HC Deb 19 February 1885 vol 294 cc880-6

Order for Committee read.


I rise for the purpose of moving that the Speaker leave the Chair in order that this Bill may be reprinted and corrected with the Amendments which the Government have thought it right to make in it. The Motion will, therefore, be in the nature of a pro formâ Motion, and hon. Members will have the ordinary opportunity of debating the question on the Speaker leaving the Chair; but, at the same time, it may be convenient, perhaps, that I should say a few words as to the Amendments which it is proposed to introduce in the Bill. The proposed Amendments are chiefly in connection with the Schedules; and as they are of much more importance than any of the others I will mention them first. Schedules 1, 2, 3, and 4—Schedule I relating to disfranchised boroughs; 2, to boroughs with a reduced number of Members; 3, to boroughs with an increased number of Members; and 4, to new boroughs, are practically unaltered, only a few mistakes are corrected. Schedule 5 relates to the existing boroughs where the boundaries are altered. The Boundary Commissioners have recommended that alterations be made in the boundaries in the case of certain boroughs mentioned in the Schedule; and the whole of the recommendations of the Boundary Commissioners for the three countries have been accepted by the Government, and introduced into the Bill. I am happy to say that the Boundary Commissioners have been unanimous throughout in their proceedings; and the Amendments made in the Bill by the Government are made with the unanimous authority of the whole of the Members of the Commission. The principal alteration of boundaries which will be made in the Bill, as compared with the original boundaries, relates to Preston and Wakefield, the boundaries of which are substantially altered. As regards Preston, a part on the other side of the river which appears to have no special unity of interest with the borough is taken out of the Bill on account of the Report of the Commissioners; but, on the other hand, the Local Government district of Ful-wood, and a portion of Preston, which is within the municipal boundary of Bellview, have been added to the Bill. There are other changes in Bury, Lancashire, in Cardiff, in King's Lynn, and in Newport, Monmouthshire, in all which cases the boundaries have been altered to make the Parliamentary and municipal boundaries the same. At Cardiff, Darlington, and Preston, the boundaries have been altered for the purpose of excluding from the boroughs small detached parts of parishes. At Newcastle-under-Lyme and. Manchester detached pieces have been added to the boroughs, which, although surrounded by, were not part of, the boroughs. A considerable mistake as to Liverpool has been corrected. The mistake was that certain Local Government portions had been included in the Bill, while large portions which were rural had also been included, and the Commissioners have recommended only the inclusion of the urban population. There are certain Amendments in the Bill which may be considered as contingent on the Amendments in the Schedule. Owing to the alterations of the boundaries, it has been found necessary to adapt enactments disqualifying certain voters for corrupt practices to the new state of things. We have thought it right to introduce no very disputable matter into the Bill, such as a modification of the clause relating to corrupt voters; but I understand my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General will be very willing to consider the matter in Committee, although he has not thought it desirable to introduce Amendments on his own responsibility on the present occasion. As to the Amendment intended to carry the principle of unity of divided constituencies, the Bill retains the unity for certain purposes of successive occupation as between one part of a borough for another, which was intended to be covered by the Bill, and probably is covered by the Bill as drawn, but the words used were not very clear then. Then we have thought it right to put into the Bill two or three Amendments which have been suggested to us. One of these is to apply the provisions of the Corrupt Practices Act of 1883 to all election agents, voting clerks, and officers, whether in counties or boroughs, so that no abuse can arise. It has been pointed out to us that unless the Bill be amended in this fashion it would be possible to employ men in one division of a constituency and poll them in another; and we intend, so far as we can, to give effect to this suggestion. Of course, if there be any strong opposition to it, we are not prepared to adhere to it too rigidly, or to insist upon it. Then there is another Amendment to be introduced in regard to freemen. It appears that it is necessary that in a small number of constituencies the method of polling the freemen in, say, two divisions should be fixed. The hon. and learned Attorney General has drawn up an Amendment under which the freemen in each borough or city would be polled alphabetically. Then there is a further Amendment, perhaps, of only local interest. I refer to the Amendment which makes the High Bailiffs of Westminster and South-wark the Returning Officers in those constituencies. There have been other Amendments suggested; but I do not think it necessary to introduce them in the Redistribution Bill, because they will be dealt with in the Registration Bill. There are a few other technical Amendments, especially with regard to the appointment of Returning Officers, and other matters with which I need not trouble the House. I may say, however, that a Returning Officer appointed by the Sheriff need not reside in the part of a constituency in which he acts if he has an office therein; but this is a mere matter of detail with which I need not detain the House; and, therefore, I beg to move that you, Sir, now leave the Chair in order to insert these Amendments to the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Sir Charles W. Dilke.)


said, the matter being purely formal, he had no wish to force a discussion now in connection with the formal Motion just made; but he looked with some suspicion on the wish expressed by the right hon. Baronet to preserve the unity of divided constituencies. In his opinion, if constituencies were to be divided for Parliamentary representation, they ought to be completely divided; and he did not see how it would be fair to make successive occupation qualify voters for different parts of the boroughs, when those parts were divided into separate constituencies, any more than in the case of separate parts of counties when they were divided into separate constituencies. What he was anxious to say was this—that he hoped the Bill would, as amended, contain information not only of the area of the divisions, but also of the population of those divisions, &c. They were not yet in possession of the Schedules of the Bill, showing the exact proportion of representation.


The Report on the counties of England will be out to-morrow, as well as the Report on Scotland, and the Report on the English boroughs on Saturday. Tomorrow there will be 100 copies issued of the Report of the Irish Boundary Commission.


said, they could judge of the Amendments when they saw them, and not before; and he, therefore, hoped the Committee stage of the Bill would be postponed until the Bill was reprinted. The Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) would occupy several days; and it would be highly inconvenient to commence the debate on this Bill, and then break it off for the purpose of proceeding with that Motion.


asked, whether the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) could give the House any information, in the shape of a Schedule or Return, of the population of the whole of the constituencies of the country, including those not affected by it, as they would be after the Bill was passed? Such a Return would be very convenient.


said, he thought such a Return might very properly be prepared, as no waste of time would be caused by it. It would, however, be a considerable work, as the Census Returns did not tally with the divisions the Boundary Commissioners recommended.


said, he wished to point out that, on many occasions, a strong expression of feeling was shown before the Commissioners that the names of the divisions should follow the points of the compass rather than the name of some place in the division. He wished to ask, whether the Government intended to adhere to the instructions given to the Commissioners strictly, even where the feeling in a locality was that the name should follow the point of the compass?


said, the Government would be guided in the matter by the general sense of the House.


said, he had to complain that the proposals with regard to Nowcastle-under-Lyme were objectionable.


There can be no objection to remedy anything that is improper in the scheme.


I wish to reply to the appeal made by the right hon. Baronet opposite the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who says, with a good deal, of reason, I think, that it would hardly be convenient to commence the debate upon Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair, and then to interrupt that debate for the purpose of proceeding with the Vote of Censure which the right hon. Baronet opposite the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) intends to move. I think there is a great deal of force in the observation of the right hon. Baronet; and, on that account, I do not propose to put this Bill down for to-morrow, but I wish to explain the attitude of the Government upon the question as they conceive it to be with regard to this Bill. I look upon it as standing in a different position to Government Bills in general, on account of the communications that have taken place between the Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite upon it; and, in our view, it is an obligation of honour incumbent upon us to do the best we can to expedite the Bill. Consequently, I am disposed to ask the House to-morrow not, in any case, to go on with the Bill to-morrow, but to assent to the principle that precedence shall be given to the Bill, at any rate for the Committee and, probably, the Report, stage, on those days when it is put down. Of course, certain days will have to be given up to Supply, and of course it will be understood that the Egyptian debate of the I Vote of Censure would in no way be interfered with. But I think I may as well give Notice of a Motion of that kind to-night, so that I shall be able to see to-morrow whether the House will be disposed to accept in principle all the features of such a Motion. If so, it might be debated to-morrow; but, if not, under no circumstances could the Bill be taken to-morrow, because it will not be upon the Paper.


said, the Bill would be circulated to-morrow morning.


asked whether the precedence the right hon. Gentleman spoke of would apply to Tuesdays and Fridays?



Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee, and reported; as amended, to be printed [Bill 49]; re-committed for Monday next.

House resumed.


said, he presumed the House might understand that the Bill would not be put down for to-morrow?



In reply to a further Question from Mr. RAIKES,


said, they must endeavour to inform themselves as to the time the debate on the Bill would occupy. He did not think there would be any contest upon the question of precedence.


To put it plainly, I suppose the Bill will not be taken until after the Vote of Censure?


I cannot say that. The only object of the Government is to make the best arrangement they can to save the time of the House.


With respect to the Motion of precedence of which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) has given Notice for to-morrow, I would suggest that it would be rather premature to ask the opinion of the House on the Motion to-morrow, and that it would be time enough, in going into Committee on the Bill, to make the Motion, and thus there would be less deprivation of private Members of their rights.


I think the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Courtney) must bear in mind that fact to which the Prime Minister has alluded—namely, the peculiar character of this Bill and the position in which we stand. It was distinctly understood before the Recess that the Government undertook as a matter of honour to proceed with the Bill as quickly as possible, and that, in the absence of any disturbing circumstances, it would be incumbent upon them to proceed at once with the Bill, and upon all days reserved for Government Business. But it so happens that we have reassembled under circumstances which will necessarily interfere with the Government giving it many days at the beginning of the Session, and I think it is only fair and reasonable that the proposal of the Prime Minister should be accepted. On behalf of ourselves, I wish to acknowledge the friendly and co-operative manner in which the Prime Minister has made the suggestion; and I am sure the House will, upon reflection, see it is a reasonable proposal to make.


said, he did not think the suggestion wan reasonable; but, at any rate, he hoped the Government would consider the appeal made by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney). That was the first occasion in history on which the Government had proposed to take the whole of the time at the beginning of a Session for one measure.



The terms of the Motion will be— That the several stages of the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, up to and including the Consideration of the Bill, as amended, have precedence of all Orders of the Day, and Notices of Motions, on every day on which it shall he set down, by the Government, as the first business of the day.