable disappointment in Ireland unless that assimilation took place, and he trusted that the Prime Minister would see that the obstruction he had mentioned was removed.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, the right hon. Gentleman, appeared to suppose that under this Bill there would be instituted uniformity of franchise, and it was with some regret that he (Mr. Arthur Arnold) heard the same term used by the Attorney General. He thought that some error might be avoided if during those discussions they did not speak of uniformity of franchise, because the Bill proposed nothing of the sort. When this Bill passed there would be four different franchises in the boroughs and seven in the counties, and he thought that state of things ought to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. Although he was strongly in favour of uniformity of franchise, after the appeal of the Prime Minister he did not intend to propose any Amendment of that character. The reference of the right hon. Gentleman to the lodger franchise, taken in connection with his remarks on registration, pointed out that the remedy for the failure of the lodger franchise was to be found in an alteration in the Law of Registration. He hoped these words would be retained by the Committee.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, the present consideration of this measure showed how completely the Committee were inconvenienced by the absence of any statement by the Government as to the mode in which they intended to proceed in regard to redistribution. His right hon. Friend objected to this uniformity in counties, and regarded that as a necessary step to electoral districts; but the Prime Minister differed from that altogether, and the right hon. Gentleman made an essential distinction between 1522 shire and borough. But that essential difference existed, according to the right hon. Gentleman, in the very nature of the men who dwelt in shire and borough. In the counties there were men brought up under different conditions, and who constituted a separate body from the borough electors. That might be true if they could find a county which was essentially rural; but the right hon. Gentleman had said that a great number of places would under the operation of this Bill become virtually urban districts, and they knew it would be so. It, therefore, came to this—that the right hon. Gentlemen said he wished to maintain this distinction between county and borough, and that the only mode of preserving that distinction was by preserving a distinction between the character of the constituencies of the counties and boroughs. With respect to the question of the lodger franchise, the Prime Minister had assured them that it would noble the working classes who would come in, in the counties, under the lodger franchise. But the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Dawson) said he sincerely trusted that the lodger franchise would be extended to the counties in Ireland, because that would bring upon the Register a great number of artizans and labourers in Ireland. Then they had an hon. Gentleman opposite, one of the foremost supporters of the extension of this measure to Ireland, assigning opposite reasons to arrive at the same conclusion. The Prime Minister took no note of the important point submitted by his right hon. Friend, who asked how were the lodgers under this Bill to be brought on the Register? To that question the right hon. Gentleman gave no answer, or, at best, it was a negative answer—namely, that the point was to be considered under Clause 9. Clause 9 was a clause of penalties, and it was material that the Committee should not in a hasty manner assent to something in Clause 2 which might result in the imposition of serious penalties under Clause 9. Therefore, from that point of view alone, he thought his right hon. Friend had done well to call attention now to the very important question of how the lodgers were to be brought upon the Register in the counties; and he was sorry he had not received any explanation on the part of the Government.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the answer was that that question, did not properly arise under this clause, and the Government would be perfectly ready to deal with it when it arose. But he might state now that the county lodgers would be put on the Register in the same way as in boroughs. The number of lodgers in counties was very small.
§ MR. DAWSON
asked whether lodgers in Ireland would come on the Register in the same way as lodgers in England?
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, it appeared from the answer of the right hon. Gentleman that very few lodgers would come in for the franchise, because they would come on the Register in the same way in counties as in boroughs; but his right hon. Friend had shown that in respect to the generality of boroughs very few lodgers had hitherto come on the Register.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, the Government had not at all explained the necessity of the word "uniform." According to the Prime Minister it was not part of the scheme that the franchise in the county and borough should be uniform. There were different classes of franchise existing; but why was it necessary that the Committee should pledge themselves, before they had considered how the lodger franchise and the other franchises were to work in the counties to which they had not yet been applied, by the word "uniform" to identity between county and borough? That seemed to him to be taking an unnecessary stop in the direction of electoral districts, which it was said the Government did not propose to advocate, and with respect to which they felt great difficulty, because they hoard such different views from different Gentlemen, and because the Bill before them did not disclose the whole scheme. They wanted to know why this word "uniform" was put in, in order that they might feel sure that it meant something?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that in respect to the household franchise and the lodger franchise, the Government did intend to make the Bill uniform. Therefore, it was a question of enactment, and as they proceeded they should enact what they meant.
§ MR. SALT
said, there was a point which he wished to raise distinctly now, and which he should be sorry to leave unnoticed. This word "uniform" was to a very great extent the essence of the Bill itself, and no doubt it was extremely captivating to many hon. Members. It was an idea put forward with much plausibility, and not without reason, that as a householder in one constituency had a vote, a householder in another constituency should also have a vote; and that was the simple meaning of the Bill as it stood. With regard to what the Committee wore now discussing, the words under consideration were not uniform franchise in a general sense, but uniform household franchise. The point he wished to raise, and which had not been raised in the present discussion, was this—and it was a point of principle which he thought should not be lost sight of—this Bill was brought forward as a very complete Bill to do one thing—namely to establish uniform household franchise, and that had frequently been said to be the cause of the popularity and the strong support which the Bill had received; but, if that was so, why during the last 50 years in which Reforms Bills had been discussed, had there never been a uniform lodger franchise proposed? He thought there was a reason for this. He asked himself the reason why all the statesmen who had brought forward Bills on the responsibility of the Government on former occasions, had for years maintained a marked difference between the household franchise in the boroughs and in the counties? For this reason. It was because they wanted to create a variety of constituencies and a variety of representation. The effect of this Bill was not merely to create a uniform franchise throughout the country, but to create a uniform household franchise without bringing forward any means by which the variety of constituencies and of representation might be maintained. He believed that to be a matter of the greatest importance. To illustrate what he meant he would take some other franchise than the household or the lodger franchise. They might have taken a uniform household franchise of £25; but everybody would have said, very truly, that would be absurd and monstrous; but it was just as absurd and monstrous to create a uniform 1525 franchise in one way as in another. That seemed to him to be the fault of the Bill, not that it did not do what it professed to do, but that it did it without replacing a system which had always been supported by statesmen who had dealt with the question of the franchise. Then they were told that the variety of constituents would be retained by the variety of inhabitants living in the country and in the towns; but as the Bill at present stood a large number of the inhabitants in the counties would be swamped by town constituencies. As soon as they came to mere household franchise they not only created uniformity, but they also destroyed one of the main things upon which it was now said they were to depend for a variety of representation. His main difficulty about this Bill was that it did not replace that essential diversity between the household franchise in the counties and in the boroughs. Then they were also told, with considerable truth, that the individual in the county had as legal a claim to the franchise as the individual in the town. What they had to consider was how they could get a better representation returned to the House of Commons.
said, the Amendment was, no doubt, one of great importance; but he wished if possible to elicit a little more information with regard to it. The Prime Minister had said truly that this word "uniform" was necessary, because uniformity was the essence of the Bill. It was perfectly clear that the Government proposed a uniform franchise in counties and in boroughs. Uniformity applied to the household and the lodger claim, only it did not touch any other franchise. The Government proposed, then, that the household and lodger franchise should be uniform in counties and boroughs—that was, that all the incidents of the household franchise in the counties should apply to the boroughs, and all the incidents of the franchise in the boroughs should apply to the counties. He quite understood that; but then the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have some alternative scheme which at present he did not understand. The right hon. Gentleman and those who supported him appeared to dissent from the idea of uniformity in the county and the borough; but then they did not state what the alter- 1526 native scheme was which they would propose. He had listened carefully to the speeches in support of the Amendment; but he had not been able to arrive at an understanding of what was proposed by it. Until he heard some clearer definition of what the Amendment was to lead to, he should be inclined to prefer the more simple plan of the Government. This Amendment went to the vitality of the Bill, and those who were not prepared to accept the simple scheme of the Government ought at least to state what they meant to do.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he did not know what the proposal of his hon. Friends might be; but his pro position was to get rid of the Bill altogether, for a more objectionable Bill it had never been his misfortune to see. This was the first time he had addressed the House upon this Bill; but he had addressed the House on several other Reform Bills, which were all as unpopular as this was. The Prime Minister had told them that this Amendment went to the root and principle of the measure, and he supported the Bill upon the idea that it was necessary to extend the operation of the existing franchise. He should like to ask the Prime Minister how long that had been his idea, and how it was that it was only now that he had come to the conclusion that it was necessary to bring in such a Bill, and how it was that he allowed the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) to come down last year with a proposal——
I must remind the right hon. Member that the question before the Committee is the retention of the word "uniform."
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, last year the proposal of the hon. Member for Salford was for uniformity of suffrage; but the House was counted out, as there were not 40 Members present. He thought it was quite germane to the subject to ask the Prime Minister why he was so indifferent last year, and yet this year he made this Bill the principal measure of the Session? At a meeting held not long ago, the Attorney General said there was such a thing as a policy of incidence, and that led to this Bill being made the principal measure of the Session; and he would adopt the language of the hon. and learned Gentleman. With regard to this question of unifor- 1527 mity, having had some experience in this House, he would venture to say that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War were the last men in this House who should propose any such policy, because, during past years, they had been entirely opposed to such a policy. The Prime Minister had stated the other day that when he was a Member of the Peelite Party, that Party was a pure and high-minded Party. He was very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should have left that Party——
§ MR. DAWSON
rose to Order, and asked whether uniformity of franchise, or uniformity of conduct on the part of the Prime Minister, was the question before the Committee?
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, that if the hon. Gentleman thought that those who supported uniformity were not pure and high-minded, he was entitled to hold that opinion; but his point was, that when the Prime Minister was a Member of the Peelite Party he was opposed to uniformity of franchise. He had a seat in this House in 1859, and then a Bill was brought in by the Conservative Party proposing uniformity of franchise; but the present Prime Minister opposed it, and he not only spoke against it, but he turned the Government out upon it. So did all the Members of the old Whig Party and the Members of the Peelite Party. Lord Cardwell, who represented the Peelite Party on that occasion, said the proposal would lead to electoral districts. So it was held by Lord Russell and Lord Palmerston. The present Prime Minister voted against the Bill; and now, without giving any reasons whatever, he had leapt from one side to the other, and introduced this measure. Passing from that point, his principal desire was to state his objections to the introduction of the word "uniform" in this clause. His first point was that it must necessarily lead to electoral districts. The moment there was uniformity of franchise on one side, how could they say they would not give electoral districts? He had higher authority than the Government for that view. In a speech delivered in this House upon a Bill for establishing uniformity of suffrage, Lord Russell, that celebrated Member of the Liberal Party, said— 1528The principle of the Bill is only an argument and a step to further change. It will clearly lead to electoral districts, for you have taken away that which is the greatest impediment to the country in regard to electoral districts—the difference between county and borough. I believe the principle of the Bill will lead to such discontent that the only remedy for the evil you have inflicted and the mischief you have done will be to resort to electoral districts, which I consider a total suppression of the existing representative system.The proposal of Lord John Russell, when Leader of the House, was not one of uniformity, but diversity, of suffrage. Nor was that the principle proposed in the unfortunate Bill known as the "leap in the dark," which was carried in 1867, and which he had opposed as strongly as any measure he had ever opposed. On the contrary, it was kept back as a species of reserve to be sprung upon the House in a time of political exigency. In regard to equal electoral districts, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, in a speech he had delivered some years ago, stated to his present constituents the reasons why he refused to give his vote to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. The Attorney General said if this franchise were conceded—that was, uniformity of suffrage—numerical representation was the certain consequence. The distinction between county and borough must be removed, and equal electoral districts must follow. He would like to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, if he still adhered to that opinion, and if he believed that uniformity of suffrage must lead to equal electoral districts, why did he not go below the Gangway and endeavour to induce the Government to adopt that view? The hon. and learned Gentleman had declared that he was quite willing to surrender the representation of the borough of Taunton whenever he was called upon to do so by the necessities of the case and for the sake of patriotism. It would appear that he had already done so, because it would be seen from the newspapers that the hon. and learned Gentleman was a candidate for another constituency. His (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck's) objection to the Bill was that it must lead to universal suffrage. He recollected a speech delivered some years ago by an authority, whom the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would respect, on this very question of uniformity of suffrage—namely, the late 1529 Mr. Sidney Herbert. In opposing the principle of that measure very strongly, Mr. Sidney Herbert said that it was only the question of the turn of the screw. Whenever they got one point of the screw turned on they found they had to go to a lower point. The Prime Minister founded the principle of uniformity, not only in his opening speech, but in the speech which he had made a short time ago, on the question of the fitness of the capable citizen to exercise the franchise. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the capable citizen was fit to exercise the franchise in one district he was fit to exercise it in another. He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman where the definition of capable citizenship was to begin and where it was to end? Was it to be what was called a householder?—for many of them knew that many of these voters were not householders at all, but merely occupants of a single room, which, under certain conditions, gave them a vote. Why were such persons to be entitled to a vote, and other persons who were far more entitled to be excluded? Why were domestic servants disallowed a vote? They were going to bring in a service franchise in regard to the occupation of tenements in a certain way. Why were domestic servants to be excluded? Were they not flesh and blood, and quite as capable of exercising the franchise as the agricultural labourer, who, they were told, was in such a deplorable condition? Then, again, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman, why exclude the soldiers in our Army, who served the country well; or our gallant sailors? It came at once to this—the question of capability founded itself on such a state of absurdity that it was impossible to arrive at any logical principle in regard to it. In his opinion, electoral districts must follow universal suffrage, a state of things which was no doubt desired by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, because he saw that on a recent occasion, when haranguing a Radical Club at Chelsea, the right hon. Gentleman said that he not only advocated universal suffrage, but equal electoral districts. They all knew that those opinions were supported by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and by a large number of hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Northampton 1530 (Mr. Labouchere), who had said as much that day, and by a considerable number of Members who sat below the Gangway on that side of the House. There was no finality and no standpoint whatever. By adopting this measure they would at once be landed, as Lord John Russell told them, in a sea of troubles, and it would be impossible to bring them into a safe harbour. It was upon logical grounds that he supported the Amendment of his right hon. Friend, and he trusted that it would receive such support from hon. Members as would fully justify him in having it brought forward.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
said, it did not seem to him to be an expedient course to take a Division on this question, because it really was the whole Bill over again. Now, nobody was more opposed than he was to household suffrage either in counties or boroughs. He thought the Bill of 1867 was about as mischievous a Bill as was ever passed in that House; but, at the same time, it had become the law of the land, and he did not wonder that an attempt was now made to extend its provisions to the counties. The present measure was to follow out the real bonâ fide intention of that Bill, which was to make a raid upon the seats of the county Members, and, to use slang phraseology, was intended to "square" the borough Members who sat on the other side of the House in order to enable them to go back to their constituents unchanged. It was a sort of Kilmainham Compact, that would leave the seats of hon. Members opposite untouched at least for another Parliament, if they would help the Government in carrying death and destruction into the ranks of the county Members. He was not surprised that that should be the principle of the Bill, because the strength of the Liberal Party had always been with the Members who represented the boroughs; and if there was one thing that hon. Members shrank from more than another it was political annihilation. They knew very well that there were many Members sitting in that House, who, if their own special seats were taken away from them, would never sit again for any other constituency as long as they lived. Therefore, if the Government proceeded on the principle they were adopting in regard to this Bill, and promised a uniformity of representation without a redistribution of seats 1531 the hon. Members to whom he referred might be able to go down to their constituents for a year, or two years, on exactly the same constituency as now, and it was a boon for which they were ready to sacrifice everything else. That was the whole object of the Bill. The object of the Bill was to make an attack upon the seats of the county Members who sat on the Conservative side of the House. It virtually said—"You have already got two seats out of three;" and if there was another General Election this year, as he hoped there would be, instead of having two out of three, they would have three out of four. They would virtually keep the borough seats as they were, and prevent the winning back of a great many seats which were lost by the Conservatives in 1880. That being the object of the Bill, how could they carry it out except by retaining the word "uniform?" The whole Bill would be destroyed if that word were left out. After the Division which had taken place upon the second reading, and the important Division which had taken place as to the reconstruction and distribution of the suffrage, he thought it would be an unwise proceeding to waste the time of the House by dividing upon this particular word. They all knew the object of the Bill, which was to secure the borough Members in their seats and to get rid of the county Gentlemen who sat on the Conservative side of the House.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I think there is a great deal in what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins) as to the real object of the Bill. There can be no doubt that there is great force in those observations, and also in the remarks which have been made by other hon. Members, that a uniform household and lodger franchise is the point which has been pressed upon us by the Government, and which may be regarded as the principle of the Bill. Therefore, to discuss that point now would be to invite a repetition of the decision which the House has already pronounced. But, for all that, I think the discussion raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Cubitt) has been a very desirable discussion in drawing attention to certain important points relating to the question. I wish to ask, however, why it is necessary for the Government 1532 to commit themselves to this word "uniform" at the very outset? Why do you not leave any possibility of making different arrangements, if they should be necessary, for those classes of voters who would require somewhat different terms in the case of counties and in the case of boroughs? My right hon. Friend has pointed out with great force that the question arises in a great measure upon the lodger franchise. If you are going to enfranchise all the lodgers in the country, you will find that the difficulties which already beset you in connection with the voting of the lodger in the towns will be extensively multiplied and increased. I wish to know if we are to hold ourselves precluded by the introduction of the word "uniform" in the fore-front of the Bill from considering and discussing modifications which may be necessary with a view to the introduction of the lodger franchise in the counties? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) asks what can be proposed against it? What my right hon. Friend says is that we are promised a self-acting register, and it would be very desirable that there should be a self-acting register if we can see the plans of the Government beforehand; but, in the absense of those plans, it would be difficult to come to a decision in regard to the position of the lodger in the county. That is one of the points in regard to the Government scheme which makes it difficult for us to decide upon it. We do not wish to commit ourselves upon one or two matters of an important character, which hereafter we may find to be governed by other considerations. I would not advise my right hon. Friend to go to a Division. What seems to me to be the feeling generally entertained is that he should reserve what he has to suggest in regard to the lodger franchise until a later period—that he should rest satisfied with the good service he has done in entering his protest and in raising this discussion, and that we should accept these words with the understanding that the question may be fairly raised again in regard to household and lodger franchise, notwithstanding that we may have committed ourselves by assenting to the word "uniform." It seems that the word "uniform" has been put in in order to do away with the semblance of a distinction between the counties and boroughs 1533 —perhaps unnecessarily put in—and, therefore, leading to the conclusion that my right hon. Friend has done good service by the course he has taken in calling attention to the matter; but, as I have already said, I would not advise him to go to a Division.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
I am anxious that there should be no misunderstanding. The Government intend by the Bill that as far as household and lodger franchise are concerned to establish uniformity in reference to both the boroughs and counties; but they have not the slighest desire to shut out any fair Amendment which can be moved in accordance with the Rules of the House. I hope there will be no misunderstanding as to the intention of the Government not to deviate in the slighest degree from the meaning which they attach to these words.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) would excuse him, as one of the county Members who were to be affected by the Bill, if he asked the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General what his uniformity meant? Was it houses, or was it lodgings, with regard to which uniformity was to extend according to law throughout the United Kingdom? At the present moment uniformity implied a standard, although there was no rental value attached either to the house or to the lodging. Was it intended that, in future, the standard should be taken at the lowest—for instance, the Irish standard of lodgings and the Irish standard of houses? Was that standard to be applied as the qualifying test to houses and lodgings in the Metropolis and in every other part of England? Until, in a fatal hour, Mr. Disraeli, when he was a Member of the House of Commons, advised the extension of the household standard, which merely meant the possession of a house without specifying what the house was to be, matters were well understood. The lodger standard seemed to have been adopted in haste, and there was no adequate discussion upon it. It was adopted upon an Amendment proposed by Mr. Hodgkinson, in 1867; and the sudden adoption of household suffrage with no definition of the value of the house, together with the 1534 sudden adoption of the lodger franchise with no definition of what properly constituted adequate lodgings, constituted the "leap in the dark" which was taken in 1867. It gave the Act of 1867 a name which it had never lost. And now, when he saw the Committee about to take another leap in the dark in respect to the counties in which the majority of the people lived who would be affected by the present Bill, he thought he was entitled to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General whether he took the lowest standard of a house and the lowest standard of a lodging, which lowest standard existed in Ireland, and whether he proposed, under the cover of the words which appeared in the clause, to extend that lowest franchise to the counties of England and Scotland?
§ MR. WARTON
said, he did not know whether he would be in Order in referring to a statement made by the President of the Local Government Board in answer to the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Dawson). It would be in the recollection, of the Committee that the hon. Member asked the right hon. Gentleman a question as to registration—Whether it was not the case, that while the voter in Great Britain would not exercise his vote until he was registered, in Ireland the voter would do so as soon as he was entitled to be registered? From the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman he did not think he could have read the clause they were now considering, because it certainly made a curious distinction between the votes to be obtained under the clause and now. It seemed to him to be one of the numerous traps which were provided for hon. Members in the clause, because they were told that whereas in Great Britain the right to vote was to be obtained, the vote was not to be exercised until the voter was registered. The words were "when registered to vote at an election for such county;" whereas, in regard to Ireland, the words "when registered" were not used; but, instead of them there were the words "shall be entitled to be registered as a voter." He presumed that it was, in point of fact, a certain price paid to hon. Members below the Gangway, that the Irish voters should be able to exercise their Votes before the rest of the electors could exercise theirs. Under the clause a 1535 voter in Ireland would exercise the vote when he was entitled to exercise it; whereas, in England, he could only exercise it when registered.
§ SIR. CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member had been discussing words which came later on in the clause.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he would be quite ready to explain the meaning of the words when the Committee reached them; but he would only say now that the hon. Member had misunderstood their purport. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had also misinterpreted the meaning of the clause, because he assumed that the franchise in Ireland would be of a different description, from that in England, which was not the fact.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
begged the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. He had assumed that it was the same franchise, but applied to a different class of tenements.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, the Lord Advocate had not answered his question with reference to the Scotch lodger franchise, and he wished to point out that the words in the 2nd clause were different from the expression which had been used by the Attorney General. The 2nd clause established a uniform household and lodger franchise throughout the United Kingdom, and provided that it should be identical in character in the counties and boroughs of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. If that was clearly the meaning of the Government he was prepared to accept it; but it was scarcely the meaning of the words inserted in the first line of the clause, from which it appeared quite evident that there was a difference at present existing between the lodger franchise of Scotland, England, and Wales. There were, in fact, three kinds of lodger franchise and one of household franchise in the Three Kingdoms, and, as there was a difference now, they could not be uniform, unless they were going to be made uniform in all the Three Kingdoms, in accordance with the words set forth in the clause. He should like to have an explanation from the Attorney General, if it was intended to make the franchise uniform throughout the United Kingdom? He was prepared to assent to the proposal, but he did not 1536 understand the first part of the clause to establish that condition.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
said, he did not quite understand what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman wished to suggest in regard to the Scotch franchise.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
asked if there was not a difference between the franchise established by the Act of 1868 and that established by the Act of 1867?
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
said, the Act of 1867 was very similar to that of 1868. In the case of lodgers there was the rental provision of £10; and he did not know in what respect it was suggested that there was any difference.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, the lodger franchise was settled on a fixed money value, and in Ireland the franchise was based upon a £10 rent in regard to lodgers, and a £4 rent in regard to householders. With regard to the charge of want of uniformity raised by hon. Members, they might put their minds at rest. There was only one kind of uniformity he had discovered in these debates, and that was the uniformity of raising endless discussions and taking no Division upon them. The suffrage was not uniform at the present moment, but, under this Bill, it would be made uniform.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he had no intention, of continuing the discussion, which had apparently satisfied the Committee as to the decision it ought to arrive at, or rather as to the prevailing disposition of forces in respect of the I franchise. He wished, however, to draw attention to another point of more importance, which he thought the Government, would admit was fully deserving of the consideration of the Committee. He asked the Committee to bear with him for a few moments while he laid it before them. As he gathered from a statement made a short time ago by the Prime Minister, that was the last opportunity he would have of bringing it before the Committee. The point to which he desired to draw the attention of the Committee was how far the adoption of the words "uniform franchise" would preclude the subsequent adoption by the Committee of Amendments which had for their object the giving of greater electoral weight to the various voters in accordance with the stake which they had in the country. One point he wished 1537 to dwell upon briefly was how far it would be practicable, without going outside the scope and intentions of this Bill, to incorporate, for the purposes of this section, a portion of the statute commonly known as Sturges Bourne's Act. That Act was the 58 Geo. III., c. 69, and it clearly laid down the manner in which the votes could be apportioned to the stake the voter might have in the community. He had been told before—and he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had made himself responsible for the assertion—that this was an old musty, fusty statute, that it was passed in the year 1818, and the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to consider that that fact alone pointed it out for the condemnation of Parliament. He would remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that, although the statute had been the law of the land for a considerable number of years, no serious attempt had ever been made to repeal it, or to infringe upon its principle. Of course, he was not refer ring at that moment to those provisions of the statute which enabled votes to be given by proxy, and by other machinery, which he might have asked the Committee to incorporate in the present Bill; but he was referring rather to Section 3 of the Act of 58 George III., c. 69, which enabled every voter, or rather, to use the words of the Act—Every person who shall be rated for the relief of the poor shall be entitled to give one vote for every £50 valuation.Without troubling the Committee in any detail with the merits of the clause, he would point out that, although a plurality of votes might be accorded to every voter, yet it was provided that no person should have more than six votes. Some people might say that that was a very reactionary provision, and that it ran counter to the modern doctrine of the equality of every voter in the eye of the law, and that it was a provision which could hardly seriously be made to Parliament. He asked the Committee for a moment to consider what their object was in dealing with the question of the franchise. He knew there were those who were of opinion that the great object was that one political Party should have a preponderance of the votes of the electors. He would not weary the Committee by arguing with any such persons. He would rather 1538 assume that the object of Parliament was to secure some just and equitable method of arriving at the real wishes of the population of the country, due regard being had to the stake in the community which each voter possessed. He knew that some of his Friends on that side of the House said—"We entirely agree with you. It is quite right; but we do not believe that such a provision could ever be passed." Now, he contended that that was timid language, which he personally could not endorse. He thought if any Member of the House entertained a strong conviction on any particular point it was his duty to bring that point before the Committee, and not to scamp his task. He was aware that there were those who said that votes should not be accorded to property at all—that every man had an inherent right to a vote, and that the amount of property he possessed had nothing to do with the matter. But he would remind the Committee that that was not the language used by Her Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister, in introducing the Bill, laid stress on his own opinion that regard should be had to property vested in the inhabitants of a constituency as well as to the numerical strength of the constituency. Throughout all the discussions which had taken place upon the various Reform Bills it had always been contended that representation should be accorded to a constituency not solely on the ground of a certain number of houses being situate in it, or on the number of persons entitled to record their votes, but that property should also be included as a consideration. He desired to know on what principle the Government proposed to consider the allocation of electoral weight with respect to property? Did they intend to adopt the principle held in the Southern States of America in former days, when a certain number of votes was accorded to each State in respect of its local population, but the local population were not allowed to record their votes? He understood the Prime Minister to contend that it was quite right that regard should be had to the property situate in a constituency, but that the owners of that property should have no share in the disposal of the votes. The right hon. Gentleman was establishing a doctrine that one set of persons was to pay the piper while 1539 another set were to call the tune. That in plain language, was the object of the Bill. He did not now wish to enter into the question which was generally known as the representation of minorities. He held strong views which he had not hesitated to utter in that House during the last 17 years. He hoped that subject would come before the House under abler hands than his own, and that the Committee would have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. He would say this in passing—that he could not see any more equitable manner of representing the interests of property, and it might be of minorities, than by the adoption of salutary provisions, which were not novel or crotchety inventions of his own, but which, for a number of years, had formed part of the law of the land, and had been found to work with justice to all persons concerned. He had constantly expressed his opinion against the various Reform Bills which had been introduced. He had not hesitated to denounce what had been termed the "leap in the dark" in 1867; and one of the grounds on which he denounced it was that it failed to make adequate provision for the fair balance of power, which he contended ought to be preserved between the conflicting claims and interests of all classes and sections of the community. On the second reading of the Reform Bill of 1867 he had ventured to make some remarks strongly condemnatory of the provision known under the name of the dual vote. Why had he denounced the dual vote? He had denounced it because he regarded it as an imposture and a sham. It did not go anything like far enough. It was all very well as far as it went; but it was altogether a meagre instalment of what was required to meet the exigencies of the case. The dual vote was a very different thing from the system of voting which he now ventured to urge upon the Committee. The dual vote allowed an elector to be placed on the register not only in the capacity of a freeholder or of an occupier, but, in addition, it gave him a separate vote as a taxpayer, or as the holder of Government Stock. That, he thought, was a very puny provision. He had not hesitated to condemn it at the time, and he had never regretted the attitude he took with regard to that or any other provision of the Bill of 1867. All he 1540 proposed now was that the voter should be entitled to vote in accordance with his stake in the country, provided always that the number of votes possessed by an individual did not exceed the number at present provided by the law in regard to the election of Poor Law Guardians—namely, six votes. He suggested that a voter should be entitled to a plurality of votes, not exceeding six altogether, in proportion to the taxation he contributed to the State. There would be one great advantage in the adoption of that principle. It would enable the House at large cordially to adopt the principle of household suffrage both in the town and in the country, a principle which, as it was provided in the present Bill, they would only be induced to accept with the greatest reluctance. He confessed that he himself had never been able to see any charm in a difference of suffrage between town and country. His idea had always been that every elector should have a fair share of electoral power accorded to him, whether he happened to live in a county or in a borough. He had been charged with opposing the adoption of household suffrage, and he should continue to oppose any scheme which did not make adequate provision for the maintenance of that fair balance of power between all classes and sections of the community which he considered to be necessary. There were several methods of obtaining that end. It might be possible to say that nobody should have a vote at all—that only a privileged few should possess the electoral franchise; or they might say that all persons should possess the electoral franchise, but that there should be a different weight accorded to different voters in the ordinary scale. That was what he thought would be most equitable under all the circumstances of the case. He hoped the Government would not shelter themselves under the plea that this would be going back from the great principles already established. He ventured to say, on the other hand, that if the subject was to be fairly considered by Parliament, apart from the prejudice of mere political opinions, he was at a loss to understand on what grounds it could be seriously contended that this was an objectionable principle to adopt in future. The Prime Minister might, perhaps, say that it might be the establishing of inequality. The right hon. Gentleman pre- 1541 sumed to say that the other night in very decided terms; but, in his (Mr. J. Lowther's) judgment, the people of England were by no means enamoured of uniformity. The last thing the working classes of this country entertained an idea of was the establishment, on a dull level of mediocrity, of uniform laws. It had been the boast of Englishmen that the highest prizes of life were open to every man, and that, notwithstanding the condition of life in which a man was born, he might, by application, and industry, and ability in that sphere of life, raise himself above the scale in which he was born. He would now conclude his observations by expressing a hope that the Committee would fully and fairly consider the subject; and he was sure it was one which ought to receive full attention at the hands of each of the Parties in the State.
The right hon. Gentleman began by addressing a question to the Government—namely, whether, in our opinion, it would be competent to him, if we passed this clause as it stands, at a subsequent date to move an Amendment for the introduction of what I may call plural voting in a rough way? I am quite prepared to answer that question at once. I have not the least doubt that it would be competent to him to do so, because the word "uniform" manifestly refers to uniformity between counties and boroughs, and does not, I apprehend, contain any limitation of the franchise, provided it applies to the counties and boroughs alike. But while I say that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make that proposal at a future date, I venture to add a respectful hope that if, and when he does make it, he will bear in mind that he has already made his speech, and that it will be unnecessary for him again to entertain us with those most interesting references to his personal history, and to the gallant manner in which, on all occasions, he has maintained his principles, and which will be indelibly recorded on our memories.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire had asked the simple question, "What is a house?" What was meant by a house? What was the meaning of uniformity if every house to which it applied was different? That would destroy all uniformity. Some 1542 neighbours of his lived in an old railway carriage. Would they be considered householders? There were a great many people who lived in tents. Would those Ishmaels be considered householders? Others lived in caravans. Would they be householders? The point was clearly of great importance, especially with regard to Ireland, because in that country, notwithstanding the remedial legislation of the present Government, the majority of the people lived in mere hovels. Was a house that was unfit for human habitation to be considered one which would give the franchise to the occupants? If a house had no chimney, was such a place to be considered a house? That was a question which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire had asked, and he hoped the Attorney General would have the courtesy to answer it.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he observed that there was a difference between the Scotch and the English Acts as to lodgers. In the Scotch Act it was provided that the lodgings must be a part of one and the same dwelling house; but that was not so in this Bill. He did not know whether there was any dispute about that; but the question was whether, under the term "uniform franchise," these two conditions of lodger franchise, which were re-enacted in the Bill, could, in strictness, be described as uniform?
§ MR. CUBITT
said, he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment; but the question had not been answered as to the way in which the self-acting register was to be prepared for the lodger franchise. The Prime Minister had stated that the Bill had been prepared by the Government; but the Attorney General had not answered that question.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he proposed to add the word "franchise" after the word "household," in order to prevent confusion of ideas with regard to the nature of the uniformity. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Agreed.] He did not like too ready an acquiescence until they knew exactly what they were about; and he did not wish to take advantage of the Prime Minister's acquiescence too quickly, but to treat him more generously than 1543 the right hon. Gentleman generally treated hon. Members on this side. He was not sure whether the Prime Minister saw the consequence of what he now proposed. His object in moving this Amendment was to move another Amendment shortly, to which, perhaps, the Prime Minister would not so readily accede; and that was after the word "and" to insert "a uniform," so that the whole would be a uniform household franchise and a uniform lodger franchise. That he thought would be clearer than the present mixture of household and lodger franchise. Although the Prime Minister acceded so readily to this Amendment, he must point out that in so doing they would cut away the ground from the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton), whose Amendment was misplaced. Therefore the Prime Minister might again be in error in acceding too readily to this proposition. But at present it would be sufficient to move his Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 9, after "household," to insert "franchise."—(Mr. Warton.)
§ Question, "That the word 'franchise' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
proposed to add after "lodger" the words "and freehold." The Committee had heard so much about uniformity, and the Government had stuck to it with such tenacity, that he hoped they would now assist him in making the Bill more uniform and more complete. Everyone who had listened to the speeches by which the Bill had been introduced had, he believed, been satisfied of one thing—namely, that the basis and foundation of the Bill was the assimilation of the county and borough franchises; and everyone outside the House believed that this Bill would really do what the Prime Minister had said it would do—namely, assimilate the two franchises. In fact, it would do nothing of the kind. It left anomalies as great and as grievous as they were before; and as some of these anomalies, and this one especially, could be easily removed, he hoped the Government would be willing to accept his Amendment, for it carried out the spirit of their own Bill. Precisely the same argument could be adduced for the claim of the borough, freeholder to be 1544 registered on the borough list as had been adduced for the lodger or occupier who resided outside the old borough lines to he registered on the county list. Let them consider the present state of things. An occupier of a tenement outside the borough limit which gave him a vote for the county, and owning a freehold within the borough limit, was disqualified from voting for the borough; whereas, if it had been just the other way—if he had occupied a small tenement within the borough boundaries, and had a freehold outside the borough, he would have been able to vote for both county and borough. The principle of the Bill, as had often been stated by the Prime Minister, was that every capable man who had a qualifying possession within a constituency should have a vote; but he made no provision for the qualifying freehold, which gave a vote within the county, to give a vote within the borough. Under this Bill, the occupier of land in a county, who had a freehold in a borough, and who, therefore, had an interest in the borough, was a capable citizen of that borough; but if he did not reside upon his freehold he was disfranchised. This Bill retained old anomalies and disfranchising conditions. The principle he proposed to introduce into the Bill existed in Ireland, where the freeholder in a borough, though non-resident, voted in the borough. The borough freeholders were generally urban voters—people belonging to the borough, and had little to do with the county. Therefore, it was proper that they should vote in the borough. Besides, it was a case of give and take. The occupier in the county, who had a freehold in the borough, would be introduced into the borough as a voter. Each constituency, whether county or borough, would be self-centred; every capable citizen with the qualifying condition would vote for every place where he had a qualification. There would be no disfranchisement in this at all. On the contrary, it would make the franchise uniform, and give equal rights inside and outside the boroughs; and, therefore, it seemed to him to be a principle which should be supported on every ground, but especially upon the ground upon which this Bill was brought before the attention of the House—namely, the assimilation of the county and borough franchise.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 9, after "lodger," insert "freehold."—(Mr. Stanley Leighton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'freehold' be here inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, this Amendment was a very important one; but the Government could not agree to it. By accepting it they would disfranchise a great number of voters, because, if they gave a freehold vote in the borough, the principal persons who would be entitled to vote would be resident householders. Dealing with them first, they now had a vote for the county if they had a freehold qualification in a borough; but this proposal would deprive them of that vote. It would disfranchise the whole of them. If a freehold gave a vote for the borough, it could not give a vote for the county; and, therefore, what the hon. Member proposed as a sufficient qualification for the borough would prevent the owner of it voting for the county. If a man had two such qualifications he could not choose between the two; therefore, they must determine, in the sense placed before the Committee, whether they would allow the vote to be a qualification for the borough or county. If they gave the borough vote for the freehold situated in a borough it must cease to be a county qualification; and so they would disfranchise every county voter who had a freehold qualification within a borough. Then, that equally applied to the non-residents, because if a person resided elsewhere, if he had a voting qualification for the borough, they could not say that he was to have a vote for the county simply because he was non-resident. The result of this Amendment must be this—no freeholder in a borough could have a county qualification; and there were in England and Wales 112,000 county voters, whose freehold qualifications being situated in boroughs, who would be disqualified. The Government were not prepared to disfranchise even those 112,000.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, non-residents would vote under his Amendment, just as they do now, only they would vote for the borough instead of for the county.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
asked whether the hon. 1546 Member was going to give non-residents votes for boroughs under this clause?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he could imagine nothing more likely to create "fagot" votes than to give the 40.s. non-resident freeholder a vote in the borough.
§ MR. ECROYD
said, there were in his district a great number of working men who had become the owners of small houses, and who were deeply interested in the point under consideration. He entirely agreed that it would be a mistake to give to non residents a vote for the borough; and, therefore, in a later Amendment which stood in his name he had introduced the words—Subject always, in the case of boroughs, to such conditions as to residence within, or within a certain distance thereof, as are now by statute or shall he under the provisions of this Act prescribed.There were only two courses which could be taken with any justice in dealing with this Bill. Either a man who was both an owner and an occupier in a borough might be stripped of his ownership, or, on the other hand, a man who was both an owner and an occupier outside the borough, might have a property vote conferred upon him in addition to the vote he enjoyed; and he believed that if hon. Members would, for a moment, consider what would be the position of many of the best class of working people if this Act were passed, they would see that it was one which could not be tolerated by the country. Suppose two brothers were joint owners of a freehold situated in a village three or four miles from a town, one of them living in the village adjoining the freehold, and the other in the borough three or four miles away. One of them would be unable to vote, whilst the other would be entitled to vote in right of this property. Could anything more monstrous be imagined? He would take, as another instance, the case of a man living in a borough who was the owner of a freehold house within the borough, which he let. Under this Bill he would have a vote in the borough as an occupier, and one in the county as an owner; whilst his brother, living, say, a mile outside the borough, and owning a similar or a more valuable property, would have only one vote. Of these two men, whose circum- 1547 stances were precisely similar, one would thus be endowed with twice as large a share of political power as the other. That was an injustice so monstrous that in his county division it would create something approaching a political insurrection. He had not spoken to one workman who did not firmly believe that, though he might live outside a borough, this Bill would give him both an ownership and an occupying vote, and thus place him in a position in all respects equal to that of his neighbour inside the borough. The confusion which would follow from any other course would make it impossible to work out the measure; and the consequence would be that before very long there would be a great agitation against the ownership vote being left to the people resident in boroughs. That might or might not be a result contemplated by the authors of this Bill; but a settlement which would deal out equal justice between these two classes of people was one which could not be long delayed. This proposition was, therefore, one of the most important points to be considered in this Bill, because they were now at a place where two ways parted, and the decision they should arrive at would probably determine the future course the country would take—whether they should have one vote for one man, and abolish the second or ownership vote now enjoyed by inhabitants of boroughs, or whether they should proceed towards the equal enfranchisement of owners outside boroughs, and the continuance in both boroughs and counties of that political distinction between those who were and those who were not owners of rateable property which had been one of the greatest and best moral influences operating upon the working classes. He believed it was impossible to exaggerate the importance of this decision; and he hoped it would not force upon the cream of the working class the idea that they were to be reduced to the level of the most worthless and improvident amongst their neighbours. He could not conceive anything more calculated to uproot the good work of inducing these men from their youth to save money and become owners of property than to destroy this distinction; and he earnestly appealed to the Committee to pause before coming to a conclusion which would have that effect.
said, he thought the hon. Member for Preston would have convinced the Attorney General that this Amendment was not to be disposed of in the summary manner he had imagined. It was impossible, at this time of the day, to do adequate justice to an Amendment of this importance; and he hoped the Government would consent now to report Progress, in order that this matter might be properly discussed at the next Sitting. The Attorney General had objected to this proposition on the ground that it was a disfranchising proposition; and when he found that it was an enfranchising proposal he found fault with it for that reason. He thought it was desirable to report Progress, and at the next Sitting they could consider more fully this Amendment, which he hoped the hon. Member would press to a Division. He moved that Progress be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Gorst.)
said, he was sorry that Progress had been moved now; but it was not worth while considering the matter, and he should consent.
§ MR. WARTON
asked when the right hon. Gentleman intended to put this Bill down again for Committee, as it was necessary that hon. Members should have time to consider what Amendments they would put on the Paper?
said, he would put the Bill down for Friday morning; but he was not quite certain whether it could then be taken.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Friday, at Two of the clock.
§ The House suspended its Sitting at Seven of the clock.
§ The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.