HC Deb 15 June 1885 vol 298 cc1540-62

Order for Consideration of Lords' Amendments read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Lords' Amendments be now considered."—(Sir Charles W. Dilke.)


said, that, wishing to make a few observations upon this subject, he would conclude by moving the adjournment of the debate. There was no responsible Government or Opposition in the House, and yet they were asked to deal with Amendments involving several questions of a Constitutional character. He objected to the Bill as it had come down from the Lords, because a most important Amendment had been made in the title, and that Amendment entirely altered the character of the Bill. Originally the title was "A Bill for the Re- distribution of Seats at Parliamentary Elections, and for other purposes relative thereto." The Lords had struck out the words "relative thereto," and they had evidently done so with an object, which was to introduce certain clauses that were practically a new Bill. They had introduced a Registration Bill into a Redistribution Bill in the form of a fourth part, the original measure consisting only of three parts, the clauses which formed the fourth part referring to the acceleration of registration, a subject with which the original Bill had nothing to do. It was originally intended that these clauses should have been passed as an independent Registration Bill. Another point of objection was that one of these clauses gave the Judges the right to appoint additional Revising Barristers. He maintained that this clause was, indirectly perhaps, but not the less distinctly, an infringement of the Privileges of this House. No reference was made to the salaries of these additional Revising Barristers; but it was clear their salaries would have to be provided. If these clauses had been contained in the original Bill, or if they had been embodied in a separate Bill, they would have gone through all the stages of first reading, second reading, Committee, and third reading in this House, which would have had ample opportunity of discussing them; but, instead of this, the House of Commons was called upon to pass them, at one stage, and that the consideration of the Amendments made by the Lords. This was an infringement of the liberties of the House of Commons so far as the provision of the salaries was concerned, and it was done at the instance of a Liberal Government. For these reasons, and without detaining the House any longer, he moved that the debate be adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir H. Drummond Wolff.)


said, he did not know whether the hon. Member's statement that this had been done at the instance of the Liberal Government applied to all the points he raised, or whether he only meant it to apply to the last one; because, as regarded the more important point which he raised first, he could assure the hon. Member that the step which had been taken had not been taken at the instance of the Government. It was taken at the instance of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition.


What step?


replied, that the step of putting into this Bill the Acceleration of Registration Clauses was taken entirely at the instance of Lord Salisbury, or the suggestion of Lord Salisbury. The intention of the Government was, on the whole, to have made these clauses a separate Bill, and they had prepared a separate Bill for that purpose. It was the opinion of the Leaders of the Party opposite that the other was the preferable course, and communications were made so strongly urging the Government to place the clauses in the Redistribution Bill, instead of in a separate measure, that they thought in the circumstances, there being no difference of principle, it was desirable to do so. Therefore, he was very much astonished that that objection should come from Members on the other side of the House. He thought the matter was merely one of convenience; but if it was to be argued on its merits, it was a different question. As to the point about the additional Revising Barristers, that was-a question they might argue when they came to it. He was not certain that the clause as to the Revising Barristers was necessary, and whether what it proposed to do could not be done without it; but he saw no reason for refusing to consider the Lords' Amendments. With regard to the main objection as to the Acceleration Clauses, it would have been a most improper thing to have inserted them unless they had been encouraged to do so from the other side; but they had been so encouraged, and, under the circumstances, he did not see any reason why they should not proceed with the consideration of the Amendments.


said, that he simply rose to confirm what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman. A communication was made to the effect that it was proposed to introduce a separate Bill; and it was suggested by Lord Salisbury that it might be more convenient to introduce the clauses into this Bill.


said, he did not think that anyone could gravely find fault with the substance of these clauses; but they ought to be careful that they were not doing something which could be drawn into an inconvenient precedent hereafter. If the House of Lords could upon this occasion introduce clauses which were not directly germane to the Bill, they might on another occasion introduce clauses which would be objectionable. He understood the Prime Minister to suggest that they should consider Amendments that were trifling and unimportant, so that the Bill might speedily pass into law; but they were asked to do a great deal more than that, and to pass clauses of an unusual character, introduced, no doubt, with a good intention, but in a manner for which there was not a precedent, and which might be made into a very inconvenient precedent. Nor, in point of time, was there any urgency. The clauses did not come into effect until the revision was about to commence, about the 7th or 8th of September, and, therefore, there was plenty of time for regular legislation. He thought the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), or some of those at whose suggestion these clause had been inserted, should explain why there had not been time to pursue the course intended by the Government, of introducing a separate Bill, which could have been discussed in all its stages.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that there was no hurry for proceeding with the Bill. He (the Attorney General) begged to tell the House that there was every reason why a single day should not be wasted in dealing with it. Whether they should proceed with what were called the "Acceleration Clauses" was not the question. The Motion before the House was to discuss the Lords' Amendments to the whole Bill, and that had been delayed too long already, if they were to do justice to those who would be charged with carrying out the measure. The moment the Bill passed, Town Clerks and Clerks of the Peace would have to issue precepts, and there was barely time for them to do all the work involved in the registration of voters. Unless the House considered the Amendments of the Lords at once, a vast addition would be made to the labour of these officials. It was said they must be careful not to establish an evil precedent; but the House of Commons always had its remedy. If the House objected to these clauses, it could strike them out; but, at all events, let the House consider the clauses, which was all it was now asked to do.


I shall not be contradicted by anybody of authority if I say that the House of Commons is generally extraordinarily careful and very jealous of setting any new precedent in procedure or the conduct of its Business. We are asked by the Government to make a precedent for which there is no justification whatever. I shall be glad to know from the First Lord of the Treasury, who is well acquainted with many a change of Government and many an interregnum, whether he can adduce any precedent whatever for Parliament or the House of Commons proceeding with important questions in the absence of responsible Advisers of the Crown? I do not believe that there is any precedent whatever. Are the Government prepared to contend that the delay of Business for a few days—namely, till Friday—will really cause the country any inconvenience? Unless they are prepared to lay that down with all the force they can bring to bear, the proposition is one that the House ought not to entertain, in view of the great danger of creating a new precedent for the conduct of Business. But as regards the new clauses, it is obvious that the House ought not to proceed, because the House of Lords has, no doubt ignorantly, at the instance of the Government, imposed a pecuniary burden upon the people. Is it not curious? Here you have a Liberal Government, which is inclined to take a most derogatory view of the power of the House of Lords, using that House to impose fresh burdens upon the people. That is a position they cannot controvert; and to propose, in the absence of any responsible Advisers of the Crown, that the House should consider such an extraordinary innovation on the Constitution of the country is monstrous, and ought not to be entertained. But even supposing that the country does suffer inconvenience from being unable to proceed at the present moment with the Lords' Amendments, whose fault is it, I should like to know? Who has thrown the country into this state of confusion? Aye, not only thrown the country into this state of confusion, but deliberately, and I will say of malice aforethought, prepared the inconvenience under which the House is now suffering. Is it not a notorious thing that the whole of the events of Monday night, the inconvenience of which we are now suffering from—


The noble Lord is perfectly entitled to give reasons against the adjournment of the House, which is the immediate Question before the House; but the noble Lord is now going beyond the Question.


I fully recognize, (Sir, the force of your observation. I will only point out that I was endeavouring to support the Motion of my hon. Friend on the ground that the argument of the Government that the adjournment would create inconvenience is not one that can have any weight with the House of Commons. I will, however, pursue the point no further, but will simply say that the matter before the House is a serious disagreement between the Lords and Commons. As to the contents and scope of the Bill—and I venture to say that there is no precedent for the House of Commons, under such circumstances, proceeding with the discussion of the Bill without having at its command responsible Advisers—I sincerely trust that the Leader of what is called the Constitutional Party in this country will not sanction a precedent which, some day or other, will have most inconvenient and dangerous consequences.


I should like to ask, as a point of Order, whether it is competent for the House of Lords, on a Constitutional question, to send down to this House clauses in a Bill entailing a fresh charge on the Consolidated Fund?


If the hon. Member will look at the Amendment proposed by the House of Lords he will find that in the form of it there is no charge on the people of this country. There is a provision for appointing fresh officers in case of need; but, of course, the provision for those officers will have to be made in the ordinary Estimates of the year, when the House will have full control over the matter. The Amendment makes no provision for the payment of these officers.


We are, it appears to me, putting together two questions which are entirely distinct. Observations have been made upon the merits of the Lords' Amendments with respect to one set of clauses, that it is travelling too far beyond the precincts of the Bill as it went up from this House, and ought not to be entertained; to another set of clauses, that it imposes charges on the people and ought not to be entertained. Upon the last I can only say that to a certain extent I sympathize with those who dislike the practice which has grown up of late years of inserting in the House of Lords clauses which do not impose charges directly, but which do so as a natural consequence. But that, I am afraid, has become a settled practice. If, however, they are to be rejected—and I do not say the House is not free to reject them—why not do so when we come to them, if the arguments produced be sufficient to justify that course? But these are really matters only, in my opinion, partially relative to the main question. The main question I freely admit, is one not without importance, and it is whether this subject should be entertained at all in the absence of a full, responsible Government. That is a fair question to raise and entertain; but in order that it might be fairly considered we must consider what is the scope and view of those who ask for an adjournment. They ask for an adjournment till Friday, and say that, after all, there can be no very great evil in that. I believe we are prepared to show that even adjourning till Friday will very greatly aggravate the present inconvenience. But what I wish to observe particularly and press upon the House is that an adjournment till Friday cannot possibly suffice—that there can be no responsible Government in the full sense of the word on Friday next. The utmost that can happen, I apprehend, is that Lord Salisbury will be in any position which will enable him and his Friends to come down to Parliament not in propriis personis, but through their proper agents, and move certain Writs for the re-election of certain Members; but until the Gentlemen honoured by the choice of Her Majesty have been returned and have taken their places there will be no means of meeting the objection that there is not a responsible Government. I do not know how long that will be; but speaking in the rough I should think this day fortnight will be the very earliest day on which it is possible to entertain this subject with a responsible Government fully installed on the Treasury Benches. Is it worth while, for the sake of objecting to make a precedent—I assume it is making a precedent—to incur a very great and serious inconvenience indeed? Now, certainly, it would not become the present outgoing Government to be fastidious and captious in making objections to the settlement, and the speedy settlement, of this affair. It is distinctly a matter with us not only of policy but of honour to do everything we properly can towards the absolute closing of this affair at the earliest possible moment; and I am prepared even to make a precedent, unless it be shown to me that in that precedent there is danger. I cannot possibly say that I find danger in the precedent, and I found that observation on these two principles—first of all, the extreme peculiarity of the circumstances, which can hardly recur; and secondly, the general assent of the House. Now, only when these two conditions exist, and when it can be fairly and impartially said that they exist in a very marked degree and form, I am prepared to create a precedent for the purpose, at the same time putting a stamp upon that precedent, and recording the opinion that it is not to be followed as a precedent except in cases where the same conditions, the same urgency, and the same general assent should seem to recommend it. These are the observations I wish to make, and I cannot help thinking that they represent the evident sense of the House.


I think the closing words of the right hon. Gentleman place us in a considerable difficulty. How is it possible for us to set a precedent as to which we can be perfectly sure that no peculiar circumstances, or circumstances said to be peculiar, will recur to justify its being followed in the future? I understood when the Motion was made that this Amendment should be considered, and when my right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon expressed his concurrence in the consideration of the particular Amendment alluded to by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), that that Amend- ment had the support of Her Majesty's Government. We understand now from the speech of the Prime Minister that he looked upon that Amendment—being, as it is, a proposal by the Lords to insert something which would lead, if carried out, to a charge on the taxpayers—as an Amendment upon which there is a great deal to be said; in fact, that it is so far a matter of contention that he even intimated that it was somewhat doubtful whether Her Majesty's Government would support it. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no.] At any rate, there was quite enough in what fell from the Prime Minister to warrant the expectation of a considerable amount of opposition in this House. But this is not all. There are other Amendments of importance, and there is one in particular as to which it has been publicly stated—I do not know with what truth—that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs is prepared to move that the House should disagree with it. Does the House seriously think that it is well that we should enter, not merely upon Business upon which we are all agreed and which we desire to carry through unanimously, but upon contested questions, and that these questions should be thrown on the floor of the House for debate and decision without there being any responsible Government in Office? I think my right hon. Friend and all those who supported proceeding with this matter to-night, only gave that support with respect to Business that was uncontested. I do not think it fair that we should be asked to-night to enter upon matters on which such differences may arise as those hinted at by the Prime Minister. But we have had no intimation as to the precise nature of these differences; and if we are to have contests and divisions upon this matter, serious though the delay may be, it would be preferable that we should not deal with it until a responsible Government is sitting on that Bench to direct the proceedings of the House, rather than set a precedent which will certainly be followed, perhaps with great disadvantage to the country, in similar circumstances.


The right hon. Gentleman has said that we are placed in a difficult position. Well, of course we are, because my right hon. Friend has made a proposal which has been accepted and approved by the Leader of the Opposition; and then the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) gets up and denounces it, and he is supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). No doubt, that is a difficult position; but it has not been created either by those who for the moment sit upon these Benches, or by the Leader of those who sit upon the Benches opposite. I take it the responsibility rests with the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire. I do not wish to enter into a controversy on the matter; but the whole question is one not only of the convenience of the House, but of the convenience of the country and of the constituencies. It is in favour of the constituencies that this appeal is made. We are not in a position to dictate to or put pressure upon the House in any way; but I think it is a matter which ought to be determined by the free vote of the House. Let the House take the opinion of my right hon. Friend and of the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon on the one hand, and the opinion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock and of the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire on the other, and decide between the two. Now, the reason why we, at all events, have recommended this course to the House is on account of the very great inconvenience, which it is impossible to exaggerate, which will result from delaying this matter for a fortnight. I am authorized by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board to say that it was the facts brought before Lord Salisbury as to the great inconvenience which would ensue to those who have to make up the Registers which are to be the foundations of the future Elections, and upon which the rights of the constituencies rest, which induced Lord Salisbury to approve the course which has been taken, and that argument equally applies to our going on with the matter now. That, no doubt, is also the reason why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon, who has been, as I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire has not, in constant communication with Lord Salisbury in reference to this Bill, had approved not only of the introduction of the Acceleration Clauses in the House of Lords, but of doing what has been clone with precisely the same object—namely, the taking into consideration these clauses to-night, in order that we might accelerate the measure, and that the House of Lords may deal with them on Friday. How can there be danger in such a precedent as this? If the clauses are objectionable, let them be objected to. If the Lords have made proposals to enlarge the Bill which they ought not to have done, let those proposals be rejected. If the clauses with respect to Revising Barristers be objectionable, let them be objected to. My right hon. Friend says he quite understands the objections to the course of proceeding taken by the Lords; but the right hon. Gentleman opposite is mistaken in thinking that my right hon. Friend has expressed hostility to that proceeding. The Bill has been throughout a very exceptional Bill. It is not a Bill promoted by one Party and met in a hostile spirit by the other Party. It has been in a very great degree a consent Bill between the two Parties. It is not a matter upon which the two sides of the House are widely distinct or are acting in a hostile spirit. We are desirous of carrying out to the end the spirit in which this Bill has been conducted hitherto, and I sincerely hope that one of its last stages will not be made the occasion of a Party fight.


There is quite the same disposition in this part of the House to deal with this measure as a consent Bill; but the difficulty of dealing with it in that spirit is indicated by the action taken by the Government this afternoon. It seems to me that in casting the Bill on the Table and asking us to discuss it at a moment of such excitement and confusion the Government have done their best to embitter the last moments of the Bill. But for that the Bill might have passed through the House with very little discussion and become the law of the land in a very few days. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that we ought not to shrink from making a precedent in the circumstances. I do not think the House has fully grasped, while discussing generally the form of the matter, the actual substance of the clauses with respect to which we are asked to make a precedent. We are asked to allow to be introduced Amendments made in the House of Lords on a matter not only of general concern, but one which closely affects the constitution and privileges of this House, a matter dealing with the Electoral Law of the country, which especially concerns the Members of this House, and upon which the Members of this House have always expressed a most decided and unwavering opinion. This House passed a Resolution in 1704, in the Ashby case, declaring that— The determination of the right of the election of Members to serve in Parliament is the proper business of the House of Commons, which they would always be very jealous of, and this jurisdiction of theirs is uncontested, There can hardly be any question more distinctly and exclusively concerning the House of Commons than this matter, of which the Prime Minister asks us to make a precedent by departing from our usual course. If the matter had been brought before us in the regular way, we should have a Bill and should be able to discuss it on the first and second readings, in Committee, on the Report, and on the third reading; but it has been found convenient to ask us to deal with an important matter of electoral law upon the ipse dixit of the other House of Parliament, instead of proceeding through all the stages with very careful consideration. If we should have an undertaking that these clauses to which objection has been taken would not be proceeded with, it would be easier to pass the other clauses; but I do not know that there is anyone in a position to give that undertaking. I do not think the present difficulty is due to anyone on this side of the House; it is due to the hasty action of Her Majesty's Government. In recommending the matter to the House an attempt has been made by the President of the Local Government Board to conjure with the name of Lord Salisbury.


What I said was, that the whole of the clauses to which the right hon. Gentleman is now objecting were placed in the Bill because the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) desired that the Registration Clauses should be placed in it instead of being made a separate measure.


That is exactly what I was saying. What I was anxious to point out was, that the Government, in dealing with this matter, are divesting themselves of any responsibility for the matter, and are casting the responsibility wholly on others. ["No!"] Well, when the President of the Local Government Board sat down, up gets the Home Secretary, and he can point to no other ground for proceeding than the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon. Thus the Government are so anxious to shirk responsibility for the course they have adopted that they shelter themselves behind the names of Lord Salisbury and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon. I call attention to this as an illustration of the embarrassment in which we are placed, and I hope that the Government, having seen what is the disposition of the House, will postpone consideration of these Amendments for a fortnight.


said, he did not intend to enter into the dispute between the occupants of the two Front Benches. They could settle their differences amongst themselves. He wished, however, to make a suggestion that would meet the views of the majority of Members. The situation was exceptional. The Redistribution Bill was the measure of Parliament, and not the measure of any Party. It was the wish of all that it should come into operation at the earliest possible period. Everyone was anxious to have the present unsatisfactory interregnum terminated. Personal and political reasons combined to render the prolongation of the existing uncertainty most undesirable. But it sometimes happened that with more haste there was less speed. He feared that in the anxiety of the Government to have these Amendments considered, they were delaying proceedings that all were anxious to facilitate. His proposal was this—that the Amendments to the Redistribution Bill should be taken at once. Their consideration would occupy but a very short time. There was not much in dispute about them; and when they were passed the Redistribution Bill would be safe. That work being accomplished, they might allow the new matter to stand over for further consideration. It was originally the intention of the Government that this should be the case. They had drawn a Bill for the purpose of accelerating the formation of the Registers, and that Bill would in time have run its regular course in that House, where there would have been adequate opportunity for Members discussing it. The object sought by the Bill was one they were all agreed on, though they might differ as to its details. But, instead of a Bill that could have been dealt with in this way, the House of Lords had attached important clauses which in themselves constituted a Bill. He could not understand how Gentlemen who complained of the encroachments of the House of Lords on popular liberty could assent to such a proceeding. He objected, too, to the clauses on their merits. They required at the hands of the Local Authorities work to be done in a given time which could not be done. He was speaking with some knowledge of the subject, and he made bold to affirm that it was impossible for the Registers to be got ready in the time specified. This was another reason why the matter should be delayed; and, as the delay would not stop the formation of the Registers, he was at a loss to know how they could object. If the Government would agree to this suggestion, he believed the difficulty would be solved, and the Lords' Amendments disposed of in an hour, or even less.


ventured to suggest that, inasmuch as the whole of the difference seemed to turn on the Acceleration Clauses, the course proposed by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) was a most judicious and sensible one, and, in the end, would prove the most expeditious. He himself was about to make the same suggestion. The Acceleration Clauses appeared to have been drawn up in too great haste. Certainly, on their merits, they required the gravest consideration, and he should be able to show, if they came to them, that they would not work. In order that they might be adequately dealt with, the House must wait until responsible Ministers and a responsible Attorney General should be in Office, who would give weight to the discussion.


rose to Order. He wished to know whether the observations of the hon. Member were admissible on the Question that the debate be adjourned?


said, that he had not observed that the remarks of the hon. Member were out of Order. Of course, the debate must be confined to the Question before the House—namely, that of the adjournment of the debate.


said, he thought the usual very great acumen of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) would have enabled him to appreciate the great importance of the question whether the House ought to take into consideration the arrangements for the Election on the 7th of November or not. The Question before the House was whether they should consider those matters now or not? It was unnecessary for him to add what had already been said; but he thought that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Newcastle took away the objection to creating a precedent. If the Acceleration Clauses were postponed, the other matter might still be disposed of that evening. He doubted whether these clauses could have been introduced into the Seats Bill during the stage of Committee.


said, he personally thought the action of the House of Lords was for the public advantage, and would be glad if the House assented to it. On the other hand, the suggestion of the hon. Member for Newcastle was not at all a bad one. It was not desirable to proceed with any question which had not the general assent of the House; and as there was a difference of opinion upon this subject, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would say that he would drop these clauses from the Bill, leaving the subject to be dealt with by a separate Bill. If the suggestion should receive the approval of the House, the practical discussion of the main Amendments of the House of Lords could be proceeded with.


desired to make a suggestion which he thought would perhaps terminate the discussion. With the indulgence of the House the right hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) might be asked to make an explanation. Then they might know whether he accepted the views of a noble Lord in the other House, or the views of a noble Lord in the House of Commons. He asked because he was rather concerned about the unity of the future Government. At present it ap- peared that it would be about as united as the great united Liberal Party.


said, that, in his opinion, the Government ought to express some opinion with respect to the proposal of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen).


thought the House ought certainly to hear some statement from the Government. The proposal of the hon. Member for Newcastle was a very reasonable one, and appeared to meet with a great deal of favour in all parts of the House.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 333: Majority 298.—(Div. List, No. 202.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Lords' Amendments considered accordingly.

NOTE.—The page and line refer to the Bill No. (109) as first printed by the Lords.

Page 1.—Title, leave out ("relative thereto,") the first Amendment, read a second time.


in moving to agree to the Amendment, said that, although a verbal one, it raised the question of the Acceleration Clauses, and it was desirable that the House should now make up its mind whether it intended to put in these clauses or not. He could only repeat that the original intention of the Government had been to place these clauses in a separate Bill; but they were informed in the most distinct terms by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, that he desired that these clauses should be placed in this Bill, and, as the Government had no objection whatever to that course being taken, they at once acquiesced.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with The Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir Charles W. Dilke.)


said, it was perfectly obvious that the Attorney General could not suggest any reason whatever why these clauses should be hurried forward. Such a matter as the acceleration of the registration required that freedom of action which alone could be had in Committee of the Whole House. There was, he thought, some legitimate ground for requiring that they should have an opportunity of considering in Committee in detail the question of the dates when the revised lists were to come into force. He believed it would be practically impossible to get the revision through and the lists published by the dates named in the Amendment. A further objection was that there would certainly be a large number of appeals which could not possibly be heard before the early days of the month of November, fie believed that the 7th of November was far too early a date to fix for the new Registers to come into effect. In his opinion, the proper and legitimate course was to carry out the original intention of the Government to put these clauses into a separate Bill.


hoped that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Newcastle would be adopted. The noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire(Sir R. Assheton Cross) both appealed to the Government before the division to postpone the consideration of the Acceleration Amendments; and he (Mr. Gorst) understood the late division to be a protest against the refusal of the Government. Now the tables seemed to be turned, and they had the President of the Local Government Board making an appeal to the Front Opposition Bench to the same effect. So that they had the Front Opposition Bench appealing before the division and the Government after the division. ["No!"] It, therefore, seemed to him they were all agreed that these Acceleration Clauses should be postponed. ["No, no!"] At any rate, the two Front Opposition Benches were agreed.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of two Oppositions, but there was a third Opposition which was opposed to both. The hon. and learned Member was entirely mistaken in the interpretation he had put upon what the President of the Local Government Board had said. His right hon. Friend did not make any sort of appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to withdraw these clauses. These clauses, like many others in the Bill, had been agreed to by arrangement between those who were understood to represent both Parties in the House. Her Majesty's Government felt themselves bound to adhere to the arrangement which they had made with Lord Salisbury as to the introduction of these Acceleration Clauses. The Government approved of them themselves, and while it was a mere matter of form whether they should be introduced into the present Bill or not, the Government were bound to adhere to the arrangement they had made.


asked whether the President of the Local Government Board would state the difference which he intimated existed between the proposals of the Government and those of Lord Salisbury?


replied, that as far as he remembered there was no difference in substance, but the clauses of the Government were more detailed.


remarked, that he was afraid the House would get unnecessarily confused on this matter. The circumstances wore these—while the Bill was in progress through the House of Lords some discussion took place with regard to the introduction of a separate Bill, which had been contemplated at an early period of the Redistribution Bill, for the purpose of accelerating the time of the elections. The policy of accelerating the elections had been more than once mentioned in that House, and he had heard no objection to it. While the Bill was in progress through the House of Lords circumstances arose which induced Lord Salisbury to endeavour to accelerate matters and save time, and that was the only object he had in introducing the clauses necessary for the purpose of accelerating elections into this Bill instead of the same object being carried out by a separate Bill. He believed his noble Friend communicated with one or two Representatives of the Government, and he also made a communication to him to the effect that he had agreed with the Government that it would be more convenient to introduce Acceleration Clauses into the present Bill than to bring in a separate Bill. There was no attempt to curtail or shorten the time that the House might require for the discussion of matters which it had a right to discuss, and there could be no objection to a fair discussion taking place upon every point that arose in connection with these clauses. The suggestion made by the hon. Member for Newcastle was a very reasonable one—that if they came to matters which were open to considerable discussion they should be set aside, and they should proceed with such parts of the Bill as did not raise any such discussion. With regard to Lord Salisbury's action in the matter, he wished it to be understood that his sole and simple object was to save time. The Government took the same view, and he was bound to say his noble Friend made a very reasonable proposal. As to the merits of these Amendments, he should not pronounce any special opinion. He was ready to listen to any expression of opinion, and the matter seemed to him to be one which justified fair consideration on the part of the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Page 3.—Line 38, at beginning of clause insert as a separate paragraph— The borough of Warwick shall be called Warwick and Leamington. —the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with The Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir Charles W. Dilke.)


said, that the argument which applied to this case applied equally to that of Pembroke and Haverfordwest. Unless the case of Pembroke was also dealt with, they would have the anomaly of acting differently with regard to two boroughs, formed from merged boroughs, the cases of which were exactly parallel.


said, that he had submitted the proposal as to Pembroke to the draftsman, and he had not thought it necessary to make the alteration, as the two cases were not on all fours.

Question put, and agreed to.

Page 4.—Line 43, leave out ("required,") the next Amendment, agreed to.

Page 5, line 2, at end of clause insert— (5.) In any new borough constituted under this Act, the whole or the larger part of the area of which was before the passing of this Act comprised in the Parliamentary borough of Westminster, the high bailiff of Westminster shall be the returning officer for the new borough, and also the town clerk for the new borough within the meaning of the Registration Acts, and may, by writing under his hand, appoint a fit person to be his deputy for all or any of the purposes relating to Parliamentary elections in any such new borough, and anything in relation to a Parliamentary election authorised or required to be done by, to, or before the returning officer, may be done by, to, or before the high bailiff himself or such deputy. "(6.) Every such deputy shall, in so far as he acts as returning officer, be deemed to be included in the expression 'returning officer' within the meaning of the law relating to Parliamentary elections, —the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with The Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir Charles W. Dilke.)


said, he understood that this Amendment was consequential to the sub-division of the City of Westminster, which the Government had now adopted. He would take that opportunity to ask the President of the Local Government Board, if he would state the reasons which induced the Government to change their minds with regard to the City of Westminster? The Government had had four different policies with regard to this question during the course of this Bill, each one opposed to the other, and they had now reverted to their first opinion, he presumed, in deference to the House of Lords. He thought it was a pity that the House of Lords should have gone into this question at all, or should have sought to reverse the carefully considered conclusion arrived at by the House of Commons.


said, that the Amendment had been moved by Lord Salisbury himself. It had been agreed to by the Government on account of the pledge which he himself had publicly given in that House on a former occasion.


said, that this question had been carefully considered by those interested in it in the City of Westminster; and, on the whole, it had been found best to accept the proposals of the House of Lords.

Question put, and agreed to.

Page 5.—Line 9, leave out ("determination,") and insert ("fixing"); and Page 6.—Line 28, after ("practices,") insert ("prevention,") the next Amendments, agreed to.

Page 6, line 41, leave out the words— ("Provided that this sub-section shall not apply to Scotland or Ireland") and insert ("Provided that in Ireland the place of election, in the case of a division of a county at large, shall from time to time be fixed by the returning officer, and shall be situate within the division or within a county of a city or town adjoining that division,") —the next Amendment, read a second time.


said, he wished to know the effect of this Amendment? It was very desirable that it should not be in the power of Returning Officers to hold elections at a distance from the division. A considerable practical inconvenience would frequently result. If the Lords' Amendment practically left the question as it left the House of Commons, they would be willing to agree to it. He would like to have a definition of the effect of the word "adjoining" in the Amendment?


said, this was a matter of detail about which there had been some difference of opinion. He thought that the hon. Member would be safe in accepting the words as they had come down from the House of Lords. It had been admitted that there were some cases in which it would be desirable that the place of election should be in a city as described. The expense would be avoided of transporting the necessary apparatus of an election to places which were far from railways or good roads. It had been suggested that the places should be scheduled; that, however, had been found to be impossible.


said, he could not see why it it was impossible to schedule the places. The number of counties of towns was extremely limited in Ireland. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had not defined the word "adjoining." Did it mean physical contact with the division?



Amendment agreed to.

Page 7, line 8, after ("of,") insert ("successive occupation or"); line 19, insert at end of clause— ("And where the area of the constituency of which such place before such change formed part becomes, after such change, part of two or more constituencies, each of such two or more constituencies shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to have included the whole of the said area.")

Line 34, at end of line insert— Divisions of counties may be divided into polling districts at any time after the passing of this Act in like manner as they might be divided after the end of this present Parliament. Where any act or thing has, before this Act came into operation, been done in pursuance of the Registration Acts, or in relation to polling districts or polling places, such act or thing shall be as valid as it would have been if this Act had previously thereto come into operation, and it had been done by the officer or authority and in the form and in relation to the constituency by whom, and in, and in relation to which it would have been done if this Act had previously thereto come into operation, and where any act or thing ought to have been done if this Act had come into operation before the time for doing the same, the same shall be done forthwith after this Act comes into operation, and shall be as valid as if it had been done at the time now appointed by law. In England the clerks of the peace and town clerks shall, as soon as may be after the passing of this Act, send to the overseers on whom they have served precepts under the Registration Acts, such supplemental precepts as are necessary or desirable for instructing the overseers to carry into effect the Registration Acts in the constituencies as altered by this Act, and in municipal boroughs affected by this Act, and in particular shall, where necessary, instruct overseers as to the difference between the county and borough lists of voters, and shall direct the overseers of parishes situate in municipal boroughs, and included by this Act in parliamentary boroughs, to prepare lists of burgesses in conjunction with the lists of parliamentary voters, and shall send the corrupt and illegal practices list containing the names of voters disqualified by this Act. Every such supplemental precept shall be served by the clerk of the peace or town clerk who would have served the former precept if this Act had coma into operation before the time for the service of such former precept. In Ireland any polling districts which have been formed in anticipation of the provisions of this Act shall be valid; nevertheless, if the districts are inconsistent with the boundaries of any divisions constituted by this Act, the Lord Lieutenant, by and with the advice of the Privy Council, may by order alter or vary such polling districts and the polling places for such districts in such manner as appears to him necessary or desirable.

Page 8, line 38, leave out ("by which they are wholly surrounded,") and insert ("to which they adjoin.")

Page 9, line 1, leave out ("or town-land,") and insert ("townland or place"); line 12, after ("by,") insert ("the whole or part of"); line 23, after ("districts,") insert— ("And in the ease of a parliamentary division of a county in Ireland, by the Local Government Board for Ireland, by order made after local inquiry, and taking effect when made"); line 35, leave out ("contents and boundaries,") and insert ("limits").

Page 10, line 5, after ("under") insert ("the"); line 10, leave out ("the area comprised in"); line 41, after ("county,") insert ("at large,") the next Amendments, agreed to.

Page 12, after Part III., insert—

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