§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Extension of the Household and Lodger Franchise.
§ Clause 2 (Uniform household and lodger franchise).
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
, in moving, in page 1, line 11, to leave out the words "after the passing of this Act," said, the object of the Amendment he moved was to provide that the Bill should not come into force after the passing of the Act until a Redistribution Bill had been introduced. He might say that he had given Notice of this Amendment in consequence of the short discussion which took place when the Bill first went into Committee. He 1190 hoped he should be able to place before the Prime Minister some considerations which would induce him to give some kind of intimation to the House that the Government really intended to bring in a Redistribution Bill before the provisions of the Bill now before the House came into force. It was not necessary that he should quote now the arguments which he had deduced on the previous occasion, but he thought it was desirable that he should point out one or two of the anomalies which would be created in addition to those which already existed in regard to the representation of the people if any future elections were to take place under this Bill without some measure of redistribution. He had formally intimated on the previous occasion what his objects were, and he had understood the Prime Minister to sympathize, although he did not give a pledge to carry them out, in the views which he had expressed. He had understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government were desirous of accompanying the present measure by a Redistribution Bill; therefore he thought it was desirable that at the present stage of the discussion the words he proposed to strike out should be omitted. It appeared to him that if those words were inserted in the earlier portion of the Bill it would close the door to Amendments which might recommend themselves to all parts of the House subsequently. He had observed that later on there were Amendments and new clauses which, even as a point of Order, he thought would be shut out if these words were retained as they now stood in the clause. He did not know whether that was technically the case or not, but it appeared to him that if they put in now the date at which the Bill was to come into operation it would be very difficult to reopen the question hereafter. He was informed by the authorities of the House that the reason why the words were in italics was really in accordance with an understood rule that dates as well as sums of money should be left in blank to be filled in afterwards. If, however, the words were now filled in and passed without amendment, no further discussion would be possible. He would content himself now by moving the omission of the words of which he had given Notice, and he had no doubt that the proper discussion of the 1191 Bill would be very much facilitated if this difficulty were cleared away. His only object was to secure from the Government an intimation that hereafter sufficient means would be afforded for discussing a well digested measure of redistribution by which means the Bill could be fairly carried out. He had ventured to state on a former occasion for himself, and he believed for many hon. Members sitting on that side of the House, that there was no objection to an extension of the franchise, provided that a good measure of redistribution of seats accompanied it, and it was with a view to secure a full and clear consideration for the question of redistribution that he ventured to move this Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 11, leave out the words "after the passing of this Act."—(Sir H. Drummond Wolf.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he thought it was desirable, before the Committee considered the Amendment which had been moved by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, that it should clearly understand from the Officers of the Crown what the exact position of the law was at the present time, and how, if the Bill became an Act of Parliament, it would work in its present form, and how it would work if the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Portsmouth were adopted and another date were inserted in lieu of the words "from and after the passing of this Act." If the Committee referred to the clause, they would see that it did not in terms confirm the franchise in the first instance. What the clause did was to confer the right on a person to be registered as a voter, and from and after registration then to vote. Therefore, the initial step that had to be taken was that of registration. This was not an easy question. It would consume a considerable amount of time; and he had ventured to submit to the Committee on the second reading of the Bill that, whether these words were inserted or not, it was practically impossible for the franchise, which was about to be conferred by the Bill, to come into force, at all events during the present year 1884, and possibly not until a very late date in 1885. The first 1192 step in registration took place in the month of June. There were several stages in the question with which he need not trouble the Committee; but the last date of the initial stage of registration was the 31st of July, and, for all practical purposes, a voter who was not qualified on the 31st of July could not be placed on the list of voters which was then being prepared, and could not make a claim to have his name inserted if it were left out. In July the oversees prepared the list of persons qualified to vote. That list was finally closed—in some cases earlier, but taking an outside case—on the 31st of July. The list was published on the 1st of August. It was revised by the Revising Barrister between the 20th of September and the 31st of October. The list did not become the register until the last day of December, and it then came into force, and was the register for the ensuing year. The Committee would see, therefore, that whoever was to be put on the register for 1885 must be placed there on the 1st of January next; and, therefore, to have the right to vote in 1885, he must, to all intents and purposes, possess his qualification on the 31st July, 1884. If this Bill received—which he ventured to think was an improbable contingency— the Royal Assent in June, or, at any rate, prior to the end of July, 1884, in the absence of any legislation to the contrary, the new franchise would not come into operation until the 1st day of January, 1886; and, therefore, if a Dissolution took place in 1885 upon the question of redistribution, that question would be decided, not by the existing constituencies, but by the new constituencies. If he were wrong in this statement, of course his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General would put him right. His proposition was this— under the existing legislation, unless there was special legislation to the contrary, the register which would come in force in 1885, and which would operate during 1885, would not include the newly-enfranchised voter. He would refer the Committee to the precedent of the last Reform Bill. No question arose in 1867 with reference either to acceleration or retarding. The object of the Government of the day, and, he thought, of the House too, was to bring that Bill into operation as soon as possible. There was a distinct provision in the Act of 1193 1867 that it should not come into operation until the 1st of January, 1869. The words were—In and after the year 1868 they (the persons enfranchised) shall be entitled to be registered as voters, and, when registered, to vote.There was, therefore, a considerable parallel between the position of 1867 and 1884. At that time it required two Sessions of Parliament to pass a complete Reform Bill, because, although a measure of redistribution accompanied the extension of the franchise in 1867, it was absolutely necessary that there should be a rearrangement of the boundaries. A Boundary Commission was, therefore appointed. Their Report had to be confirmed by Parliament, and the boundaries required two years to complete the Reform Bill. The contention of Her Majesty's Government was that the present Reform scheme was composed of two essential and integral parts—the extension of the franchise and the redistribution of electoral power. Hon. Members who sat on his side of the House attached as much importance to the redistribution of electoral power as hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. What they contended was that a complete measure should be the work of two Sessions of Parliament —that one Session should decide the question of the extension of the franchise, and the next Session of the same Parliament should settle the question of redistribution. The Act passed in 1867 provided that the Act should not come into operation until the 1st of January, 1869. [Expressions of dissent from the Opposition.] He hoped that hon. Gentlemen opposite would allow him to state his facts, and correct him afterwards if he was wrong. He thought, however, that he would be found to be historically correct. The Act passed in 1867 provided that the Act should not come in force until the 1st of January, 1869. In the autumn of 1868 the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government introduced his Resolutions on the subject of the Irish Church. On those Resolutions the Government of the day was defeated, and Mr. Disraeli tendered his advice to the Queen to dissolve Parliament; he informed the House that he had also advised Her Majesty that it was advisable that an appeal should be made to the new constituencies; and he further said that by 1194 accelerating the registration that appeal could be made at an early date. A Registration Bill was accordingly introduced in the spring of 1868, which provided that the 1st of November, 1868, should be substituted for the 1st of January, 1869. A large staff of Revising Barristers were employed ad hoc, and the registration was got through with great rapidity, and completed by the 1st of November, 1868, and immediately afterwards the Dissolution took place, and the Election occurred prior to the 1st of January, 1869. Therefore, the parallel between that case and this would be this—there was a Franchise Bill in 1867; there would be a Franchise Bill in 1884; a Boundary Bill in 1868; a Redistribution Bill in 1885. The old franchise came into operation in November, 1868; the new franchise could come into operation in November, 1885; and what he wanted to have clearly from the hon. and learned Attorney General was whether, without special legislation, by the inevitable operation of the existing law, it would be impossible to appeal to the new constituencies prior to the autumn of 1885?
My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General will be better able than I am to enter at the right time into the discussion of the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). My hon. Friend has made an important speech on a very important question—namely, whether an appropriate date is fixed by the Bill, or whether the 1st of November, 1885, would be more appropriate. At present we have not yet reached the point at which the date could be inserted, and I will confine myself to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman opposite, who, with apparent fairness, has explained the object of his Amendment. I think he says that at present our position is simply this—If the 2nd clause of the Bill stands with the words "after the passing of this Act" retained in it, the effect of that would be that the House would be precluded from raising at any subsequent part of the Bill any question as to the date at which it should take effect. On the other hand, by leaving out those words it would be possible for the House to discuss the proper date to be adopted. The hon. Baronet who has moved the Amendment has taken note of the declaration of the 1195 Government that they desire the question of redistribution to be dealt with and disposed of by the present Parliament; but he appears to think that there should be some indication of that in the Bill itself. That point, however, would be more properly raised when the proposal is made later on to fix a date for the Bill to come into force. I am perfectly ready at present to agree with him as far as this—that it is not desirable to fix the date now. Therefore, I accept Ms proposition that these words be left out, only saying that I do not pledge the Government to accept any particular date, but because I wish the House to have a full opportunity of hearing the arguments which may be adduced in regard to fixing a date; and I do not regard this as one of the points of the Bill upon which we have arrived at a positive conclusion at this moment, which would preclude us from following any course on the whole we may deem expedient.
I wish to ask a question upon a point of Order. I want to know whether by leaving out these words I should be precluded from proposing words in the sense of the Amendment which stands in my name?
The Question would be put in such a manner as would not preclude the right hon. and gallant Member from moving his Amendment.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
There are really two questions involved in the 2nd clause—one is the conferring of the franchise; and the other is the time at which the franchise should be conferred, which is imported into the clause by the words "after the passing of this Act." It appears to me that it would be far more convenient that these two questions should be treated separately-—that the House should first dispose of the question of extending the franchise, and then approach in an unprejudiced way the question of the time at which the Act should come into operation. Following the precedent adopted in the last Reform Bill, I understand there will be a clause in the Bill stating that the Act will come into force on a given day. If so, then the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) ought not to be entered into upon this clause, but upon the clause affecting the time when the Bill is to come into force. It appears to me infinitely better that the House should 1196 reserve the whole question intact, and should not now embark upon the question when the Bill is to come into force. I would, therefore, suggest that the Government should withdraw these words from the clause, and insert them where they could be more conveniently dealt with, because by that means they would avoid the necessity for a double or treble discussion, and the whole question would be better considered upon a clause specially fixing the date when the Bill is to come into operation.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
The right hon. Gentleman will see that there is a distinction between the present case and that of the last Reform Bill. The difficulty in which we are placed arises from the fact that the Franchise Bill deals with only one branch of the question of Reform. The question of the time when the Bill is to come into operation is vitally affected by the other branch of the question, which may or may not be dealt with during the existence of the present Parliament. The House will see that it is impossible for the Government to assure us that the Bill will come into operation concurrently with the Bill for the redistribution of seats, and, therefore, it seems to me that it is vital for the House to know when it is to come into operation. That, however, was not a vital part of the analogous question raised by the Bill of 1867.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
asked to be allowed to explain. He attached the greatest importance to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite; but it appeared to him that it would be better discussed as an Amendment to a distinct clause fixing the time when the Bill was to come into operation rather than at the present moment. He had no wish to oppose the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, or to disparage its importance.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he hoped that before the Committee accepted the Amendment they would have some declaration on the part of the Government, of a more decided character than they had yet received, that they would not put any date of the kind they had been discussing into the Bill, fixing the time when it was to come into operation. If they were, as the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) suggested, to approach the consideration of the date in an unprejudiced way, or, in 1197 other words, if they were to leave it an open question, then he ventured to say that that was a change of front on the part of the Government, and it amounted to a first paving of the way in the Bill for concessions which would be regarded by the country with nothing short of dismay. [Cries of "Oh!"] He hoped he might be allowed to state his own views. His arguments, of course, would be taken for what they were worth; but the country had been given to understand by the most positive assurances on the part of the Government, in express terms, that those persons who did not at present possess a vote should, at any rate, become citizens after the Bill passed, so far as having the right to be placed upon the register at the earliest possible moment was concerned. [Mr. H. H. FOWLER: Hear, hear!] His hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) said "Hear, hear!" but he (Mr. Jesse Collings) contended that, if they fixed a date before which the Act could not come into force, it would be a very important matter so far as the new voters were concerned. He therefore hoped the Government would give the House an assurance that they had not changed their opinion, and that they really intended to put the people whom it was the object of the Bill to enfranchise in possession of their rights as citizens—to use the words of the clause, immediately "after the passing of the Act." Unless the Government were prepared to say something definite and firm upon that question, he thought hon. Members on that side of the House would have a right to resist this Amendment. He had been surprised to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. The hon. Baronet opposite the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had frankly stated the reason which had induced him to press the Amendment— namely, that the Act should not come in force until after the passing of a Redistribution Bill. They all knew the state of the law, and that it was practically impossible to prepare a redistribution list until the date mentioned by his hon. Friend. There was nothing, however, to preclude them from specially accelerating the registration. Why were they to presume that they could not have a Registration Bill introduced in order to accelerate the time? If there was to be 1198 any delay in putting the Bill into operation, let it be done by the opponents of the Bill, and not by those who supported it, and he hoped the Government would not show any signs of weakness upon this point. If they did, he would tell them frankly that they would create a most unfavourable opinion among a large body of the people who did not understand these niceties of compromise, but who were apt to go on the broad meaning of the words held out to them. They would be unable to understand why, having a franchise given to them, possession of it was to be put off for a certain number of years. He trusted the Government would state openly that they did not intend, as far as they were concerned, to favour any proposition to fix any date whatever, but that after the passing of the Bill the right to exercise the franchise should be enjoyed by the voter.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had shown very plainly that the omission of these particular words in this particular place would have no effect whatever on the operation of the clause, and that the only effect which would follow from, their omission would be to adjourn until a more convenient moment the discussion of the question as to the time at which the Act was to come into operation. The only person who would have reason to complain of the adoption of the Amendment was not the man who assumed to speak on behalf of the people of England like the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), but his right hon. Friend below him, because it would rather cut away from him the reason for proposing his Amendment. He (Mr. Raikes) had risen now for the purpose of supporting the suggestion which had been made by the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) that his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) should postpone the Amendment of which he had given Notice. Certainly, it seemed to him that that Amendment would be more appropriately considered if it were brought forward after these words had been struck out. If the date were put down in the Bill as a new clause, then his right hon. and gallant Friend would start fair with the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey), or any other hon. Gentle- 1199 man who had an Amendment to propose upon that point. He must say that he thought the Government had met the proposal of the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) in a reasonable and straightforward manner, and their acceptance of this Amendment would not preclude the future discussion of any other which might be raised on that side of the House. The only effect of the decision would be to declare that it would be more convenient to raise the question at some future time. He hoped the Amendment would be accepted, and he trusted that his right hon. and gallant Friend would see his way to the postponement of his Amendment until a subsequent period.
As I understand the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), he seems to consider that it is the vital point of the incidence of the present Bill that the right, not to vote, but to be registered as a voter, shall be conferred instanter upon the passing of the Act. Nothing contrary to that position is involved in the acceptance of the Amendment, and it would not in the slightest degree prejudice that question. The only question now raised for the House to consider is—first, whether it is convenient that the right to vote should accrue at once from the passing of the Act; and, secondly, whether that question should be now settled, or whether it would be more convenient to decide it after further progress has been made with the Bill, and after we have had a full opportunity, which we cannot possibly have at the present moment, of discussing the important argumant raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). It is quite clear that what time may be required for registering the time for the Act to come into operation, and what time may be left for the introduction of a Redistribution Bill, are questions that are fairly entitled to be discussed now. I wish to point out that nothing is prejudiced by the acceptance of the Amendment.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he hoped that an assurance would be given by the Government that nothing should be allowed to put off the power of obtaining a vote under the Bill later than the 1st of January, 1886. He regretted that his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton had somewhat obscured 1200 the real question. His hon. Friend was perfectly right in what he had said; but he might have put it in half-a-dozen words. Every Member of that House knew that if the Bill was not passed before the 31st July, the persons to be enfranchised under it could not possibly obtain a right of voting under it until the 1st of January, 1886. In reference to what had fallen from the Prime Minister, he was quite willing to assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Portsmouth; but he thought they ought to ask the Government to give them an assurance that nothing should be done to the prejudice of the rights of voters who were to be enfranchised by the Bill, and that nothing should be done which would prevent their obtaining that right of voting at a later date than the 1st of January, 1886. He wanted an assurance from the Government that they would not put off the matter of registration until that date, and that they would not propose a later date in reference to this important matter than such date as would enable the persons who were enfranchised by the Bill to exercise the suffrage on the 1st of January, 1886.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that it was quite unnecessary to raise that question at the present moment. It would come on much more regularly later on. Therefore, no good object would be secured by continuing the discussion.
asked, as a point of Order, in what form the Amendment would be put, so as to enable him to move the Amendment he had placed on the Paper?
The proposition now before the Committee is that the words "after the passing of this Act" stand part of the clause. In answer to the question of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, I may say that he will still have power to move his Amendment, if the words "after the passing of this Act" are struck out.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he only wished to put a question upon the point of Order. He wished to know whether the Instruction which was moved on the Motion for going into Committee upon the Bill was not practically identical with the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman?
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be perfectly 1201 in Order in moving his Amendment in the form in which it now appears on the Paper.
§ MR. RYLANDS
desired to say a word upon the question which had been raised by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Ceilings). It appeared to him that the Government in acceding to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Portsmouth had taken a course which was for the convenience of the House. He did not gather that the withdrawal of these words from the clause placed the Committee in any worse position, but in regard to any future discussion they would be in a much better position. If these words were omitted, and no explaining words were introduced into the Bill, the effect would be that the operation of the Bill in reference to the registration of voters would immediately commence as soon as the Act received the Royal Assent. But they knew perfectly well that, before a Redistribution Bill was passed, hon. Members who were alarmed at the prospect of having an additional number of voters placed upon the register would have ample opportunity for proposing such restraining clauses as they might deem necessary to prevent the Bill from coming into operation until a Redistribution Bill was passed. That, however, was a matter for discussion hereafter. It appeared to him that his hon. Friend was altogether wrong in assuming that the Government had given way to pressure. He (Mr. Rylands) did not assume for a moment that the Government intended to yield, or to give way to pressure. On the contrary, he believed they were prepared to maintain the provisions of the Bill, and, therefore, he would cordially support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Portsmouth and accepted by the Government.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he could not understand the strictures which the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) had passed upon the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). No hon. Member expressed himself more clearly and distinctly than the hon. Member for Wolverhampton; and he was much surprised that the point which the hon. Member wished to raise had not been made perfectly clear to the hon. Member for Salford. He had risen with the right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) 1202 for the purpose of asking the ruling of the Chair upon the point raised by the right hon. and gallant Member himself in regard to his Amendment, and another point as to the Instruction moved at an earlier period to be given to the Committee. He had also anticipated that the objection made by the hon. Member for Salford would be taken. Therefore, he submitted that, in the event of any rule of that kind being applied, it would have been much better to have accepted the Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) directly the Bill went into Committee.
remarked that, at the present moment, there seemed to be only one question for the Committee— whether it was expedient to discuss the time at which the Act should come into force? It must be quite obvious that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) had it in his power to move his Amendment, and thus bring on a discussion at the present moment. He (Mr. Gorst) had, therefore, risen in order to save time. It appeared to be the general sense of the Committee that they should not discuss the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman now, but that they should pass the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), and then go on to other Business. He hoped that course would be assented to by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; but if it was his intention to press his Amendment upon the consideration of the Committee now, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had better address himself to it at once, and not waste any more time. He certainly thought personally that, after the general expression of opinion, it would be better to postpone the consideration of that subject. It was advisable that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman should state what course he proposed to adopt in regard to his Amendment.
said, he was loth to trespass on the Committee. At the same time, he felt considerable diffidence as to the course he was about to take; but he did not feel that it would be consistent with his duty to withdraw the Amendment. He, therefore, agreed with the hon. and learned Member for 1203 Chatham (Mr. Gorst) that the sooner they proceeded with the Business of the Committee the better.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, that, before the Committee proceeded further, he thought it was desirable that the hon. and learned Attorney General should express an opinion as to the point which had been raised by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), so as to clear the way for future discussion. So far as the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) were concerned, many hon. Members on that side of the House felt quite as strongly upon the Bill as the hon. Member did, and were just as anxious that nothing should be now agreed to that could prejudice the question of the date of its taking effect. But he did not believe that those hon. Members feared that their freedom would be at all affected by the course taken by the Prime Minister in accepting the Amendment.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not intend to withdraw the Amendment, it would be advisable to take the discussion at once. The only object in striking out the words "after the passing of this Act" was to allow the discussion to be taken at a later period; and he presumed that the Prime Minister had made his proposal on the supposition that the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) would be put off, so as to avoid having a discussion now, and a subsequent discussion on the same point later on.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he desired to make an appeal as strongly as he possibly could to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) to reconsider his decision after the very generally expressed desire of the Committee that these words should be left out now, and the discussion taken later on. He did not think, as far as hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House were concerned, there was a point in which they took greater interest than that there should be a full, fair, and, if possible, a favourable consideration of the Amendment which stood in the name of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; and if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was of that opinion also, and was genuinely in earnest in 1204 regard to the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) that Reform, should be dealt with, but that it should be dealt with completely—if that was the genuine intention of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, he would take a course which must inevitably and hopelessly prejudice the proposal of the noble Lord. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was prepared to resist the appeal which had been made to him by so influential a Member of the Conservative Party as the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes), as well as the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), and against the desire of the whole Committee, and insisted upon raising that Amendment now, it was perfectly evident that the chances of the Amendment would be hopelessly prejudiced. It was the one thing in which the Conservative Party took the deepest interest; many Members on the other side would support it, and that support would be entirely thrown away by the hasty and, he thought, injudicious course taken by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ MR ALBERT GREY
wished to know whether, if the words "after the passing of this Act" were not omitted from the clause, the Amendment which stood in his name would be in Order?
§ MR. HENEAGE
asked whether, if these words were struck out of the Bill, the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) could possibly be put?
In regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey), I must defer expressing an opinion until the time when that Amendment will properly come before the Committee. In regard to the question of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), I have no doubt that the words proposed are perfectly in Order. As I understand the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, he proposes to insert, after the words "after the passing of this Act," the words—And of an Act to be passed for amending the Acts which settle and describe the divisions of counties and the limits of cities and boroughs of the United Kingdom, for the purpose of the election of Members to serve in Parliament.That Amendment would be perfectly in in Order.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that in that case he wished to make a further appeal to the right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) not to press his Amendment at the present moment, as it would certainly prejudice the discussion of the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey), whereas the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would not be prejudiced in any way by the postponement of the discussion. Therefore, in the interests of the counter Amendment of his hon. Friend, he would venture once more to make an appeal to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he rose for the purpose of saying that the point raised by his right hon. and gallant Friend was one altogether distinct from the mere question of the date at which the Bill would come into operation. The point raised by the Amendment of his right hon. and Gallant Friend was whether the Bill should or should not be allowed to come into operation before the passing of another Act which it was contended ought to accompany it—namely, a Redistribution Act. He understood that his right hon. and gallant Friend desired to have that point decided before proceeding with the discussion of the remaining clauses of the Bill. It was quite obvious that the views which the Committee might take on many points that might arise in the course of the discussion on the Bill would be considerably influenced by the consideration whether the Bill was to be a Bill by itself or whether it was to be accompanied by a Redistribution Bill, He, therefore, thought his right hon. and gallant Friend was taking a convenient course in desiring the decision of that question at once.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
wished to explain that he had no objection in the world to the withdrawal of these words, provided there was an assurance from the Government that the Committee would be in the same position in regard to them as they were before. The words proposed to be withdrawn were "after the passing of this Act." Would the Government assure the Committee that it was only for convenience that they wished to leave that question over, and not from any weakening of their view in regard to the time at which the Act was 1206 to come into force? His hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) was very confiding; but his hon. Friend must bear in mind that the only expression they had as yet had from that side of the House was one which had fallen from the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), which implied that the date was to be left an open question. Was that the position which the Government took in regard to the matter? Was it to be an open question? If so, it was a direct encouragement to the hon. Member for South Northumberland to press his Amendment. He thought the Committee were entitled to have some expression of opinion from the Government, if these words were to be withdrawn, that they were themselves of the same opinion as they had given the House to understand they had entertained up to the present moment—that the Act should come into operation immediately after it had been passed. The only reason which would induce him to leave out these words was that it would be for the convenience of debate, and so far they had failed to elicit anything from the Government except an inference in the opposite direction. If he could get anyone to divide with him he would certainly divide against the Amendment. When he found Members on that side of the House joining with hon. Members opposite, the conjunction certainly appeared to be an ominous one. He was quite sure, unless the Government gave a more decided expression of opinion, they would be playing into the hands of the Opposition and encouraging Amendments in the direction of the one which had been placed upon the Paper by the hon. Member for South Northumberland.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
said, he confessed he saw nothing to be alarmed at in the withdrawal of these words. The hon. Member for Ipswich said that nobody had said a word in favour of the Amendment except the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen). The hon. Member seemed to forget that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) had expressed a strong opinion upon it. With or without these words, an Act of Parliament, as soon as it received the Royal Assent, came into operation, unless there was some qualifying clause fixing another date. Upon this point he thought that nothing could be 1207 plainer than what had already fallen from the Prime Minister.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, the question was a difficult one to deal with, and when the time came for taking the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland, he would like to know what would be the position of the Committee. What would be their position supposing that his right hon. and gallant Friend withdrew his Amendment now, and before they were able to bring on some other Amendment, fixing the date at which the Act should come into operation, some hon. Member—for instance, the hon. Member for Ipswich—were to bring forward an Amendment, naming the 1st of November, 1885, and entitling every voter to exercise a vote after that date who had been placed upon the register? In such a case it would not be possible for his hon. and gallant Friend, or any other Member, to bring forward the principle of this Amendment, and he thought it was most desirable that that Amendment should be fully discussed. He, therefore, hoped there would be a clear understanding upon that point.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, the subject of the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had already been twice discussed, once on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners), when a Division was taken, and, secondly, on the Motion of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes), when another Division was taken. The question the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was anxious to raise again was precisely the same question as that which had already been twice before decided.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he hoped there would be a clear understanding in regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Grantham)—that whoever moved the first Amendment in regard to fixing the date, it would be perfectly competent for the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Gray), or anybody else, to propose an alteration of the date.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) entirely misunderstood the whole point at issue. His right hon. and gallant Friend did not desire to fix any date, and, therefore, the question of the hon. 1208 Member for East Surrey (Mr. Grantham) could receive no answer. The House had come down fully prepared to discuss the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend, and his right hon. and gallant Friend had no option but to move it.
§ MR. ALBERT GREY
thought the noble Lord had been rather hard on the hon. Member for Grimsby. The position was this. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) would be perfectly in Order in moving his Amendment upon any proposal to fix the date on which the Act should come into operation, and, therefore, appeals had been made to the right hon. and gallant Member to withdraw his Amendment for the present, and to bring it oil upon a subsequent occasion. It must be evident that, whatever the result of this Amendment might be, there must be another discussion and Division, and the right hon. Gentleman was only precipitating matters and bringing about two discussions and two Divisions instead of one.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
made a further appeal to the right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire to withdraw his Amendment. Many hon. Members sitting on those Benches felt that the arguments which had been brought forward in favour of the postponement of the Amendment were quite conclusive.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he was one of the last persons who would desire to intervene in a discussion of this kind. His only object in interfering now was that he had at heart the wish that the Bill should not come into operation until they had a Redistribution Bill before them. It was for that reason that he ventured to ask his right hon. and gallant Friend not at that moment to press his Amendment. His right hon. and gallant Friend, as a good general, would know that it was not desirable, but, on the contrary, would be most unfortunate, to divide his forces. He thought they ought to present a united front; and believing, as he did, that his right hon. and gallant Friend would have an equal if not a better opportunity for discussing the question later on, he would press upon him at that moment the advisability of withdrawing his Amendment.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
pointed out that if his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) yielded to the appeal made to him, hon. Members who would otherwise vote for his Amendment would be voting against it.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
said, this was not, in his opinion, the most convenient part of the Bill in which to discuss the point. He had given Notice of an Amendment to provide that the Act should not come into operation until a Bill was passed for the redistribution of seats in the United Kingdom, which, he thought, expressed in a better form the intention of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, who, he trusted, would not press his Amendment to a Division.
§ Question put, and negatived.
Sir, I need not assure the Committee that it is only under a very strong sense of duty that I can bring myself to resist the appeals which have been made to me from various quarters of the House. At the same time, it is because those appeals have been based upon some misconception of fact, and upon some misconception of the principle involved, that I feel bound to submit to the Committee the Amendment standing in my name. Its object is pretty plain, and the Amendment itself has been before the Committee now for some considerable time. I do not propose it as being in itself the best or most convenient course to take, except under the circumstances in which we find ourselves; but I desire to do that which lies in my. power as a Member of this House to make the Government put on record that which they have already stated in debate over and over again to be their intention, but which, on the face of the Bill, there is nothing to show that they mean to carry into effect. I believe it would have been far wiser if the Government had brought forward their proposal in one Bill. The Prime Minister says he did not do so mainly, I believe, on tactical grounds, and the reason which he gave was expressed in language somewhat curious, considering the direction in which hon. Gentlemen opposite generally vote. He said that these local interests were touched, upon exceptional if not selfish grounds, by a measure opposed to the extension franchise; but it seems to me rather a left- 1210 handed argument to say to his own supporters that they would prefer rather to consider their local and personal interests than the general welfare of the country. There is a very wide difference between the proposal to deal with this matter by any reference to dates, whatever those dates may be, and, on the other hand, insisting that the Bill shall not come into operation until the House can make it a complete measure, which is the object I have in view in proposing this Amendment. It should be remembered that this Bill is proposed in the fifth year of the present Parliament, in circumstances of great anxiety all round, and yet it is assumed that one and the same Parliament shall deal both with the question of the extension of the franchise and of the redistribution of seats. I do not doubt that the Government wish that redistribution should follow closely upon this measure, and, as I have already stated, the object of moving this Amendment is to put on record and to test the sincerity of the Government as to the professions they have made. There are those among us, whatever our views are upon the franchise, who feel that in redistribution lies the whole key to the situation. We know what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and the noble Lord the Member for North-East Lancashire (the Marquess of Harrington) have said. A frank warning was given that the reform was not such as would be likely to meet with their favour, and though it is true that the Prime Minister treats as a matter of comparative indifference the occurrence of a General Election, should such occur between the time when the one Bill should be passed and the other come before Parliament, it does not appear that that in any way disposes of the difficulty. It is not the representation of the individual, but the representation of the people, as a whole, that we are considering, and the argument of the Prime Minister leaves out of sight the alterations in constituencies which may take place in a subsequent interval. What would happen if Parliament were dissolved before a Redistribution Bill was passed? One thing is certain—namely, that you will be appealing, not to the constituencies as they existed, or as you intend them to exist, but to a sort of hybrid 1211 body which is neither one thing or another. If the Government said they were going to deal with the question as one of electoral districts, my argument would be weakened; but it is clearly stated that they mean to keep apart the county and borough representation as such; and, therefore, it becomes necessary to see to what extent the representation in the counties and boroughs would be temporarily confused during the time of an election under the circumstances I have described, and before there was time to adjust the boundaries. With the permission of the Committee, I should like to give a few figures bearing upon this subject, which have been taken out very carefully, and, I believe, verified. I want to show how the representation in certain places will be changed. In East Cheshire there are now, in round numbers, 7,000 electors, and it is estimated that under the operation of the Bill there will be 19,000. In Mid Cheshire there are 9,900, or practically 10,000, electors; they will become 23,000, In West Cheshire there are 13,000 electors, and these will be more than doubled; they will be increased to 27,000. In North Lancashire there are 18,000 electors, and under the proposed conditions they will number 42,000. In North-East Lancashire there are 13,000 electors; they will become 42,000. In South-East Lancashire there are 28,000 electors; they will become no fewer than 90,000. In South-West Lancashire there are 28,000 electors; they will become 73,000. In East Suffolk 9,900 electors, or practically 10,000, who will be increased to 31,000. In North Northumberland there are 4,500 electors, they will become nearly 12,000; and in South Northumberland there are 9,000 electors, who will, on the proposed conditions, be increased to 21,000. I will not weary the Committee with giving further instances. It must, however, be borne in mind that, although the individual electors may be exercising the same vote in the one case as in the other, there will be a direct disturbing influence exerted upon all the constituencies concerned. The Bill will take from this borough and give to that county, and it will give to that county and absorb what properly belongs to that borough. Of course, I do not want to insist now upon the very obvious inference which has been drawn over 1212 and over again from the system of grouping; but I say it is essential to have the two Bills before us in order that we may see that the redistribution scheme is one that the House can fairly be asked to assent to. It is easy, as has been suggested, to arrange the grouping so as to swamp a hostile constituency or to make one of an opposite character quite secure, and that is a point which cannot be left out of sight in dealing fairly with this question. My point is, that while my Amendment need not delay the Bill one hour, yet it calls upon the House to affirm the principle that the two Bills should be considered as a whole and come into operation together. I desire, particularly after the discussion which has taken place, to say that it is far from my wish to act in any way discourteously to the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey); but, at the same time, it seems to me that the principles of our several Amendments are entirely separate. The question with me is one of completeness. If you are to treat these two measures as a whole, whether you pass one now and another later, I say that the two should come into operation together; and I venture, by the way, to point out that the Government could give no stronger weapon into the hands of their opponents, or do anything more likely to endanger the passage of the Bill, than to leave it incomplete. We have already had the suggestion from an hon. Member that redistribution might be accelerated, and we cannot help thinking that, if it only depends upon dates, in the many chances of Parliamentary life something may occur to cause this Bill to go forward and to leave the other question to be decided afterwards. The hon. Member referred to the Bill of 1867; but I would point out that there is nothing analogous in the two positions, because it is quite possible that in the present case redistribution might be put aside altogether. With regard to the question of dates, it seems to me that the fixing of a date might sometimes lead us into considerable difficulty, for it must be borne in mind that dates may be restrictive as well as definitive. In making this proposal, I am simply asking the Committee to affirm that the two measures shall come into operation at the same time, because redistribution is for all purposes part and parcel of any 1213 scheme of enfranchisement. Sir, I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given Notice.
In page 1, line 11, at the end of the foregoing Amendment, to insert the words "and after the passing of an Act to be passed for amending the Acts which settle and describe the divisions of counties and the limits of cities and boroughs of the United Kingdom, for the purpose of the election of Members to serve in Parliament."—(Colonel Stanley.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
Sir, it would be very easy, I think, to criticize the terms of the rather peculiar Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I conceive his meaning to be that the Franchise Bill, should it pass into law, shall take no effect until a Redistribution Bill is passed, although that meaning is not expressed in the terms of the Amendment. The terms are that it shall not come into effect until a Boundary Bill is passed. There is no reference hero to the enfranchisement or disfranchisement of boroughs, there is only a reference to boundaries; and although the boundaries are an important part of the scheme, whether in the measure or not, the essence of it lies in enfranchisement and disfranchisement, and, consequently, the terms of the Amendment might be satisfied and our Franchise Bill might take effect if we brought in a Bill for altering the boundaries of certain constituencies, although the important part of redistribution—namely, enfranchisement and disfranchisement—were left out of the measure. I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite who appealed to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to withdraw his Amendment, if they had looked into the terms of it, would have perceived that it gave no effect to his real purpose, because it does not require that a Redistribution Bill should pass before the Franchise Bill takes effect. I do not think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will question the truth or the accuracy of what I say. However, the real point to be considered is whether, in the few words I shall have to say, I shall take the Amendment according to its terms or according to its intention. I have said that if we are to accept it according to its terms, we should be able 1214 to pass by its intention, because we should not be required to deal with the great subject of enfranchisement or disfranchisement; but I take it according to its intention, and while admitting that it is a new form of raising the question whether redistribution or enfranchisement must necessarily be dealt with together, I am afraid it is the worst form in which it can come before us. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman proposes that words should be inserted in the Bill for the purpose of enacting that, to use his own euphonious language, the measures of Reform and Redistribution should form but one measure. That would not be my way of stating it; but if such a proposal were carried out, it would be in the power of 300 Gentlemen in the House of Lords not only to refuse to pass a Redistribution Bill, but absolutely to nullify the whole of the labour we should have expended on the Franchise Bill, and that without limit of time. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says he does not want the insertion of any date in the Bill. No, Sir; certainly not. What he wants is that the question of the franchise shall be absolutely and entirely and unconditionally hung up, after the House has expended its labour upon it. Well, Sir, I do not think it necessary to enter into any detailed argument as regards that proposition. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says this is not a complete measure. Sir, there never was a complete measure of Reform before Parliament. It was just as necessary that Scotland and Ireland should have Reform Bills in 1832 and 1867, before English Reform could take effect, as it is now that a Redistribution Bill should be enacted before the Bill for Enfranchisement should take effect, and yet no one thought it necessary to insert in the Bills of 1832 and 1867 clauses saying that those Bills should not take effect until Bills for Scotland and Ireland had been passed. Such is the bulk and mass and scope of a Bill dealing with Reform, that it has never been found practicable to deal with all the questions that belong to the subject in one and the same measure. According to the intention of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, as expressed in his speech, though I am bound to say it is not expressed in his Amendment, the adoption 1215 of his proposal would be an utter nullification of the Bill; so that it is conceivable, if Parties in this House or "elsewhere" were strong enough to prevent the passing of a measure of Redistribution, that 2,000,000 of people, declared to be fit to vote and invested by the law of the land with the right to be registered, would be entirely disappointed, and fed, so to speak, upon ashes instead of the fruit promised to them.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, there was no greater fallacy than to say that the Committee were asked to discuss what had already been discussed before. He entirely differed from that view. The question was also one that they would not have an opportunity of discussing in all its bearings upon the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Albert Grey). What had been discussed before was whether enfranchisement and redistribution should be contained in the same measure. They were now discussing whether or not they ought to have before them the redistribution scheme before the present Bill should become operative. Was that a reasonable proposal? In his opinion it was absolutely so, and, moreover, just, and in accordance with precedent. If he were to detain the Committee he could quote passage after passage from speeches of hon. Members opposite to the effect that a scheme of redistribution was the very essence of this scheme of Reform. Therefore, he thought they were entitled to claim that a redistribution scheme should be passed into law before this Bill came into operation. At no previous time had any portion of Reform taken effect until the whole scheme had passed into law, previous Governments having always taken care to do that before an appeal was made to the country; and if that were not done in the present case, they would run the risk of having a new electorate with the old constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman had objected to the proposal on the ground that it would lead to the disappointment of 2,000,000 of persons who were waiting for the franchise which had been promised to them. But it was necessary to take care that, under the plea of justice, they did not perpetrate a mischievous injustice. He believed it was the duty of that House to give to the agricultural interest its fair 1216 share of representation in the country, and he quite admitted that one of the effects of the Bill might be to take away the power of the farmer. But the farmers did not represent the agricultural interest. If this Bill, as it stood, were passed into law, and a Dissolution took place before a Redistribution Bill was passed, the effect would be that the agricultural interest would be swamped by the urban element introduced into the constituencies; and, so far from having a fair share, it would have an unfair share in the representation. Then, it was asked, why they objected in counties to what they were ready enough to advocate in the case of boroughs? He would not detain the Committee by pointing out the essential difference between the two cases at length, but would simply observe that in the one they had a homogeneous population, and in the other they had not. But the most important difference was that the Government were going to apply their measure to admittedly temporary constituencies. His right hon. and gallant Friend had pointed out the enormous alteration which would take place in the case of the constituencies in Lancashire and elsewhere. What would be the position of one who should contest any of these constituencies? He would be contesting a temporary constituency which, the moment the Redistribution Bill was passed, would be broken up into fragments. He said this would be putting candidates in a wholly false and unfair position; and, therefore, he contended it was necessary to present to the country a complete scheme of redistribution and enfranchisement. The right hon. Gentleman went on to point out that if the Amendment were carried, it would place the whole subject at the mercy of the House of Lords; but he (Mr. E. Stanhope) said that it would also give the Government an opportunity of fulfilling their pledge of bringing in a Redistribution Bill. He did not believe they could do so in the present Parliament; but the proposal would, at any rate, allow them to try, and if they did not succeed, then let the operation of the Bill be postponed until the next Parliament, when the country would have before it the whole scheme of the Government.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he wished to say a few words on the principle of 1217 the Amendment, as to which he entertained a strong opinion. The Prime Minister had told them that if the Amendment were adopted it would not have the effect which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman wished. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken did not allude to the object of the Amendment; but it was the same as that of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey)—namely, that ift here were a General Election after the passing of the Bill, and before the passing of a Redistribution Bill, the new electors should not vote. That appeared to him a most impossible course to take, and the proposal seemed to him so unjust to the electors that it should be withdrawn. Some hon. Members might not agree with that view; but let them consider how the Amendment would work, not merely in the towns, say, of Lancashire and Yorkshire, but with regard to the enormous masses of people in the manufacturing villages and districts, which were very similar to towns. Let the Committee imagine the feelings of those people when they found that Parliament had given them the right to vote, but that they were not to use it upon the question in which they had the greatest interest—namely, in what apportionment and in what district they should vote. It seemed to him that to state the object of the Amendment was to give a sufficient answer to it; but the overpowering argument against it was that the rankling feeling of injustice created amongst the new voters would be such as, in his opinion, no Government could meet, or the House itself venture to look forward to.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there would be any injustice in taking a General Election on the present constituencies in case the Government failed to deal with the question of redistribution, because it had always been held that redistribution and enfranchisement should go together, and that one was inseparable from the other. To his mind, the new voters had not the right to vote until redistribution had taken place. Therefore, he could not assent to the proposition laid down so poetically by the Prime Minister about the voters who were going to be enfranchised by this measure not having their rights fully recognized by Parlia- 1218 ment until a re-arrangement had been made. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), in the speech he had just made, had talked about some friendly arrangement between himself (Lord Randolph Churchill) and the Prime Minister, and about playing into the hands of the Liberal Party. A more trumpery and ridiculous proposition could not possibly have been laid before the House; and he wanted to know which was the more likely to be open to that charge—the right hon. Gentleman or himself? That was a matter which he would confidently leave to the House and the public. It was no exaggeration to say that one-half of the Conservative Party were pledged to the assimilation of the county and borough franchise; and that half, he believed, were genuinely anxious to see an extension of the franchise, although they coupled that extension with redistribution of seats. But there was another Party who were undoubtedly opposed to Reform, and they were those who were planning to defeat the Caucuses. He was under the impression at one time that opposition to Reform on principle was upheld by the Conservative Party; but the reason why he had altogether departed from that view was that it happened to him in the autumn to make a speech on the question of Reform, in which he undoubtedly opposed Reform on principle; but the delightful experience happened to him that the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) and the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) got upon the platform and pointedly and completely disagreed with everything he had said. Having found from that reliable source of information that opposition to Reform on principle did not recommend itself to the Conservative Party as a whole, he naturally enough made haste to abandon what was so unpalatable to his Friends. What had taken place on the second reading of the Bill? The noble Lord, the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) got up in the name of the Conservative Party, and under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), moved an Amendment, giving the public to understand that the Conservative Party were anxious to deal with Reform, but in a more complete manner 1219 than was proposed by the Government. The course adopted by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was completely at variance with that honest statement of the intention of the Conservative Party; because if they wanted to get a complete measure of Reform, they could do it in two ways—either by requiring the Government to deal with it completely in one Bill, or by persuading or compelling them to make such arrangements as would enable them to deal with the supplementary parts of Reform next year. Now, they had no power to compel the Government to bring in one Bill to deal with the whole subject; but, considering what had fallen from hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House with regard to redistribution, he thought they had the power to persuade the Government to undertake that redistribution should be dealt with next year. Undoubtedly that object would be attained by the adoption of an Amendment similar in terms to the Amendment which stood on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for South, Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey). He did not in the least say that this was a necessary Amendment; but he thought that the object of those Conservatives who were in favour of Reform would be attained if the 1st of January, 1886, was made the date for the commencement of the operation of the Bill. That he thought was the natural date; and if that date were put in the Reform Bill he saw no reason whatever why this Bill should not pass into law, taking into account the declarations which the Government had made, that they intended to introduce a Redistribution Bill next Session. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley), who moved this Amendment in defiance of the appeals from all quarters of the House, certainly did not take this course from obstinacy or from discourtesy to the hon. Member for South Northumberland, because there was no more courteous Member in the House than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; but he took this course, he (Lord Randolph Churchill) was afraid, from another motive, which was to damage the chances of those who wished to see the date, the 1st January, 1886, put in the Bill. He would briefly explain to the House why he thought that was so. If a date, in accordance with the Amendment of the 1220 hon. Gentleman, the Member for South Northumberland, were put in the Reform Bill, the Bill must pass into law, and would not be likely, in his opinion, to meet with an evil fate in "another place;" but there were those who did not wish this Reform Bill to become law, and they knew that if a date was put into the Bill it would, coupled with the pledges of the Government, make redistribution certain, and they knew that in that case it would be hardly possible, or, at any rate, it would be in the highest degree dangerous, for the House of Lords to throw out the Bill. The course, therefore, which was being taken tonight, must be fatal to the hopes of those who wished to see this question of the franchise fairly dealt with by the Government; who wished to support the Government in the action they were now taking. The course which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was taking in this matter was intended to prevent the House of Lords from being placed in a position of very great difficulty in regard to the fate of this Bill. He regretted immensely that such a course should have been adopted; he could not understand Members of the Tory Party standing up and saying—"We will resist this Reform Bill; we hope it will be thrown out; let us go to the people on the question of Reform." He could not quite understand such a course, neither could he understand the attempt on the part of certain Conservative Members to take up a position calculated to impress the public with the idea that they were anxious to deal with Reform, when the line they were taking made it clear they were opposed to all Reform. That was an arrangement he would not be a party to. He believed they might fairly rely upon their position with regard to redistribution, if a date were put in the Bill. In view of the pledges of Her Majesty's Government, he saw no reasonable danger at all from the adoption of such a course. He felt convinced that that was not a course which many Members of the Radical Party would like to see adopted. He believed there was a large number of Radicals in the country and in the House—possibly even, for all he knew, in the Government—who would be glad to see an Election take place upon what would be a deformed and monstrous constituency; and if hon. Gentlemen on 1221 the Opposition side of the House wished to play into the hands of the Radical Party they could not take a better course for the purpose than the one that had been suggested by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley). It was quite clear to him that the principle of the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was practically the same as the principle of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Northumberland; but it was deliberately brought on at a moment when the Committee at large were indisposed to consider it. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman went to a Division the principle of the Amendment would be fatally damaged, and the chances of the hon. Member for South Northumberland getting his views to prevail with the House of Commons would be hopeless. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) thought it was just as well the House should know exactly how these matters stood. There was a portion, and he believed a large portion, and a most influential portion of the Conservative Party—judging from the declarations hon. Gentlemen had made— who were honestly in favour of extending the franchise in the manner proposed by the Government—namely, by assimilating the county and the borough franchise; but there was a section of the Party who were not in favour of taking that course, but who would not say so, who pretended they wore in favour of it, and yet took a course which completely ruined the chances of those who wished to see adopted a complete system of Reform.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, his noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill) had informed the Committee that he had reached his present position on the subject in his desire, to use his own phrase, to be in accord with the Conservative Party. His noble Friend had made many efforts of that kind; but they did not seem to be crowned with absolute success, and the noble Lord had given him the credit—the most undeserved credit—of having converted him from his old to his new views on the Franchise Question by the remarks he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) made in Scotland. The noble Lord stated that he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) got up at a public meeting and contradicted him in every particular. He, however, had a very lively recollec- 1222 tion of the incident to which his noble Friend referred; and what really happened was this. His noble Friend had made a very able and interesting speech on Reform; and he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was requested to move a vote of thanks to him. He undertook the task with extreme pleasure, and carried it through to the best of his ability. His noble Friend in the course of his speech stated that in his opinion the agricultural labourer was unfit for the franchise. He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) did not pretend to have any intimate knowledge of the agricultural labourer of England, but he had a very intimate knowledge of the agricultural labourers of Scotland; and speaking in Edinburgh, as they were then, he felt bound to say that if they were going to bring in a Reform Bill and increase the electorate, there was no class in the Kingdom more fitted to receive the franchise than the agricultural labourers in the South of Scotland. That was the sole difference of opinion with his noble Friend that he expressed on that occasion; and he could hardly believe that it was simply owing to that very innocent remark that the noble Lord had changed the whole of the views which he entertained upon the Franchise Question. Now, his noble Friend occupied the greater part of his speech in unfolding to the public a dark plot, which he seemed to think existed amongst a large part of the Conservative Party in the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, the Front Bench. At all events, in the opinion of the noble Lord, there existed a dark and mysterious plot, invented, he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) presumed, on the Front Opposition Bench, and supported by half of the Conservative Party, by which, while appearing to go in for Reform, they really and truly meant to defeat it. He confessed that he had listened most carefully to the remarks of the noble Lord; but he had not been in the least able to discover in what the plot consisted. It appeared to him that the line taken by the Conservative Party was perfectly plain and consistent. His noble Friend was quite right in saying that the Conservative Party was not absolutely united on the question of the advisability of another Reform. Bill. There 1223 were Members, like his noble Friend and himself, who had stated publicly that they were in favour of assimilating the county and borough franchise; but they had always associated that statement with another—that assimilation must go with redistribution of seats. Now, what was the argument they took up with regard to the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley), and that of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey)? His own view was that if either of these Amendments were carried, it would not be a good Bill. It would still be a very bad Bill. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) spoke the truth when he said that nothing could be more inconvenient, nothing, perhaps, could be more dangerous, and nothing certainly would create more discontent, than to pass a measure virtually equalizing the franchise in the boroughs and counties, and to have a Dissolution in which they did not allow people they had enfranchised to vote. He granted that absolutely; and he, therefore, hoped that as they had not been able to throw the Bill out in this House, it would be thrown out in the other House. Of course, he fully granted that the Bill would be amended by the proposal of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley), or by the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey); but still it would remain a very bad Bill, a Bill open to all the objections raised against it by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. Was there anything disingenuous in this course? Was it not a plain and perfectly straightforward opinion. He could not see how any person holding that view could be supposed to have any dark idea of the character referred to by the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill). He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) said let them have Reform, but let them have it with redistribution; and if he voted, as he should vote, for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's (Colonel Stanley's) Amendment, it was because he looked upon it as a palliative.
§ MR. SCLATER - BOOTH
said, he thought it would be very inconvenient and very injudicious if, when an Election took place after this Bill was passed 1224 into law, the new electors had not the power to vote; but he could not think they would have any reason to complain and find fault if such were the consequence of the mode of proceeding of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) seemed to think that if an Election took place after the Bill passed it would be a heart-breaking thing if the newly-enfranchised electors could not vote. The Bill would not come into force until 1886. What did the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) want to do by this Amendment? He did not wish to interfere with that arrangement, but simply to provide that there should be an opportunity afforded for the Government to do what they said they were anxious to do—namely, to introduce a Redistribution Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had repeatedly said it was their intention to bring in such a measure; and the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) had repeated that intention in most emphatic language. What, in reality, was the proposal of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley)? It was not that they should be obliged to settle the burning question as to whether Birmingham should have five or six Members, or Manchester three Members, but that some arrangement should be made for redistribution. He would mention the case of one county in the South of England, which would serve as an illustration of the necessity of redistribution. It was estimated that the Franchise Bill would add 20,000 electors to the existing 10,000 electors in South Hampshire. Now, where would those electors be found? In the neighbourhood of Portsmouth, Southampton, and possibly Christchurch. They were men who were already virtually represented by the two Members for Portsmouth, the two for Southampton, and the one for Christchurch; but they would be brought into the county constituency overwhelming the present electors to the absolute extinction of the great and varied county interests. That would be so great an anomaly, and so absurd a position, that he could not understand the Government not accepting the Amendment of this right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley). He had 1225 no doubt the Government would fulfil their pledges and introduce a Bill; but by accepting an Amendment of this kind, or an Amendment similar to that upon the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for South Northumberland, they would make their intention clear, and would make it certain that one Bill should not come into operation without the other. That seemed a moderate and reasonable proposal. It was one which the Government ought to accept in accordance with the pledges they had given; and he was perfectly certain that by accepting this or some such Amendment they would add immensely to the probability of the Bill passing through the other House of Parliament.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, the Committee were indebted to the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) for the interesting description he had given of the divisions amongst his political Friends. Some little while ago, there was much talk of a compromise or arrangement which had been entered into by mutually distrustful Members of the Conservative Party. In a case of a compromise, the question was naturally asked—"Who has made the surrender?" After the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill), the Committee had the advantage of knowing who had not made the surrender. The speech of the noble Lord contained very valuable arguments against this Amendment. He (Mr. Bryce) did not think the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey) was a good one, but it was better than that now under consideration; and it would be perfectly open for his hon. Friend (Mr. Albert Grey) to vote against the present Amendment and then propose his own. The cat was let out of the bag by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who admitted that this Amendment was a bad one, and that its defect was shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who pointed out how impossible it would be to ask a large number of persons who had been admitted by law to the franchise to stand by, with their power to exercise the franchise deferred, while others voted. The hon. Member for Hertford admitted, also, that this Amendment would have the 1226 effect of wrecking the Bill, and therefore, he said, he should vote for it. He (Mr. Bryce) thought that, after the exposure which had taken place, right hon. Gentlemen opposite would hardly think it worth while to go to a Division. It was impossible to conceive an Amendment which was worse both in principle and in practice than the present. It would create widespread discontent amongst the classes who were kept unenfranchised, and it would have the effect of postponing redistribution.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Bryce) had said the House was indebted to the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) for having enlightened them as to the plots and plans of Her Majesty's Opposition; but he assured the hon. Gentleman that if he looked to his noble Friend the Member for Woodstock for the plans and schemes of Her Majesty's Opposition, he would look in vain. No doubt, if the noble Lord had been plotting and planning, or was cognizant of the plots and plans of his Friends seated on the same side of the House as himself, he would be the last man in such an arena as this to denounce and make them public. What his noble Friend might do if he found himself on such a platform as he described he occupied at Edinburgh, among his own particular friends, he (Lord John Manners) could not presume to say. Possibly the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) might express his opinion on the demerits of his friends and the merits of his opponents; but he was perfectly certain that in the House he would not take advantage of knowledge of what had passed among his political Friends and associates. Therefore, he (Lord John Manners) thought the hon. Gentleman was quite unjustified in the observation he had made. The noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) had appealed to him (Lord John Manners), as having moved the Amendment on the second reading of the Bill, to establish the truth of his position; and he said that the Conservative Party, on the second reading, wished to establish itself in the position of agreeing to the uniformity of the franchise. He was inclined to think that his noble Friend had forgotten both the speech which he (Lord John Manners) had made and the Amendment which he 1227 made, and which the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) himself voted for. There was no word in that speech or Amendment in favour of this or any other measure of Parliamentary Reform. He drew no conclusion from that, and he did not ask the House to draw any conclusion. His noble Friend must have been thinking of a cognate Amendment of 1866 by Lord Derby. Undoubtedly, that Amendment was to the effect that the House of Commons was prepared to consider a measure of Parliamentary Reform if redistribution were coupled with it. In the Amendment which he had moved, however, there was no such reference. What he asked the House to affirm was that it would not proceed further with the consideration of this particular measure, unless it was accompanied by a declaration on the part of the Government of the whole of their scheme of Reform. That was what he asked his noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill) to assent to. His noble Friend did assent to that view, and so did the united body of the Conservative Party. The noble Lord now said that he spoke on behalf of one-half of the Conservative Party.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that, whatever the noble Lord said, he appeared to speak on behalf of so many sections of the House that he (Lord John Manners) felt quite bewildered as to the people for whom he was really speaking, and, indeed, as to the cause which he was then espousing. He was under the impression that the noble Lord had accused his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) of entering into a plot to destroy this measure, and to put the House of Lords into an almost hopeless condition. His right hon. and gallant Friend had done nothing of the kind. Nothing could be more clear, distinct, frank, or loyal than the position his right hon. and gallant Friend had taken up from the first. The Amendment had been on the Paper for weeks, and everyone had known of his intention to proceed with it. Up to this moment, he had not been aware that it did not carry with it the sanction of his noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill). He regretted that it had not the noble Lord's sanction; but when the noble Lord assailed his right hon. 1228 and gallant Friend with vigour, and ended by saying that he regarded the Amendment as an attempt to extricate the House of Lords from an unfortunate and dangerous position in which that Body might find itself, he (Lord John Manners) confessed, as a Conservative, that he did not know there was any great blame to be attached to the Amendment on that ground. Could it be supposed that an Amendment which would extricate the House of Lords from a dangerous and difficult position was really worthy of the condemnation with which the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) had assailed it? Towards the close of his speech his noble Friend said—"Why, after all, the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) is identical in principle with the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey)." Why, then, should the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend be denounced in the way it had been by the noble Lord? It might be a question which of those Amendments was the more entitled to support. In his opinion, it was worth while to support them both. If his right hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment were rejected, he should have very great pleasure in supporting that of the hon. Member for South Northumberland; but, for the reasons which had been already assigned, he was of opinion that, of the two Amendments, the wiser and preferable one was that of his right hon. and gallant Friend. His right hon. and gallant Friend had fulfilled the promise he had given to his Party and to the country; and he (Lord John Manners) sincerely hoped that he would go to a Division.
said, that after the explanation which the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) had just made to the Committee, to the House of Commons, and to his followers, as to the motive which led him to move the Amendment to the second reading of the Bill, an Amendment for which the Conservative Party were induced to vote in a body, the noble Lord could not be surprised if some Members of the Opposition looked to the Amendments coming from him and his Friends with a little suspicion and a little caution before they voted for them. A great number of the Members 1229 of the Conservative Party voted for the Amendment of the noble Lord on the second reading under the idea that they were expressing, by their vote, the opinion which the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) just now expressed—namely, that they were favourable to the assimilation of the county and the borough franchise; but they desired to see it coupled with a scheme of redistribution, and thus made a complete measure. That was the idea with which he (Mr. Gorst) voted for the Amendment of the noble Lord. He had always held the opinion which was so eloquently and ably expressed just now by the hon. Member for Hertford; but the difficulty he had always found himself in was getting people to believe in it. Not only in the House of Commons, but even among one's own constituents out-of-doors, he found that the zeal of a Conservative Member for the principle of the assimilation of the county and borough franchise was apt to be looked upon somewhat sceptically; and he must say he did not wonder at it if the Conservative Party in general was to express such opinions as those expressed by the hon. Member for Hertford—namely, that while wishing to see the franchise in the counties and boroughs assimilated, while wishing to see a complete measure of Reform, they, at the same time, hoped devoutly that the House of Lords would throw out the present Bill. That represented a concatenation of opinions in the sincerity of which he found it impossible to believe. Look what would happen. Suppose the House of Lords passed the present Bill. Her Majesty's Government were pledged, as deeply as any Government could be pledged, to deal with redistribution next year. The fact was pointed out by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) that the newly enfranchised voters would not come on the Register and get their franchise until the 1st January, 1886; therefore, in all human probability—as far as anything could be considered probable in Parliamentary life—if the House of Lords passed the present Bill in this Session of Parliament there would be a Redistribution Bill passed next year, and some time in 1886 there might be an appeal to the new constituencies. Look what would happen if the House of Lords 1230 fulfilled the fervent hope of his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who had peculiar means of knowing the mind of the Tory Leaders in the House of Lords. Suppose the House of Lords threw out the present Bill. It would then be almost impossible for the Government to pass a Redistribution Bill before the close of the present Parliament. Government would then be driven to this dilemma— they must either pass no measure of Reform at all, in which case, when the Conservatives went to the constituencies, they would be called very severely over the coals, or the Government would have to pass a very partial measure, which the Opposition so strongly condemned and were so desirous not to see passed; if the House of Lords threw out the Reform Bill this year Her Majesty's Government would find it difficult to pass, during the present Parliament, that complete measure of Reform which he believed the Conservative Party so much desired to see. No one, probably, would believe him, but he really wanted to see the county and borough franchise assimilated; he wanted to see a Redistribution Bill passed; but he could not couple that desire with the earnest and fervent hope that the House of Lords would throw out this Bill. The Amendment that was put forward this afternoon seemed to be one very much intended to bring about that result; and he understood the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) to state that it was an Amendment to strengthen the position of the House of Lords. What would happen if the new clause of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey) were adopted by the Committee? Why, as the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) said, and as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) said, it would be almost impossible for the House of Lords to throw out the Bill; and, therefore, he (Mr. Gorst) thought he was right in saying that the noble Lord, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and their Friends on the Front Opposition Bench, did not want an Amendment of such a nature to be inserted in the Bill. It was pointed out over and over again by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), who certainly was not open to any charge of 1231 disloyalty to his Party, that the moving of this Amendment this afternoon prejudiced the chance of the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland being inserted in the Bill. That was also pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) in response to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment now under discussion. What conclusion must be drawn from the attitude assumed by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) and his Friends? The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) drew the conclusion that the Amendment was not intended to pass, but was meant to be defeated in the House this afternoon; that it was meant to prejudice the chances of the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland, in order that the Bill might go up to the House of Lords in a state in which that House would be more justified in throwing it out. He really thought this was an occasion on which the honesty and candour of their wishes might be tested. If they wanted the Franchise Bill to pass, accompanied by a Redistribution Bill, they could not want the House of Lords to throw the Bill out unless it was absolutely necessary to do so. If they wanted to send the Bill up to the House of Lords in a state in which it would be difficult for that Assembly to throw it out, they ought to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland, and they ought not to encourage the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) to spoil the chances of that Amendment by taking a Division upon the present Amendment.
§ MR. LEWIS
wished to refer to one subject of a practical character which he thought the Committee would admit was one of great importance—namely, how, under this Bill, registration was to work. As far as he was concerned, it was no part of his duty to answer the suspicions of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). Those Members of the Opposition who were not on the Front Bench had to sit by with great complacency and hear the attacks made from certain quarters of the House upon the right hon. Gentlemen occupying seats on that Bench. They were not aware of the suspicions alluded 1232 to by the hon. and learned Gentleman; and all they could do was to deplore the way in which persons, professing and advocating Conservative principles, thought proper to advance their views. He had to say, however, that he knew something of the constituency of Chatham. He knew something of the Conservative Party in Chatham; and he ventured to say that if that Party in Chatham were to be polled it would be found that nine-tenths of the hon. and learned Gentleman's (Mr. Gorst's) constituents were averse to the course the hon. and learned Gentleman was pursuing. He regretted that it seemed to be the delight of one or two Members of the Conservative Party to create day by day divergences, and to present points of difficulty. The Party to which he belonged were not seeking Office, and all they could do was to allow those who thought proper to stand in the way of the interests of that Party to indulge themselves to their hearts' content. As he had said, he wanted to draw the attention of the Committee to a point which he was pursuaded that the Attorney General would admit to be of vital importance. Taking this Bill as it stood, when could they obtain a registration of voters? Certainly not this year—that must be conceded by everybody; it was utterly impossible, considering the present stage of the Bill and the time of the Session—the 23rd of May— that any hope could be entertained of obtaining a registration of voters this year; consequently the Bill could not affect any election that took place in 1886. Now, let them see what the Government had proposed. The Government had said that they should have a Registration Bill next Session; but unless a Registration Bill passed before the month of June next year it would be impossible to get a registration of voters under the two Bills—the Franchise Bill and the Redistribution Bill—which could operate before 1887. He should like to know whether the Government had seriously contemplated that position of affairs? He challenged the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General to deny that it was utterly impossible, under this Bill, to obtain a registration of voters, which should be effective, until the end of next year or the beginning of the following year. If the Government were sincere— 1233 and he believed them to be sincere—in their promise to introduce a Redistribution Bill, unless a Redistribution Bill became law and received the Royal Assent before the end of June, 1885, it would be impossible to obtain a Registration Bill that would be operative until 1887. The consequence would be that in the year 1886, when, according to the Constitutional theory of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, there ought to be a Dissolution, they would be exactly in the state which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) so much deprecated—namely, that persons entitled to be enfranchised would be standing by while a General Election took place. It appeared to him that the Government had never really faced this most important question. It was a matter of vital importance as regarded the main question whether a Registration Bill ought not to be brought in side by side with this Bill. As to the Amendments—namely, that of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey), he considered that in all probability the time fixed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Northumberland would be the very earliest date by which it would be possible to get both Bills, the Franchise Bill and the Redistribution Bill, into working order, although he himself had no hesitation in saying that he preferred the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley). He should certainly vote for the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend, because it was essentially necessary to point out to the Government how they were to deal with the question of registration in order to enfranchise the new constituents. His opinion was—and he thought most Members of the Committee would agree with him—that it was utterly impossible to suppose that a Registration Bill would pass both Houses by June in next year, unless the Government were to give up the whole of the time at their disposal for the purpose of carrying into law such a Bill. In the event of the Government not being able to carry such a Bill by that time, what would be the position of the persons whom it was now proposed to enfranchise? They would not 1234 be able to be registered as voters even in the year 1885, because hon. Members would recollect that the machinery of registration began in the month of July; and if they had new constituencies, if the present boroughs were materially changed, if the county constituencies were enlarged, and various other alterations made, the altered arrangements would necessitate many alterations in registration which would require that the overseers should do things in the month of July which at present they were not required to do. That was a practical question, and it ought to be dealt with in a practical way by the Government.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he scarcely thought, when some time ago he appealed to his right hon. and gallant Friend not to press his Amendment this afternoon, that he (Colonel Stanley) would have had such very considerable cause to regret the course he had taken, after what had taken place in that debate. He regretted exceedingly that his right hon. and gallant Friend had not seen his way to accede to the request he (Mr. Raikes) had made. With regard to the matters that had been raised in this discussion, he wished to point out for one moment how this Amendment differed from the previous Amendment which had been moved with respect to redistribution. When he moved an Instruction on going into Committee, he endeavoured to point out to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and to the House what was the essential distinction between that Instruction and the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire. The distinction was that the one refused the Bill because it was incomplete, and the other proposed to supplement the Bill. Now, this Amendment did not propose to refuse or to supplement the Bill; but it proposed to suspend the Bill. He wished to draw some attention to that distinction, because, while he supported the Motion of the noble Lord and moved his Instruction, he found himself unable to support the proposition of his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley). Much had been said, in the course of this discussion, to point out the extreme inconvenience which the Government had brought them into. What had been said by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton 1235 (Mr. H. H. Fowler), by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) showed the enormous practical difficulties which they would have to confront in dealing with this question of the franchise by itself. They saw that if this question was dealt with according to the ordinary course of Business no Dissolution could take place, after redistribution, until the 1st January, 1887. In the event, therefore, of this Bill passing, and of a Dissolution taking place before 1887—before a Redistribution Bill, a Boundary Bill, and a Registration Bill had boon passed, they would be in the precise difficulty and danger that had boon indicated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. He could not agree with what had been said by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) with regard to the impolicy of rejecting the Franchise Bill this Session on the ground that it would increase the difficulty of the position, because it seemed to him that if they could get rid of the Franchise Bill this Session, they would probably not have to confront any difficulty at all; they would probably have an opportunity of appealing to the constituencies and dealing with the question as it ought to be dealt with, on the hustings and at the poll. He felt there were two arguments adduced by the Prime Minister that had not been answered in the course of the discussion. The Motion, as it stood, did not contemplate a Redistribution Bill; it contemplated only a part of it; and he felt there had been no answer given to that objection. He also felt the great force of what had been said by the Prime Minister and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, that nothing could be more exasperating to the public mind of England than that they should pass a measure that should not effect a redistribution of seats, but which should provide for 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 voters being suspended for an uncertain time from the vote. He did not think that any practical politician would willingly contemplate any such proposition; and it was, therefore, with very great regret, that he felt himself unable to support the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend 1236 (Colonel Stanley). He felt the Amendment would establish a state of things which would render legislation almost impossible. He did not believe that this House, he rather doubted whether any House of Commons would pass a Redistribution Bill unless it was associated with the motive power of the extension of the franchise. He had always thought that it had been one of the greatest mistakes that they should not, indeed put the cart before the horse, but that after having driven the horse through Parliament they should attempt the almost impossible task of getting the cart through by itself. He almost despaired of seeing a Redistribution Bill pushed through Parliament, even by the powerful majority which the present Government possessed. The Motion seemed to him to have been brought forward rather as a reductio ad absurdum than as a practical expedient. He declined to put Parliament in a ridiculous position; and, therefore, under the circumstances, though with the greatest possible reluctance, he found himself unable to vote for the Amendment.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said he certainly asked his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) not to bring forward this particular Amendment at the present time. He did so in order that they might have a redistribution scheme before them at the same time that they had a Franchise Bill. His great object always had been, and he fancied the great object of the whole of the Conservative Party had been, that a Redistribution Bill and a Franchise Bill should go hand in hand, and that they should not have the one without the other. He, for one, could not blame the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) for having proceeded with his Amendment. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman had proposed the Amendment upon his own responsibility; and he was sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, in putting his Amendment before the Committee, had only been actuated in what he considered his paramount duty. He believed that his right hon. and gallant Friend felt that, unless they had a scheme of redistribution before them, they had no guarantee that they would have a redistribution scheme at all to discuss. They could not forget, and the Prime Minister would not forget, that 1237 next year the Crimes Act in Ireland expired, and that that was a subject that would have to be dealt with. Next year they would also have to deal with the question of registration, not so easy a matter as might be thought under the present circumstances. It was for these reasons that he had always thought that they ought to have the whole scheme of Reform before them, and anything that could tend to place the whole scheme before them at the same time would always have his support; his only desire was that a scheme should be produced which should be acceptable to the country, which, he ventured to say, this one-sided scheme was not. Even as to the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey), which specified the introduction of a particular date in the Bill, he believed that, unless some alteration was made in registration, the voters would not be in time for the particular date mentioned. He believed that the circumstances which he had mentioned with regard to Ireland would seriously hamper and prevent the Government from carrying out those pledges and promises. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister told them very distinctly that Ireland was to retain her full number of Members, and that a certain number were to be taken from the loyal and Conservative South of England. He presumed they were to be taken from the South of England and given to Scotland, being Liberal. The representation of Ireland was not to be interfered with; and he presumed that Wales, which was over-represented, being Liberal, was not to be touched; but they in the South of England were to be sacrificed. There was no wonder that this Bill had the support of the Irish Gentlemen who sat below the Gangway. He did not blame those hon. Gentlemen for extending their support to the measure—the responsibility rested with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. It was only because he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) desired to have the whole scheme of Reform before them at the same time that he should support the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
said, that earlier in the day he expressed the hope that his right hon. and gallant Friend would not persist in moving the Amend- 1238 ment in its present shape; and he yet hoped that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would not proceed to a Division. The principle of the Amendment was one that, in his mind, would be better raised when they had proceeded further with the Bill—as, for instance, when the time arrived for the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Northumberland to be submitted to the Committee. He entirely objected to any Bill of this kind becoming the law of the land unless a Redistribution Bill was introduced in the same Parliament. In the interest of the country this Bill ought not to pass, and he hoped it would meet with its proper and deserved fate in "another place." It would be most unsatisfactory to pass a Franchise Bill unaccompanied by a Redistribution Bill, because they must recollect that, however anxious the Prime Minister was to pass next Session a Bill for redistributing the seats in the country, next Session they would have the Irish difficulty to deal with. Next Session, also, there might be fresh Egyptian difficulties confronting them, and it by no means followed that the right hon. Gentleman would be in a position to carry out his will, even if he had the wish. It was, moreover, desirable, upon the question of Reform, that they should discuss the system of representation of minorities, a question in which he felt so strong an interest, and on which the Postmaster General (Mr. Fawcett) and the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had on so many occasions addressed the House. It did not follow that the Government proposal to redistribute the seats would be satisfactory to hon. Members in the House, or to noble Lords in "another place;" and, therefore, it would be a most mischievous thing so far to sever the two questions, that they might have this Bill becoming the law of the land, while no system for the representation of minorities was introduced by means of a Redistribution Bill. He confessed that he did not desire to see the number of Members from Ireland materially reduced; he would much prefer to see fewer Members returned from Wales, because Welsh Members, undoubtedly, held views far more hostile to the interest of the country than Irish Members. It did not at all follow that next 1239 Session this House, or the other House, would agree to what the Government might call a satisfactory measure of representation. That being so, the whole question of Reform ought not to be dealt with in the fifth Session of a Parliament, when there were all the difficulties of registration pointed out by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) to confront. The question of Reform could only be properly dealt with by a new Parliament. If they once passed this Bill, unaccompanied by a Redistribution Bill, and a Dissolution took place, they might find that men would not very easily give up their seats, so that many a long year might go by without a redistribution of seats. For these reasons he hoped that the Bill would meet with the fate it deserved in "another place."
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, there had been two classes of questions under consideration that afternoon—one a question of principle, and the other a question of tactics. With regard to the question of principle, there could be no doubt in any candid man's mind that the Motion which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) had made was strictly and entirely consistent, and in accordance with the position the Opposition, as a Party, had taken up throughout the proceedings on this Bill. Various taunts had been thrown about from side to side with regard to the sincerity of those engaged in the discussion; but they might all be put aside as part of the language of debate. There were, undoubtedly, among the Conservative Party a considerable number of Gentlemen who desired to see the borough and county franchise assimilated; there were also those who did not desire to see it, but who were prepared to acquiesce in it under certain conditions. But whether they were opposed to it, or approved it, or acquiesced in it, or desired it, he believed that until to-day there was only one feeling amongst the whole Conservative Party, and that was that they ought not to give their sanction to any Bill for the alteration or assimilation of the borough and county franchise unless it were accompanied with a measure of redistribution. According to the views they had always held, they would not agree to any measure for the extension of the franchise unless that measure was accompanied by 1240 another measure for the redistribution of seats, or, at any rate, until the whole plan of the Government was disclosed. Unless they had some security given to them that a Redistribution Bill was to be introduced and passed, they were not justified upon their own principles in giving their consent to this measure. How was this to be done? Some said it should be done in the manner suggested by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley). Others said it was better it should be done according to the suggestion of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey)—namely, by fixing a date. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) confessed he did not like the idea of fixing a date. He did not think it would do any good, because all it did was to say that the Bill was not to come into operation until such and such a time, and then it exposed them to all the inconveniences pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster); and if circumstances led to a Dissolution before the time fixed, the House would have to face the awkward situation suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. Either the Government were in earnest in their scheme for redistribution or they were not. If they were in earnest, hon. Members opposite would probably be contented with the promises of the Government. He was not contented with their promises, not merely because he had a natural distrust of Ministerial promises, but because he knew very well there might be many circumstances which might interfere to prevent them carrying into effect the very best promises. Then the Government might say — "Undoubtedly we meant to do this;" they might prepare a measure, and put it in the Queen's Speech; and yet it might be crowded out by circumstances over which they had no control. Look what a hold they would give the Government if they passed this measure of Reform in its present incomplete form. Next Session the Government would say—"We have got a redistribution plan, we approve of it; but if you do not like it, we are perfectly ready to withdraw it;" and they would fall back on the Bill of 1884; and the House would find themselves caught in that way, and entirely at the mercy of Her Majesty's Government. They had been asked to 1241 consider what power they would give to the 300 Gentlemen who sat in the House of Lords to stop a Reform Bill altogether if an Amendment such as that under consideration were passed. He imagined that if the House of Lords wished to stop a Reform Bill they had the power to do so. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister seemed to think that they would, by passing this Amendment, give the House of Lords more power to say that a Reform Bill should not come into operation until the redistribution scheme was laid before Parliament. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) thought that was a rather absurd view of the situation. He maintained that if they passed the Bill without some such Amendment as his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) suggested they would put themselves into the hands of the Government, and they would enable the Government to resist altogether the necessity of bringing forward a Redistribution Bill; and, therefore, the Conservative Party, who had all along gone on the principle that they would only consent to an assimilation of the borough and county franchise on the understanding that redistribution should form part of the scheme of Reform, would be deserting their own principle if they did not take some steps by which they would secure a Redistribution Bill being brought in. The Prime Minister said that the language of the Amendment was such that the Amendment would not effect the object which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had in view. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was a great critic of the terms of Amendments, and he laid great stress upon some verbal distinction or other which he drew; but he (Sir Stafford Northcote) ventured to say that if the Amendment were passed the object of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would be attained. This was a Bill extending the household suffrage to counties; and what the Opposition wanted to know was how the Government intended to settle and describe the divisions of counties, and how the limits of cities and boroughs were to be determined? Speaking in one of the earlier debates of the order in which he intended to proceed, the Prime Minister said that when the Franchise Bill was passed the Government would consider the manner in which the 1242 redistribution of the electors was to be brought in and manipulated. This manipulation was a part of the scheme of Reform which the Prime Minister wished to keep distinct and separate, but which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) desired to tie to the other part; and he (Sir Stafford Northcote) considered that that was a legitimate, and natural, and inevitable consequence of the position the Opposition had all along taken up. He did not believe any Amendment they could bring forward would accomplish it, and they would be putting a powerful weapon in the hands of the Government if they enabled them to say—"Take care what you are about. We will dissolve if you object to such a course." Under these circumstances, although he regretted to find that their (the Opposition) view of the proper tactics to be pursued had not commended itself to some for whoso opinion he had considerable regard, and to others who, he thought, were desirous really to acquiesce upon these matters—though he was sorry to find that this view of the proper tactics differed from theirs, yet being satisfied that he was right in principle, and being convinced, as he was, that the true tactics was to move now and not let the thing slide on until the time came when the whole Bill was done with, and they would have it demonstrated to them that it did not signify to them whether it was this year or next year. Taking all these considerations into view, he should support his right hon. and gallant Friend, and urge him to persevere with his Amendment; and whatever might be the decision to which the Committee might come, he thought the Amendment was one upon which they were bound to take the opinion of the Committee, and upon which their course was perfectly clear. He regretted very much that there should be a difference of opinion among those who, as he believed, took the same view of the danger of leaving this matter entirely open; but he could not help that, and all he could say was that he should support the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he was anxious that there should be no misunderstanding outside the House as to what had taken place this afternoon. He should entirely concur in all that had fallen from the right hon. 1243 Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote), if it was in their power to compel the Government to accept such an Amendment; but the question was not what was best, but what they could get. There was a difference beween this Amendment and Amendments which, more or less, involved the principle of the Bill. There was an Amendment involving the principle of the Bill; but upon that the Committee had not yet decided. It was one upon which there was every reason to believe a considerable concurrence of opinion would be expressed from, various quarters of the House; but by pressing this Amendment at the present moment they would prejudice the other question. His object was to secure the best possible chance for the Amendment involving the principle of the Bill in order to relieve the House of Lords from what he believed would be a most dangerous step—namely, getting into collision with the House of Commons with regard to this Bill. That was his object, and he did not see why he should conceal it. It appeared to him that that course was perfectly fair and frank, and for that reason he should urge the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not to press the Amendment.
§ MR. WARTON
said, that although this Amendment was proposed by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley), the real authors of it were the Government. They had, to a certain extent, misled the Radical Party. Many Members of the Radical Party, including that most prominent Member, the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), were under the impression that it was possible in this dying Parliament to pass a Franchise Bill which would enable some 2,000,000 of voters to have votes before any Redistribution Bill would or could be passed. That was the impression they were under; but now, after the statement of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), and the approval of that statement by the Prime Minister, they must, he thought, have become undeceived. It was, therefore, perfectly clear that now there was no hope whatever of a Franchise Bill being passed which could affect them in the present year. Therefore, there could be no reason why the Government should not have brought forward a complete Bill this Session. If they had been in earnest with regard 1244 to redistribution, and really meant to bring forward a redistribution scheme, they would have brought it forward, and not have encumbered the House with, a great number of Bills such as the London Government Bill. They knew perfectly well the impossibility of passing this Franchise Bill this year, or before-the redistribution scheme should take effect on January 1st, 1886. Therefore, it was clear that it was they, and not the Opposition, who were responsible for this Amendment. With regard to the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock as to not being able to get this Amendment, of course, everyone knew that the minority could not always carry their schemes; but that was no reason why the Conservative Party, as the minority, should not persevere in laying before the country what was their firm determination, and that was to drive the Government to bring forward their redistribution scheme. He thought it more honest to this House and to the country, and more fair to the other House and to everyone concerned, that the Opposition should have a firm, resolute, and consistent policy, and should insist upon having the redistribution scheme before them. He did not wish to see this Reform Question mixed up with any other matters, because he was certain, with regard to that other place, which represented more than this House the intelligence and wealth of the country, it would be far better for that House to throw out this Bill on the intelligible ground that the whole scheme was not before the country. He was not so much in favour of Reform as some of his Friends were; but that was no reason why he should take a different course from them. The Government would save their own time, and the time of the House, by bringing forward their whole scheme this year; and the reason why they had received so much support was that hon. Members like the hon. Member for Ipswich had, in the innocence of their hearts, been misled by supposing that they were going to have a Dissolution with these 2,000,000 new voters before the Redistribution Bill was passed. Now they started up in alarm, and almost charged the Prime Minister with having gone from his word. It was impossible for him to resist saying that the Government had not advanced their proposals for 1245 this year by presenting an incomplete scheme.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 182; Noes 276: Majority 94.—(Div. List, No. 102.)
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
, in moving, in page 1, line 11, after "every man," to insert "capable of writing the name of the candidate for whom he records his vote, and," said, the Amendment was intended to sweep off the Register, or, at any rate, to reduce the number of, illiterate persons. There were a great many persons who, though able to write their own names, would be quite nonplussed if they were asked to write the names of other persons. This Amendment, therefore, would have a more sweeping effect than an Amendment merely to the effect that the voter must be able to write his own name. In this case he would have a blank sheet of paper given to him, and upon that he would have to write the names of those for whom he intended to vote. He did not know how many this Amendment would disqualify; but, according to a Return moved for by an hon. Member, there seemed to be more than 60,000 illiterate people in England alone. His Amendment would sweep off a great many more than 60,000 people. In the first place, this would have an educational effect; and he appealed to the Vice President of the Council to support the Amendment, because it would encourage education without any danger of its being influenced by religious teaching, of which his right hon. Friend had so great a dislike. Just before an election the itinerant schoolmaster would go about teaching octogenarian illiterates their letters; and it would be an edifying spectacle to see all these old men being taught to read and write, not in their early years, but shortly before they left the world altogether. The Amendment would also have the result of showing on which side of the House sat the "stupid Party." Of course, all Members of the "stupid" Party, and all stupid Members, would vote against the Amendment in a compact body; for their object would naturally be to keep as many ignorant people as possible on the Register. He would appeal next to the Prime Minister to support the Amend- 1246 ment, and would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the state of mental darkness and ignorance which must exist in the mind of a person who had never read a single word of the speeches of the greatest statesman of the age. Surely a person must be unfitted to vote who had never read the praises of that good man in the columns of The Daily News. Such a person would surely not be ranked among those whom the Prime Minister had declared to be capable citizens whom he desired to enfranchise. The Amendment would also indirectly prevent bribery, and would, therefore, very much assist the operation of the Corrupt Practices Act; and on that ground he appealed to the Attorney General to give it his support. The plan adopted under the Ballot Act, when voters were bribed, was to make them vote as illiterates; and he was told that such persons went up to the poll declaring themselves either blind or unable to write, in order that the agent of the candidate, who was watching them, might see that they voted according to their price. He, therefore, claimed the support of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. At present there were the disqualifications of pauperism, criminality, and lunacy; and he only asked the Committee to add the disqualification of palpable and demonstrable ignorance. Many strange arguments and assertions had been brought forward in the discussion of this Bill. The Prime Minister had declared that the poorer the house in which a man lived the more reason there was that he should have a vote. The right hon. Gentleman had also declared that the further a man lived from London the more influence he should have on the Legislature in voting power. Would he go as far as to say that the more densely ignorant a man was the more right he had to a vote? The essence of the Bill appeared to be to level down; his Amendment was to level up. It would affect no one political Party; but it would raise the electorate. It would give no advantage to one side of the House against the other; but it would create better constituencies, would have a humanizing effect, and establish an intellectual standard.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said he could hardly suppose the hon. Member was serious in proposing this Amendment. The objection to the Amendment in principle was clear, for it was directed against secret voting. It proposed that every voter should put on paper, or show that he was capable of putting on paper, the name of the candidate for whom he intended to vote; and that was directly outside the principle of the Bill. But that was not all. The hon. Member proposed to enact that before a man could be entitled to be put on the Register he must put down the name of the candidate for whom he intended to vote; and that meant that he was to be required to be capable of putting down in writing the name of a person of whom he might know nothing at the time when the Register was framed; and who might never be in existence as a candidate at all. Then he must not only write the name, but must be capable of writing. The test of his capability was not supplied, and consequently the Amendment would be entirely inoperative.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, he had explained that every voter, on going to the polling booth, would receive a sheet of blank paper. That would not prevent his giving a secret vote. He would go into his secret chamber and write the name of the candidate; but if he wrote down a name which was not that of a candidate there would be no vote at all. The right hon. Gentleman did not perceive the difference between a vote being void and voidable. An "ignoramus" might be put on the Register; but when the time came to vote his ignorance would become apparent, and his vote would be nullified.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
pointed out that if the Amendment were adopted every vote so given would, under the Ballot Act, be void.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
said he thought that if this proposal were agreed to, voters would be placed in serious difficulty with regard to names. For instance, the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland could never be successfully spelt 1248 by one-half of a constituency; and the name of the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) would create a similar difficulty as to correct spelling. The Amendment seemed to have been put down in order to give the hon. Member an opportunity of displaying his ingenuity; and he hoped the Committee would not be put to the trouble of dividing upon it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, "in page 1, line 17, after "and," insert "when registered."— (Mr. Warton.)
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.