HC Deb 02 March 1885 vol 294 cc1806-61


Order for Committee read.


, in rising to move— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power in all cases where an elector is entitled to one vote only, to enable the elector to nominate more than one candidate to whom under certain circumstances that vote might be transferred in the manner indicated by the elector, said, he regretted that several hon. Members who were interested in the subject were not present, because they had thought that it would not come up till to-morrow. He understood, however, that if he deferred this Motion it would not be competent for him to move it afterwards. With regard to the question of representation, he thought it was a curious illustration how entirely most nations ignored the experience of others; that the Liberal Party in England proposed to adopt the system of single-Member seats at the very time when the Liberals of Prance were going to abandon it, because they had found in practical experience that it had worked so badly. The saying of the Prince Consort, that Representative Institutions were on their trial, had been very often quoted. It would, indeed, seem that government of the people, for the people, and by the people, was so obviously wise and just that it must almost of necessity work well in any intelligent community. Yet this had certainly not been the general experience. Why had Democracy so often failed in the past? Why in State after State had power so often swung from one extreme to the other—from the tyrant to the demagogue, and back again from the demagogue to the tyrant? The true reason, he believed, was the faulty manner in which the principle had been applied; in fact, that there had never yet been true representation on a large scale; but the systems adopted had given undue power to extreme men, leaving those of moderate views, who generally constituted the great majority, almost unrepresented and practically powerless. As there was a general impression that the present Bill would represent the country, roughly perhaps, but with substantial fairness, he was anxious to show that this would certainly not be the case. Let them take a theoretical case. Suppose a country in which there were 1,200,000 Liberal voters, and 1,000,000 Conservatives. Now, if the two Parties were evenly distributed, it was clear that the weaker Party would be utterly swamped. To use a familiar illustration, wherever they dropped a bucket in the sea they would bring up salt water. In such a case, therefore, the 1,000,000 were practically unrepresented. But they must carry the matter a little further. In the House so represented the majority might bring forward some Bill of an advanced character and carry it by the votes of numbers representing 800,000 electors, and against those representing 400,000, carrying it, therefore, by 2 to 1. But the minority in the House would in such a case have with them also the 1,000,000 in the country who were left unrepresented, so that, in fact, the measure would represent the wishes of only 800,000 electors, and would be opposed to those of 1,400,000. Thus, though they were told that that was a just system, the result was to enable a minority of 800,000 to override a majority of 1,400,000. That was, he believed, the main reason why so-called Representative Institutions had often worked so badly. They saw a practical illustration of that in Switzerland. The Swiss had a liberal system of representation; but they had also what was called a "Referendum"—that was to say, Bills which had passed the Assembly were referred to the whole electorate, by whom they were often rejected. For instance, in one year alone—in 1882—a law on the re-organization of the Departments of Justice and Police was rejected by 214,000 to 150,000; a revised Penal Code by 202,050 to 159,000; one on Patents by 190,000 to 171,000; and an Education Bill by 817,000 to 170,000. That, then, was the manner in which a single-Member system worked in a country where the electors belonging to the two great Parties were uniformly distributed. But now, still adhering to the system proposed in the Bill, let them suppose that the electors belonging to the two great Parties were not uniformly distributed throughout the constituencies, but that those of the one were more concentrated in particular districts—the Liberals, for instance, in the great cities. In that case it was obvious that their electoral strength would, under the present system, be to a great extent wasted. There, again, he would take an actual illustration from Switzerland. The City of Geneva was divided into four wards. At the election of 1842 the Liberals had a large majority in the whole; but being concentrated mainly in one ward, though, of course, they carried that one by an overwhelming majority, they were defeated by small majorities in the other three, and the result was felt to be so intolerable that the system was altered. Now, his firm belief was that it would break down here also; and he begged the House, therefore, to allow the Committee to take those questions into consideration. He did not ask the House, however, in accepting that Instruction, necessarily to adopt the principle, but only to allow them the opportunity of discussing it in Committee. But even if the House were not disposed to accept the principle, he would still ask them to adopt that Instruction, which would, after all, but give them time for further reflection; because it would be the best mode of carrying out the object arrived at by the hon. Member for Penryn (Mr. Brett), and which was supported by the Presidents of the Board of Trade and of the Local Government Board. The cases which the hon. Member wished to guard against were, no doubt, those in which, when several Members of one Party stood, they might divide the votes, and thus let in an opponent, who might, nevertheless, be in a minority of the whole voters. The hon. Member for Penryn proposed to obviate that by a second ballot. He (Sir John Lubbock) suggested, on the contrary, a plan which would avoid all the turmoil, expense, and loss of time incident to a second election and yet come to the same result. Suppose, for instance, that two Liberals and one Conservative were contesting a seat; that one Liberal (A) received 6,000 votes, the second Liberal (B) 2,000, and the Conservative (C) 6,000. The hon. Member proposed to have a second ballot, when, no doubt, the less popular Liberal would withdraw, and his supporters would decide the contest. He (Sir John Lubbock) proposed, on the contrary, that each elector should be allowed to mark on his voting paper the order of his preference. In the case that he had supposed, the voting papers of B, who received the smallest number of votes, would be examined and transferred to A or 0, in accordance with the instructions of the voters. That would give the same result, but would save the expenditure of time and money. Practically, in fact, the two elections would be carried on simultaneously. But while he would ask the House to adopt the proposed Instruction from that point of view, still, if he and those who agreed with him were permitted, they were anxious to bring forward some other Amendments in Committee. In the first place, they objected not so much to single seats as to the subdivision of populous communities. By cutting those communities up they weakened local life, and undermined the strength of local self-government. One great evil had been the multiplicity of areas. They had municipal areas, areas for Poor Law, for education, for water rates, and many other purposes, and now they were going to multiply them still further. In the debate on the second reading several hon. Members supported the adoption of single seats by pointing to the high character of the Representatives from Scotland and Wales. But Scotland and Wales were not cases in point. The constituencies there were natural communities; those to be formed under the Bill were unnatural and arbitrary fragments. Moreover, the boundaries would require continual re-arrangement if constituencies were to be maintained of equal size. Again, the system of mere majority voting failed in the very first requisite of a representative system—namely, that a majority of voters should secure a majority of Representatives. Suppose in the whole House the Liberals had a majority of 50 over Conservatives and Home Rulers combined; suppose that instead of voting as a whole the House was divided into three sections of 220 Members each. In the Northern section, comprising the Members from Scotland and our Northern counties, the Liberal majority would be, perhaps, 100; in the East and the Metropolitan counties the Conservatives might have a majority of, say, 10; in Ireland and the West the Home Rulers and Conservatives together might again have a majority of 40. Thus, although in the House, as a whole, the Liberals would have a majority of 50, still, in the divided House, the Conservatives and Home Rulers would carry two divisions out of three. That, in fact, was what actually happened in Geneva. There was, he knew, an impression that that might occur in a few constituencies, but that it could not happen in many. That idea, however, was a mistake. It had been shown over and over again that it had actually occurred on a large scale. In regard to the General Election of 1874, Mr. Roberts, the able agent of the Liberal Party, had stated that, in his judgment, the voting power of the Liberals was 200,000 more than that of the Conservatives. His right hon. Friend the Postmaster General questioned that; but, with all respect to his great abilities, he supposed no one on such a question was a higher authority than Mr. Roberts. But whatever the voting power in uncontested seats might have been, as regarded those which were contested there could be no question, and he was ready to accept the figures of his right hon. Friend. He made the Conservative vote 614,000, and the Liberal vote 644,000; while, on the other hand, the Conservatives secured 198 seats, and the Liberals only 168. Here, then, it was quite obvious that on a large scale, under the system of mere majority voting, a minority of electors secured a majority of Representatives. Would this Bill, he asked, fairly represent Scotland? He need not ask the few Conservative Members from Scotland. What they would say he knew well enough. He asked the Liberals. They could not, in honour and conscience, say that it would, because they knew that it would give them a much larger share of representation than on any principle of fairness could be justified. As regarded Wales the same might be said. Scotch and Welsh Liberals might support the provisions of the Bill on Party grounds; but to do so they must sacrifice principle to Party. In England, again, though he would not trouble the House with figures, it was admitted on all sides that the Liberals had too few seats in 1874, and too many in 1880. He turned next to Ireland. If they wished to increase as far as possible the power of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and to exclude both Liberals and Conservatives from the representation of that country, they could not do so more effectually than by this Bill. At any time, and in any country, there would, it seemed to him, be conclusive arguments against the single-Member system; but the present condition of Ireland rendered the question in their case one not only of important, but vital consequence. What, then, did they suggest? Suppose a constituency of 24,000 voters returning three Members. They proposed, firstly, that it should remain undivided; and, secondly, that each elector should have only one vote. But if that were all, it would be evident that, in some circumstances, the minority might secure two Members out of the three. Suppose, for instance, that the Liberals were 14,000, and the Conservatives 10,000; that each Party had two candidates, but that one of the two Liberals was pre-eminently able or popular—say, for instance, the present Prime Minister. Then it might very well happen that he might receive 10,000 votes out of the 14,000, leaving only 4,000 for the second Liberal candidate; and if the Conservatives divided their votes at all equally between their two candidates, they would, though in the minority, secure two seats out of the three. To avoid this, they proposed that though each elector should only have one operative vote, yet the vote should be transferable—that was to say, the elector should be permitted to indicate what he would wish to be done with it if it was not wanted by the candidate of his choice. In the case he had assumed 10,000 Liberals would have voted for the Prime Minister by placing I against his name; but they would be permitted, by placing 2 against the name of any other candidate, to indicate the order of their preference. In this case 6,001 votes would be sufficient to secure the election of any candidate, because there were 24,000 electors and three Representatives. Now, as three times 6,001 were 18,003, that sum, deducted from 24,000, left only 5,997. Consequently, of the 10,000 votes given to the first Liberal candidate, whom he would call A, he would only require 6,001, leaving 3,999 to be transferred; and of these, according to all electioneering experience, the vast majority would go to the second Liberal candidate. In this case, therefore, the two Liberal candidates, and the most popular of the two Conservatives would be elected. That was simple enough. Even if there were three or more Liberal candidates, there would be no difficulty in transferring the votes. Suppose, for instance, there were three Liberal candidates—A, B, and C. A had 10,000 votes, of which 4,000 had to be transferred. If the 10,000 votes were marked in the second place, half for B and half for C, then the 4,000 votes would obviously give 2,000 each for B and C. If in the whole 10,000 B had three-quarters and C one-quarter, the numbers would be 3,000 for B and 1,000 for O. This would be absolutely fair as between B and C. But they had thought that it would probably be scarcely worth while to take even the small trouble which this would involve. The present law provided that the voting papers should be well shuffled, and after this had been done, if the first 6,000 votes were put on one side, and the 4,000 surplus votes simply divided in accordance with the preference marked on them, the result would, in a constituency of 24,000, generally be true within 16, and the odds would be 44,000 to 1 against chance, making a difference of 100 from the true result. This had been calculated by Mr. Stokes, Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, and he was certain that no mathematician would deny it. He did not, however, wonder that the opponents of the proposal should have pressed this objection, because they were under a singular misapprehension. They had tried experiments on a small scale, and seemed to think that the element of chance would increase with the numbers. For instance, his right hon. Friend the Postmaster General, in an article in The Fortnightly Review for February, wrote— In an experiment made to test the scheme with 70 voting papers where nine candidates were supposed to contest seven seats, the main parties being nearly evenly divided, and an independent candidate having nearly the quota, I found that 12 shuffles of the papers filled always in the same manner brought out five different results of the poll, and it is clear that with 70,000 voting papers the result would be equally the subject of chance. Generally, it may be said that the larger the district and the more numerous the Members the greater the element of chance. This was an entire misapprehension. The element of chance would be considerable in a constituency of 70; but as the numbers increased the element of chance diminished rapidly. The Attorney General had fallen into the same error. At the same time, as lie had already stated, the element of chance might be entirely eliminated, and that with very little extra trouble, by distributing the second votes proportionally. It could not fairly be said that this system was either difficult or complex, for illustrative elections had been held in many places, and actually during public meetings. Many thousand votes had been recorded; the spoilt papers had been remarkably few; and the consequence had been that resolutions in favour of the system had been passed by overwhelming majorities. During the Recess large public meetings had been held at Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham, Leicester, Oxford, Norwich, Newcastle, Greenwich, the Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, Islington, St. Pancras, and other places; and Greenwich was the only one which expressed a preference for the system of single seats. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) had also made a speech against the system during the Recess, in which he stated— That every elector in either Party would be provided with a list, and would he told, with the most perfect truth, that if he did not mark it in exactly the same order as every other elector, the Party to which he belonged would go to the wall. That, however, was evidently a misapprehension; and he understood that his right hon. Friend had not at the time mastered the system, and that he did not now maintain that statement.


I do not withdraw the general remarks that I made on the subject.


Does the right hon. Gentleman maintain that unless each voter marked his paper in exactly the same order his Party would go to the wall?


I will tell my hon. Friend when I speak.


said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman might have stated whether he adhered to the statement or not; but, as a matter of fact, he was sure the Committee would see that, so long as the Liberals voted for all three Liberals, and the Conservatives for both Conservatives, it did not matter, as far as Party was concerned, in what order the votes were arranged. The number of Representatives carried by each Party would be determined by the number of their supporters; while the order would secure the election of the most able and popular candidate, or candidates, within each Party. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General made a statement very similar to that of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and gave what seemed to be a most extraordinary reason, and one very uncomplimentary to his fellow-countrymen— If the Party organizers," he said, "give no such advice, hut recommend their followers to vote in the order of their own preference, it may well be that large numbers of the Party would vote for the candidates in the alphabetical order in which they stand on the voting paper. The "capable citizen" must, indeed, have fallen low before he could be capable of such stupidity. The last objection which had been urged was that it would prevent the formation of a strong Government. But, as he had shown, mere majority voting and single seats would not secure this. Sometimes, indeed, it might annihilate the minority, and at others it would reduce the majority; and sometimes, as in 1874, even give the minority of electors a majority of this House. Proportional representation was the only true system. It would fairly reproduce the views of the country. On the other hand, the system proposed in the Bill would leave a great deal to chance. There was only one other point to which he desired to allude; but, to his mind, it was the gravest part of the whole question. He alluded to the manner in which this Bill would affect the representation of Ireland. The hon. Member for the City of Cork and his followers could not consider it otherwise than desirable that they should desire to maintain the union with the Sister Island. Their strong opposition to their designs was a compliment. Under this Bill they allotted to Ireland 12 Members more than her population entitled her to; and then, having done that, they devised a system which would tend to silence and exclude the Loyalists of Ireland, and give the bitter enemies of the Union more power than under any system of justice or equity they could fairly claim. He believed the Bill, in its present form, would tend to break up the Empire, and, perhaps, land them in all the horrors of civil war. They advocated this proposal because it would enable them to retain their great communities undivided; it would secure the election of their tried and trusted leaders; it would give a hearing to the minority; insure their just preponderance to the majority; and prevent loyal citizens in Ireland from being silenced and excluded by those whose main object it was to destroy and break up the British Empire.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power in all cases where an elector is entitled to one vote only, to enable the elector to nominate more than one candidate to whom under certain circumstances that vote might be transferred in the manner indicated by the elector."—(Sir John Lubbock.)


said, his hon. Friend had made something like an appeal to the Government to allow these Instructions to the Committee to be carried now, so that the whole question might be raised in Committee. But to do so would be to hold out false hopes. It would be far better to state their views now. One object he had in view was the saving of time, though, of course, they could not entirely avoid further reference to this matter in debate by his hon. Friends who might move the omission of Clause 8 from the Bill. His hon. Friend had put before the House those views which had been already expressed on an early stage of the Bill. The belief of the Government was that, by the single-seat system generally adopted in this Bill, the representation of minorities would be secured in the most practical form in which it could be secured by Parliamentary measures; but his hon. Friend told the House he thought minorities would be over-represented. [Sir JOHN LUBBOCK: In particular cases.] The result of the Bill would be to give a large and varied representation in that House to minorities. His hon. Friend had spoken of the great number of meetings held by him and those who thought with him in different parts of the country, and of the numerous resolutions carried in their favour; but his hon. Friend had not ventured to assert that the country generally had accepted his proposals. His own opinion was that the country generally had not approved those proposals. Machiavelli said that when two questions were argued before the people by persons of equal ability, if the people adopted one view that view would probably be the best. Judging the matter by this test, he thought his hon. Friend would hardly be prepared to contend that the people of this country had fallen in with his view. His hon. Friend said it was a curious thing that the Liberal Party in France were giving up the single-Member system at the very time when the Liberal Party in England were proposing it. The system embodied in the Bill was, however, proposed not by the Liberal Party only, but also by the other great Party in the State, as being a scheme worthy of being adopted by the country. During the Recess it had been accepted by the country with far more unanimity than he had anticipated. He thought at first that the great towns would object to the borough constituencies being broken up; but his doubts had been removed by the experience of the Eece3S, and he was amazed at the popularity of the single-Member system in the large towns, while in the counties it had been accepted with very little difference of opinion indeed. "When speaking of France, his hon. Friend omitted to mention that the system which it was proposed to adopt there was far more opposed to his views than the system embodied in the present Bill. He spoke upon this matter with a good deal of feeling of sympathy with his hon. Friend. He had himself always supported the cumulative vote as applied to school board elections. If those elections were conducted by open voting he should have no hesitation in advocating the cumulative vote; but under the ballot there was a great waste of voting power in consequence of vast numbers of votes being piled upon particular candidates. Therefore, he had some sympathy with his hon. Friend; and if the transferring of votes could be easily accomplished, he would admit that his I hon. Friend, had met some of the difficulties of the cumulative vote. His hon. I Friend had referred to the case of Switzerland, as showing that the whole I population of the country frequently opposed proposals which had been carried through the Federal Council. But surely his hon. Friend would be the first to admit that this was rather an argument against plébiscites than one in favour of the plan he proposed to the House. He admitted, indeed, that he had not watched the voting of the people in plébiscites in Switzerland so closely as his hon. Friend had; but, looking to the plébiscites in France, and the confusing manner in which questions were presented to the people, he should be inclined to attach much greater weight to the vote of a Representative Assembly. There could be no doubt that in this country, governed as it was by Party, a very small percentage of the electorate changing from one side to the other would cause a large change in the representation of the House. But he was far from believing that this was a bad thing in itself. On the contrary, he thought it was desirable, for forming the opinion of the country, that the pendulum should swing, perhaps, a little further in each direction than the mere numbers would lead one to suppose it would swing. In his judgment, the effect of the single-Member system would be to give a fair representation to minorities in the country with very beneficial results. In regard to the second ballot, he should not be in Order in discussing that question at any length on the present occasion. Without going into the merits of the matter, and speaking for himself personally, he might say that he was strongly in favour of a second ballot at elections. In fact, he believed he was the first person to write in favour of it in this country. It existed in almost every other country. [Mr. GORST: Not in any of the English Colonies.] He believed, however, it would be something like a breach of faith to those who had framed this Bill on a certain principle if an attempt were made to introduce the system of second ballot into the Bill itself. At the same time, they were all quite able to express their opinions on the subject if it were separately raised, although he could not at this stage consent to its introduction into the Seats Bill. He thought his hon. Friend would have some difficulty in maintaining his assertion that areas would be multiplied by the Bill. No one could say that the present electoral areas were natural areas. The Scotch burghs, for instance, were not natural areas. No one who had paid attention to the subject would hesitate to say that there was a simplification of areas by this Bill. The borough of Wenlock, on a map, looked like a picture in a kaleidoscope. His hon. Friend had attacked the Postmaster General and the Attorney General for their statements with respect to the Election of 1874. He would leave them to speak for themselves. But he ought to say that the statement of the Postmaster General was that it was the unequal franchise which mainly affected the result of that Election. Then his hon. Friend complained that the Conservative minority in Scotland was virtually disfranchised at the present time. The Conservative minority in Scotland was not without representation, and very able representation, in that House at the present moment. He admitted the Conservative minority of Scotland was not so largely represented as it might be, even under the present Bill; and he believed some of the criticisms which had been made against the present Bill by Liberals in Scotland were caused by the fact that the Bill was likely to represent the Scottish Conservative minority somewhat more largely than at the present time. He hoped the hon. Member would join with the Government in resisting any attempt to alter the plan of the Scottish constituencies, so as to prevent that full and fair representation of the Scottish Conservative minority which, he believed, this Bill would secure. In Ireland also his hon. Friend assumed that the Bill would exclude Conservative representation. But the single-Member system in Ireland would give a fair representation to the Conservative minority, possibly a larger one than at present. His hon. Friend then spoke of the transferable votes, and which votes were to be transferred. He said that he proposed not to count the whole of the preferences expressed; but then there was the question which of them should be counted. He had been present on all the occasions when the votes were counted in his own borough, and also at Hackney. It was impossible so to shuffle them as to prevent their coming in large batches. His hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey) had admitted that there was an element of chance, and that it was uncertain which votes would be used. But his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), in speaking of the transfer of votes, had stated that there was no chance at all in the matter. His hon. Friend said that the highest mathematical authorities denied that there was any chance worthy of account. A wrong result might be produced, it was said., once in 8,000 or 10,000 years. In Cambridge a prize had been offered for the best solution of the question; but with this singular result—that equal marks were awarded to two papers diametrically opposed to each other. Moreover, an Oxford mathematician, Mr. Dodgson, who was in favour of proportional representation, but had written against this particular scheme, attached a far higher value to the element of chance. Mr. Dodgson tried to prove that a wrong result had actually been produced in one of those test or sham elections which had been held throughout the country, which he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) wished to speak of with all respect, as his hon. Friend had frequently elected him. With regard to the difficulties of this matter, it was said that they need not be reckoned, because the Returning Officers were skilled and educated men. He did not know whether his hon. Friends were aware of the great waste of votes even at the present time. At the last election in Hackney several hundred votes were wasted, although the election was a single one, between two candidates only. Was it not probable that there would be a far more formidable; waste of votes under the system proposed by his hon. Friend? The object of the proposal now before the House used to be stated in a different way from that now adopted. It was now said that the object aimed at was the representation of the majority; but formerly it was advocated as a means of representing minorities and shades of opinion. Formerly the hon. Member for South Northumberland advocated what was known as the Parker Smith scheme, upon which he would comment if it wore to be put forward as an alternative scheme—["No, no!"]—but if it was not to be he would say nothing about it. The anomalies that had been produced by former General Elections were due partly to the existence of small boroughs, and partly to the difference between the borough and the county franchise. In his belief, the system which the Government were placing before the House was likely in a higher degree than was proposed by his hon. Friend to lead to the existence of strong Governments, with strong majorities one way or the other. When it was said that the Bill would leave to Ireland 12 more Members than she was entitled to, he replied that the Government had proceeded upon equal lines, and had drawn no distinction between one part of the United Kingdom and another. But if it were said that Ireland was over-represented as compared with England and Scotland, it might be pointed out that a large part of England was over-represented as compared with the rest, and they could not remove these discrepancies without creating others. Wales was more represented than Ireland by this Bill. But there were other parts of England which were still more largely represented. Wiltshire and the inland part of Hampshire—that was excluding the Isle of Wight—and other portions of the South-West of England, were more represented than Wales. These were the consequences of drawing an even line, and they could not devise an oven line which would not produce such results. But the discrepancies under this Bill were very small as compared with those at present existing; and it was the belief of the Government that the House of Commons, after full examination of the two schemes, would support that now placed before them.


Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friend who has moved this Instruction (Sir John Lubbock) has told us that his plan of proportional representation would insure real political justice, an accurate expression of the opinions of the country, and render such accidents as the return of a majority in this House by a minority in the country absolutely impossible. Now, I venture to dispute all these propositions. And as regards the controversy whether or not a minority in the country did actually return a majority of this House in 1874 or 1868, I cannot think that it has much to do with the question. We may grant everything which my hon. Friend demands, figures and all, and the question itself will remain very much where it is now. Under a system of unequal constituencies, and uneven representation, it is, no doubt, perfectly possible for a minority in the country to return a ma- jority of this House. But, even if my hon. Friend's Amendment were carried, it would be still perfectly possible for a minority in the country to return a majority of this House, because my hon. Friend does not propose to apply his principle to every constituency. It is only when a constituency returns three or more Members that the plan is applicable at all. Nor does he propose to reduce his triumvirates to the condition of the Siamese twins—that if one of the three dies, the others should immediately die also. So that the scheme must break down at every bye-election. But even if the scheme did not break down at every bye-election, and oven if it were applicable to every constituency in the Kingdom, it would be still perfectly possible for a minority in the country to return a majority of this House. For who is to classify the abstentionists? My hon. Friend is in favour of larger constituencies; but the larger the constituencies, the larger the proportion of abstentionists, until, at last, you arrive at nearly half the whole constituency. A thousand different motives keep these men from the poll; but they possess opinions, perhaps, quite as well worth knowing as the man who polls as the clock strikes 8. Again, even after the Franchise Act has come into operation, there will remain millions of men who have no votes, and whose opinions, whatever they may be, you must entirely ignore. Surely, then, it is most inaccurate to speak of mathematical precision, and real justice, and an absolute exclusion of accidents, when all the conditions of the problem are so variable, and the margin of uncertainty must always remain so enormous. But my hon. Friend's system must fail to secure absolute justice for another reason—I mean on account of the inherent defects of the system itself. For the system is based upon a series of preferences; and the bulk of those preferences would, in all probability, be dictated by motives which are not political. Why do people give their votes now? No one can conduct a personal canvass without becoming painfully conscious that a large proportion of votes are given without any reference to politics whatever, and that another large proportion are given from what I may term hybrid motives, motives which are partly political, and partly otherwise. Votes are often given because the right man asks for them, or because the wrong man to ask for them is kept carefully in the background; and all these subsidiary motives will come into play with ten-fold force when the issue raised is no longer a simple one; but you afford the voter the luxury of gratifying all his motives at once, when he can give one vote to his conscience, another to his trade, another to oblige Benson, a fourth to annoy Jones, and a fifth to show his own splendid independence. These inferior preferences are all good votes; the skilful canvasser will pick them up by thousands, and the Returning Officer, if he pleases, will run riot among them. I once knew an important appointment won by a gentleman who was supposed to be absolutely out of the running. He beat all the favourites solely by second votes. And my hon. Friend, at the close of a General Election, when he is exulting over the idea that, at last, we have arrived at absolute justice, will thus have arrived only at an absolute fiasco. And this fiasco will have been purchased, at what cost? You have admitted to the franchise some millions of persons of, perhaps, imperfect education. Surely it is essential that your mode of voting should be simplicity itself. And if there be one thing more important still, it is that the voters shall have absolute confidence in the secrecy of the votes, and in those who count them. There is a widespread distrust of the ballot even now among the humblest class of voters. To what dimensions will that distrust grow, when the voters discover that their ballot papers are to be fingered, and fingered, and fingered again in the presence of the agent whom they dread, and how will they regard the final result when they know that, with another shuffling of the papers, it might have been entirely different? The demand for absolute simplicity is met by my hon. Friend with his "wonderful puzzle fifteen." But my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard, who has made many clever speeches on this subject in the country, tells us that this plan of proportional representation will greatly improve the personnel of this House. I wish that it had not been necessary to my hon. Friend's argument to take away the character of this House. He goes about the country drawing a fancy portrait of your Member of Parliament. Your Member of Parliament, it seems, is a very irresolute creature. He trembles at every vote he gives, and looks warily around before he ventures to give a vote at all. "Members of Parliament," says my hon. Friend, "occasionally speak the truth to one another in the Lobby;" and then, it appears, we confess that we do not vote from any high sense of duty, or even of political allegiance, but because we are the slaves of certain sections of our constituents. Sir, I repudiate this fancy portrait altogether. I have sat in this House as long, if not longer, than my hon. Friend, and I have never yet met with the original. [Laughter.] My hon. Friend laughs; but I appeal to hon. Gentlemen, especially to those of long Parliamentary experience, whether again and again, in the course of their lives, grave differences of opinion have not arisen between important sections of their constituents and themselves, to be again and again bridged over, not by the ignominious surrender of the Representative, but by the generous forbearance of the constituents? It is not necessary, then, to be so very firm in one's seat in order to give an independent vote; nor is it by furnishing us, as my hon. Friend proposes, with a devoted body-guard of supporters who will never desert us, and who will insure our election, whatever we may do, that you will teach independence. You teach independence, not by making defeat impossible, but by inuring us to look defeat in the face. Now, there is nothing which so narrows the conceptions of your public man as to send him to the House as the delegate of a section, or the spokesman of an 'ism. If a fad-monger gains access to the House now, he must be a politician first, and a fad-monger afterwards; but if the plan of my hon. Friend were to prevail, there is no fad-monger or hobby-rider in the Kingdom who might not aspire to a seat. My hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard says that it would result in the return of strong men to this House. He says that a strong Government can only be made out of strong materials. He infers that the existing materials are weak, and the existing Government the reverse of strong. A little while ago we were told that it was a trifle too strong for British freedom. But what does he mean by strong men? There are two kinds of strong men—headstrong men, and men who are strong in the head. If by strong men my hon. Friend moans dogged, uncompromising, impracticable men, I have no doubt that ho will get them in abundance under his system; but, then, these are just the men whom you ought not to get in an Assembly where so much depends upon our arriving at a modus vivendi. If, on the other hand, by strong men he means men who are strong in the head—men who could grasp critical occasions and take broad views of policy—he would not get them under his system; for these are the very last men to serve a clique or cringe before an 'ism. If this House has suffered of late in public estimation, it is not because it contains too few strong men, but because it contains too many. But my hon. Friend wants us to be all strong men. Imagine this House filled with strong men all riding hobbies, like my hon. Friend! What collisions we should have among all those high-minded, high-principled, and possibly high-tempered people! Would this shorten our debates, or simplify their issues? Would it accelerate legislation? Would it tend to preserve intact that individual liberty of Englishmen, which is, perhaps, a grander thing than Empire, and which your crotcheteers and fad-mongers assail on every side? But one reason why we are all to be strong men is in order that we may teach the nation through the debates. How can reports of the debates, such as they have become, teach anybody? The only people who are really reported are those upon the two Front Benches. I do not blame the Press for this. If there were any demand for full reports, we should have them. But nobody wants them, except the strong men themselves; and if there be one sign of the times more cheering than another, it is the determination of this House to allow itself to be "counted out" again and again rather than become, what my hon. Friend wants it to become, a second-rate Debating Society. But my hon. Friend lays great stress on the beneficial effect which his system is to have upon the constituencies. Now, I think that there is too much tendency already in the great Party to which we both belong to forget that we are living, and must live, under a system of Party Govern- ment. This is a lesson which every politician has to learn, whether he be a simple voter or a Member of this House. It involves some sacrifice of private judgment, a good measure of faith and obedience, and an indiscriminate denunciation of fads. But the lesson which my hon. Friend teaches is the reverse of all this. He resolves the Party into its elements. Disintegration and decomposition are to be the order of the day. He wants to see how many differences of opinion he can bring to the surface, not how many he can bury. And as to the assertion that when men find themselves in a minority at elections, they will, therefore, throw up the sponge in despair, I do not believe it for a moment. I have now had a seat in this House for many years. I have always sat for the same constituency, and the Liberal majority has long been perfectly overwhelming. But does that prevent my Friends the Conservatives from fighting us on every possible occasion? No, Sir. There is always some good man ready with his eloquence, and, what is, perhaps, more valuable, with his purse. No sooner is a Dissolution announced than there is always some ram caught in the thicket. And so it will always be in English, and especially in Irish, politics. We shall never know when we are beaten. We shall fight against all odds; and the very last thing which we shall do is what my hon. Friend says that we shall do—fling down our arms and run away. But my hon. Friend thinks that the existing system has broken down, because, as he says, under it only one mechanic and one working man have been returned to this House. I should have accepted this circumstance as a triumphant proof of its success. The working classes have shown a rare discretion. With the power, if they had wished it, of deluging this House with mechanics and working men, they have deliberately preferred to be represented by men many points above them, it may be, in the social scale, yet sympathizing with those of their demands which are just, and able to clothe those demands in language and to sustain them by arguments which must command the respect, and possibly the acquiescence, of statesmen. It is by this process that we have arrived at the vigour of Democracy, without experiencing what I may term the shock of its brute force. But what is the teaching of my hon. Friend? Why, that all this is a mistake, and that to be adequately represented in Parliament you must be represented by men of your own class, your own trade, and, possibly, your own clique. I contend that by this teaching—though nothing is farther from his intention—he is simply poisoning the minds of the new electors, even before they come upon the Register, undermining the noble confidence which one class reposes in another, and substituting sordid interests and selfish sympathies for the paramount obligations of Party and of patriotism. And what has been the history of the triumph of Democracy in this country? Has it not been the history of the triumph of the principles which he repudiates, and of the repudiation of the principles which he is endeavouring to put in their place? For the working classes would never have won, as they have won, the confidence of those above them, if they had not begun by placing confidence in us. Sir, I fear that some who are advocating this scheme are attempting to get a good deal more out of the Franchise Act than this House intended. In the course of one of the clever speeches which my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard made in the country, he quoted the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), and said that they were advocating proportional representation because it gave "the widest possible realization of Democracy." Now, I very much doubt whether that was the intention of this House in passing that Bill. I very much question whether we should have passed that Bill at all, if we had understood that it was to be twisted into a means of arriving, if not at the plébiscite itself, at its nearest possible equivalent. Surely it is a mistake to contend that this House should be made a mere photograph—I use my hon. Friend's own phrase—an abject epitome of the thoughts, good, bad, and indifferent, of the nation. Surely it should reflect its highest thoughts, its noblest aspirations, its broadest sympathies. This is the very meaning of election. We elect, not the random elements, which in their infinite variety are to be found scattered everywhere upon the surface, but what is best and soundest; and it is only on this grand hypothesis that this House is honourable, or that it is any honour to sit in it.


said, so far the progress of debate had only strengthened his conviction that they were not far off the day when the principle of proportional representation would be embodied in the electoral system of the country. In the debate upon the subject last Session the Prime Minister had no other argument but that of ridicule to bring against the position taken up by his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney). That night the President of the Local Government Board appeared as the champion of the single-district plan. He was an old supporter of proportional representation, and knew where its weak points were, if it had any. The chief peculiarity of his right hon. Friend's speech that night was that he carefully evaded attacking the real arguments in favour of their plan, and spoke for half an hour on small points, not one of which wounded fatally the position they had taken up. He therefore claimed the speech of his right hon. Friend as an admission on his part that they were in the right. The right hon. Gentleman said that the single-Member-district plan would secure the representation of minorities in the most practicable way that could be secured by any Parliamentary measure. ["Hear, hear!"] The Attorney General cheered that statement. Would the hon. and learned Member, if he should speak in the debate, show how it would do so in Scotland or Ireland? He was in Glasgow a little time ago—a town which it was proposed to cut up into seven districts—and he was informed by Members of both Parties there that the chance of a Conservative being returned for any ward in the town was comparatively nil.


They have the minority vote there now, and they cannot return a Conservative.


said, it was no reason, because the Conservative shad been unable under the limited vote to get one scat out of three, that we should adopt a system which would give them no seat out of seven. He favoured political equality, and desired that equal numbers of persons should be equally represented. If the Conservatives of Glasgow were equal to a seventh of the constituency, they were entitled to one Member. It was because the single-district plan did not secure them their just share, and the proportional principle did, that the House should support the Instruction. How many Members would the single-district plan give the Conservatives in Scotland? The right hon. Gentleman championed that plan, because it would give them representation. Scotland was to have about 70 Members; and they were told that the Conservative Party were at least a sixth part of the population. If they were they ought to have from 10 to 12 Members. Did his right hon. Friend contend that, under this single-district plan, they would have that number? He (Mr. Grey) did not believe they would have more than three or four Members. That seemed to him to be an argument against, instead of in favour of, the single-seat system. His right hon. Friend said that the country did not concur in the views of those who advocated proportional representation. But he (Mr. Grey) declared that the country had concurred in their views wherever they had had the chance of hearing them explained. In his own county, not only in the pit districts, but in other districts, they had carried their resolutions by overwhelming majorities; and he had hoard that morning, from a working miner who was now busily engaged in advocating the system, that he had addressed several pit meetings, and that they were all, by a unanimous vote, in favour of proportional representation. Their experience at Glasgow, Liverpool, and other large towns was the same as it was in Northumberland; and they only needed time to place their views before the people, in order to gain for them an overwhelming and enthusiastic acceptance. In every country where a uniform suffrage prevailed, they were dissatisfied with the system of majority representation. In France they were trying to change the single-district plan for scrutin de liste, and in America they gave up scrutin de liste in 1842. His right hon. Friend was one of the first who not only wrote in favour of the double ballot, but spoke in favour of the principle of proportional representation. In 1872, when the question was discussed in the House of Commons, his right hon. Friend said— Some think—and I among them—that it is almost impossible to over-rate the advantages which might flow from proportional representation, if proportional representation could be worked. I think it most desirable that the experiment should he tried."—(3 Hansard, [212] 909.) And he added— There can be no place so fit for trying the experiment, from the great concentration of wealth and population, from the machinery at hand, and from the variety of opinion held within the compass of a single town as London; and it would be most natural to suggest that the experiment should be tried within this city … If you were to try your experiment upon London, it is probable that the metropolis would under your new system elect as its 22 representatives men of great fame and of the highest attainments—men whose services would he of splendid value to the State."—[Ibid.] Now, he thought that the House ought to pass this Instruction for two reasons—first, because it would enable the Committee to insert Amendments applying a principle the absolute justice of which no one could deny; and, secondly, because even if the Committee might decide against a proposal which would be fatal to the single-district plan, it was only right that they should have the power of applying to the election of a single Representative that method of voting which would give each individual elector the largest possible freedom of choice. Unless they had the single transferable vote, there would be little freedom of choice to a large number of electors in the election of a single Representative. Take Newcastle, for example. His hon. Friend (Mr. John Morley) stood for the borough at a bye-election, and a working man was brought forward, but was withdrawn before the day of the poll, because if he persevered he might divide the Liberal vote and let in the Tory. The result was a contest between one Liberal and one Conservative candidate. But would it not be of great advantage if the electors could choose the candidate for whom they might wish to vote? At present, a large proportion of the body was bound to give their votes to the candidate who was chosen for them, and as to whom they had very little choice themselves. What he said was that the electors should have the opportunity of selecting for themselves the candidate most in sympathy with them, without risking the chances of their Party. Supposing that there were in a borough a number of men favouring Mr. Henry George's views on the nationalization of the land, and that they brought him forward as a candidate, although they knew he had no chance of election, all they could do would be to mark I against his name, and 2 against the name of some more popular candidate. They would thus make sure that if the first vote should not be wanted for the candidate of their choice, in consequence of his having no chance, their vote would be utilized for the candidate against whose name the number 2 had been placed, and so on. Such a system would enable a voter to give his vote to the candidate most in sympathy with himself, and yet prevent his vote from being thrown away. Proof would thus be afforded of the strength of the Party holding his opinions in the constituency. But it was because this Instruction, if passed, would enable the Committee to group together single districts, and to arrange for the election of their Members by Mr. Hare's plan of the single transferable vote, that he asked the House to support it. This plan would, if adopted and applied to constituencies returning from 3 to 7 or 9 Members, result in a true representation of the electors, the freedom of the electorate, and the return of a good House of Commons. By the single district plan, which would give to one set of electors the representation which properly belonged to another set, they would create a privileged class on the one hand, and a discontented and irritated class on the other. They were told, for example, that in Ireland, South of Ulster, the Party of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) would, under the single-district system, win every seat, although the Party opposed to him numbered one-third of the population. But a system which secured a true representation would give to the opponents of the policy of the hon. Member one-third of the seats in question. To take another example. Supposing that the population of Glasgow were to increase by 150,000 in the next 10 years, two-thirds of them being Liberal and one-third Conservative, and supposing that three additional Members were, in consequence, to be given to the city, one of these would dearly be given to it in respect of the 50,000 Conservatives in the borough; yet it was quite possible that under the single-district plan the three extra seats would be won by candi- dates holding Liberal opinions. They were told Mr. Hare's plan could not be accepted, because it introduced the element of chance. They were prepared to eliminate the chance element altogether. This could easily be done at the cost of a little extra trouble in the count. It was true they had not originally proposed this, because, after having carefully considered the element of chance, it appeared to be so infinitesimally small. They claimed that their plan should not be judged by an impossible standard of ideal perfection, but by its relative perfection. All they asked was that that system should be accepted which gave the best guarantee of a representation in accordance with the wishes of the electors as declared at the poll. Under the single-district system totally different electoral results might be obtained by an alteration of boundaries. This was well-known in America, where it was admitted that the shape of the boundary line determined the character of the representation. If the line was drawn from North to South one result was obtained; but if it was drawn from East to West the result was of a totally different character. One set of boundary lines might bring about the scandal of a minority rule, while another set of boundary lines might bring about the political extinction of a minority entitled by its numbers to considerable representation. The advocates of their system had received a great deal of encouragement. In the little time at their disposal they had made much greater way than they had anticipated. Their experience justified their conviction that they had only to go on explaining and expounding the principle to secure for it a universal and an enthusiastic reception in the country. They were sometimes met by the argument that Mr. Bagehot and Mr. Cobden were opposed to the principle; but Mr. Bagehot's objection was to the proposal to make the country one huge constituency. That was plainly an impossibility. The difficulty of asking the electors to choose between 600 or 700 candidates was obvious. The objections urged by Mr. Bagehot against Mr. Hare's original proposal could not be brought forward against this modified scheme. Their object was to obtain constituencies of such a size as would assure to each individual elector the widest possible freedom of choice, consistent with the avoidance of those evils which Mr. Bagehot pointed out to be consequent upon making the whole of the United Kingdom into one constituency. As yet no serious argument, that would stand five minutes' investigation, had been brought forward against proportional representation as they propounded it. He trusted the debate would go on for another night. ["Oh!"] The debate had come upon them unexpectedly. The general belief had been that they were not to have a discussion on proportional representation that evening, but that they were to have it later on in the week; and he hoped they would have another discussion when the Bill was in Committee. They believed they would be successful in the end, although they could not be successful now. They had been fighting with their eyes on the future; and they knew they had already created a sufficient feeling in the country to secure a new and strong agitation rising up upon the settlement of the present Bill.


said, he was quite sure that the House had listened with great interest to the two very lucid speeches which had been delivered in favour of proportional representation by his hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey) and the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock). For his own part, he thought they might also admire the energy, public spirit, and courage with which his hon. Friends had come forward and carried on their agitation for proportional representation during the past autumn. He could not, however, congratulate them upon the result of that agitation, because he believed that the more the country heard of the scheme the less they liked it. His hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey) appeared, nevertheless, to be of opinion that he would be able, at some future time, to convert the country. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) believed the House would be well content to relegate the discussion of the question to the public platform. For his own part, ho was quite willing to leave the question in the hands of his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), and his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. E. A. Leatham). He believed that those hon. Members had exhausted all the facts of the case. But as he had been expressly alluded to, he thought there were a few points of which he must take notice. In the first place, what was the objection entertained by his hon. Friend against the present system of majority voting? His hon. Friend said that, under the present system, it might happen that the minority would be able to return a majority of Members; and reference had been made to the case of the General Election of 1874. Now, he had had, some time ago, a controversy with his hon. Friend on that subject; and he still maintained that when the question was fairly looked at, the Tories on that occasion obtained a majority of votes, and that the majority of Members was not returned by a minority of the electors. His hon. Friend attempted now to exclude the uncontested elections; but he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) did not think it was fair to leave them out of the calculation. If the contested elections only were taken into account, it was, undoubtedly, the fact that the majority returned a minority of Members. He would admit that; but was it due to the system of voting, or to other causes? He thought that anyone who looked fairly into the question would come to the conclusion that it was due, not to the system of voting, but to the unequal franchise in the counties and boroughs. Before 1874 the Liberals had obtained representation in a considerable number of counties, although at that time the Conservatives were successful in a large portion of those counties; whereas in the boroughs the Liberals had a majority, although not a large one. The voters in the boroughs, under the present franchise, were five times more numerous, in proportion to the population, than the voters in the counties; and in order to make a proper comparison it would be necessary to reduce the counties and the towns to a common denomination by multiplying the voters of the counties by five; and if they did that, it would be found that the result of the comparison was exactly to reverse the actual state of things. He was surprised that his hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock), with his mathematical and philosophical mind, should not have perceived this. For his (Mr. Shaw Lefevre's) own part, the present system of voting, instead of leading to the return of minority Members, had exactly the contrary effect. Indeed, he believed that the general result of the present system was that it did secure for the majority of voters a rather larger proportion of Members than they were numerically entitled to. Was that an advantage or not? He believed that, on the whole, it was an advantage, because it strengthened the Government of the day, and enabled it to carry out its policy. All the systems of minority voting which had yet been presented to the House and the country would have a directly opposite effect, as they would tend to over-represent the minority, and to prevent the majority from having a fair and full representation, and because it would give an advantage to small sections of persons, and would enable crotchet-mongers and persons representing immature opinions to be returned. The system had already been tried in the School Board elections; and everybody admitted that, in that case, the cumulative vote had failed, inasmuch as it prevented the majority from returning representatives in proportion to their true strength, while it gave an unfair advantage to cliques and sections of voters. The more this proposal was examined the greater, he ventured to say, would be even its defects. In the first place, it was complicated and difficult to understand, and it would never be comprehended by the bulk of the ordinary labourers who were to enjoy the vote. In the second place, it was defective because it introduced for the first time the element of chance; thirdly, it was defective because it gave to the minority, and to cliques and sections, an undoubted advantage. These were his three main objections to it. His hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) had dealt with the element of chance. The element of chance came in when they had appropriated voting papers for a candidate's first votes, and counted the surplus for another candidate's second votes, everything depending upon the voting papers taken and left. Necessarily, in counting the second and third votes, a large number of second and third votes, which had been disposed of and set aside in the first heap, must be left out of the calculation. He, therefore, thought he was justified in saying that the element of chance entered into the calculation. He had himself made an experiment on the supposition that he was dealing with a constituency of 70 electors, and that there were seven candidates, the votes for whom were very evenly divided. He had found that in 12 shuffles of the actual voting papers the result came out in five different ways, showing conclusively that the element of chance was introduced.


remarked, that his right hon. Friend had been dealing with a very small number of electors.


said, his contention was that the same element of chance applied to the case of 7,000 as to 70 or 700. The same discrepancies would only be magnified, in like circumstances, by making the number of voting papers 700 or 7,000. He had consulted authorities of the highest order, who had come to the same conclusion as himself. [An hon. MEMBER: Who were they?] Well, he had consulted authorities, at any rate, if not the highest; and he made the assertion on his own authority as well. He did not profess to be as good a mathematician as his hon. Friend; but he did profess to understand a logical deduction, and if he took 7,000 voting papers, and those voting papers wore evenly divided between two Parties, and the second and third votes were also evenly divided between second and third candidates, it would be found that the same element of chance was introduced in reference to these candidates in the case of 7,000 voters as in that of 70. He ventured to maintain that this was the case, in spite of the objection of his hon. Friend. That was his first and main objection to the scheme—namely, that it introduced an element of chance to a very serious degree. He would now put another case. Suppose there was cross-voting; suppose the two principal political Parties were nearly evenly divided, and five or six cross-votes occurred on either side. It would depend entirely upon the fact whether those cross-votes were counted in the first batch of voting papers, or the second—whether this or that candidate was returned. That afforded another proof that chance was a potent element in the return; and it might become a most serious matter, and a grave objection to the whole scheme. The other objection to the scheme was that, in every case, it gave an undue advantage to the mi- nority, and to cliques and sections. He would detain the House too long if he were to endeavour to explain this matter thoroughly; but it was a somewhat important subject, and he would point out shortly one or two points connected with it. A scheme of this kind must be tested, not merely by experiments such as the hon. Member had tried in the country, but on the supposition of a closely contested election with the two political Parties evenly divided, and also with the probability of an independent candidate being started. If the hon. Member tried his plan under those conditions, he would find, that an independent candidate would be returned by very much fewer votes than his real quota, and in that way he would destroy the chance of the candidate put forward on the other side. In point of fact, an unfair advantage would be given to the independent candidate in consequence of the two other candidates receiving their fair quota of Party votes. His own opinion, seeing that in a closely-contested election the accidental counting of five or six votes might determine the result, was that the two political Parties would, in the event of the proposal of his hon. Friend being adopted, do much better to abandon the scheme of voting for their own candidates, and to distribute their votes equally between their candidates. He believed it would be very easy to prove that the general result of the scheme would be to over-represent minorities, and to give to cliques and sections an undue advantage. There were now two systems of voting proposed, which were opposed to one another. The present system was no doubt favourable, to some extent, to majorities. All schemes of minority voting gave an undue advantage to the minority. But which of the two systems was best? His own opinion was that a system which favoured the majority was far better than one which would favour the minority. It was highly important that the House of Commons should be returned with a majority even somewhat in excess of the proportion it was fairly entitled to. It was not desirable that the House should exactly measure the balance of political opinion. A large majority tended to strengthen the Government. It should be remembered that the House of Commons was not merely a machine for legislation; but it was, in point of fact, the Executive of the country. The Government was practically elected by the House of Commons, and in the Members of the Government were vested all the powers of the State. That being so, it appeared to him that the majority might with propriety even be somewhat in excess of the actual number of these voters in the country, so that they would be able to give stability to the Government of the day. This was no Party question, but it was of equal importance to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite as it was to the Liberal Party. It was not desirable that political Parties should be too evenly divided, but that the Government in power, whichever Party it should represent, should come into power with such a majority as would enable it to be strong, and able to take a decisive line of policy of its own. For these reasons he objected most strongly to the scheme of his hon. Friend. He believed that the House would simply hold out delusive hopes if they allowed this Instruction to be carried, and permitted the subject to be discussed in Committee. He should, therefore, vote against it.


said, the speech of his hon. Friend opposite (Sir John Lubbock) had lent unexpected force to one of his own arguments—the waste principle argument. It showed how difficult it was to understand the scheme he proposed to lay before the House; and now one of the most energetic and practical statesmen upon the Treasury Bench, after devoting great attention to the question, was compelled to admit that he did not understand it. He had no desire to enter into the mathematical problem which the right hon. Gentleman had laid before the House; but the few words which he desired to say upon the subject which had been so unexpectedly pressed forward had rather reference to his own personal position in the matter. In some of the very voluminous literature which the Society for securing Proportional Representation had laid before the public, his name would probably have been noticed among the list of members. He was a member of the Society, and as he did not mean to vote with his hon. Friend opposite (Sir John Lubbock), if the Motion were pressed to a division, he felt bound to explain why it was that he took that course. The reason which induced him to take it was by no means the reason which appeared to influence the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that the scheme of representation which the House ought to adopt was one that did not accurately represent public opinion, but which gave an undue advantage to the majority of the day. It was natural that the Postmaster General should wish that the majority should be over-represented, as he was a Member of a majority which he expected would long continue in power, and he had spent the greater part of his life in connection with a majority in power; but, for himself, as he (Mr. Balfour) expected, for the greater part of his life, to belong to the minority, it was hardly to be expected that he would take the same view, and give his approval to a system of single-Member constituencies which would over-represent the majority. He believed that a system of proportional representation, in some such form as that which had been advocated that night, was the best form of representation, and possibly the one the country would be ultimately led to adopt. As a Scotchman, he felt keenly upon this subject. Nobody acquainted with Scotland, whatever his political opinions might be, would deny that the Conservative Party in that country was considerable, having regard to its numbers, intelligence, and wealth, yet it was, practically, unrepresented, except in regard to the University seats. He belonged to that minority in Scotland, and, as one of the unrepresented minority, he naturally felt that he should like to see some system adopted which would give to the Conservative Party their just weight in the House of Commons. It was perfectly superfluous to prove what his hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey), in his clear, earnest, and able speech, had spent so much time in proving—namely, that the single-Member system was an imperfect one. At the same time it was much more perfect than any other which had as yet been devised. It was probable that the House would never represent in its constitution the exact proportion which would obtain in the country between different sections of public opinion. His hon. Friend was perfectly fair when he said that the system of the single transferable vote was imperfect in some respects, though more perfect than the existing system, and that perfection was not to be expected in any system. But when they were trying to impose upon the country an entirely new system—a system, which the people did not understand, and which was alien to their habits and modes of thought, it was most essential that that system should be perfect. It would be found far more difficult to make a people accept a new system which had some imperfections, than to retain an old system which had more imperfections. That was the real difficulty which arose in regard to the scheme of his hon. Friend—namely, the imperfections which he left untouched, and which he admitted to exist in the scheme. But the real reason why he did not support his hon. Friend that night was this—that he believed his hon. Friend was engaged in a perfectly hopeless crusade. It was not so much the case that the question was dead, as that it had never been alive. It had received the support of some 200 or 300 people, of whom he was proud to be one, and perhaps of a few persons who might be regarded as theoretical politicians; but the question had never been brought home to the minds of the country at large. He had never been more clearly convinced of that than by certain observations he had had it in his power to make when he went down to Manchester in September last, after the general principles of the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill had been laid before the country. Manchester afforded a very crucial test. In the first place Manchester objected strongly to be cut into six divisions. The feeling in favour of Corporate Bodies had always been strong there, and central organized bodies had always been powerful; therefore, the feeling of both Parties, Conservative as well as Liberal, and even of those who were neither Conservative nor Liberal, was deeply to resent the single-Member system, by virtue of which it was proposed to cut up Manchester into six sections. Although the system of minority representation had for a long time been advocated in Manchester by the Press, and by the most intelligent and powerful politicians on both sides, and although the Press had always supported with great ability the views of his hon. Friend in regard to this question, yet, in spite of that, when he (Mr. Balfour) went down to Manchester, and had some opportunity of ganging popular feeling on the question, it was made perfectly clear to him that it was absolutely impossible to get the mass of the community to accept with the slightest degree of enthusiasm, or, indeed, to accept at all the scheme which his hon. Friend advocated with such great ability. Therefore, the conclusion he drew was, that the Proportional Representation Society had begun their agitation too late—they had begun it, at all events, too late for this Bill. They might stump the country from one end to the other, and visit every town in the Kingdom, testing imaginary elections with imaginary names; but they would not be able to get up, for many years to come, the slightest amount of enthusiasm in favour of the scheme. After all, the English people prided themselves on being a practical people. He did not know how far they deserved the compliment; but they thought they were practical, and their practicalness always took the form of sticking to any system to which they were accustomed and to which they had always been used, especially when it was an intelligible plan, and when, however imperfect it might be, it gave a general result which was acceptable to the community. "Well, the single-Member system would fulfil all these conditions, and it would be difficult to induce the people to give up that system for another system, the discussion of which required real mathematical knowledge. That being so, he could not vote for the Motion of his hon. Friend, because, if he did, and a sufficient number of hon. Members of the House were induced to do so, the whole of the present scheme of redistribution would be upset, and all the trouble they had gone through in the last six months they would have to go through over again. As a practical politician, he could not follow such a course. He did not believe that if the Bill were upset or dropped the scheme of his hon. Friend would be adopted; but he felt it was possible that a very much worse scheme might be adopted. Entertaining that view, he considered himself bound, as a practical politician, to abstain from supporting the scheme of his hon. Friend, to which he always had, and still would give a theoretical adherence.


said, that he was somewhat in the same position as the hon. Member who had just addressed the House. He had listened carefully to the speeches which had been delivered, and he was quite prepared to admit the excellence of the principle of proportional representation and also the simplicity of the scheme proposed, yet I he was unable to vote for the present proposal. He was hound to confess that he had been somewhat disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey), because he did not think the hon. Member had made the case quite as simple as it really was. Among other things, the hon. Member had referred to the case of Glasgow. He had pointed out that under the existing state of things no Conservative could obtain representation in that city. He had also pointed out that if the proposals contained in the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill were carried out, and the city were divided into seven wards, the result would be the same, and no Conservative would obtain representation in Glasgow. The hon. Member further showed that by the adoption of the scheme of proportional representation one or more Conservatives might obtain a seat as Representatives of Glasgow. Then, having made that statement he appealed to hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite him to support the Motion of the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock). But what support was he likely to obtain from his own side of the House? It was only natural that hon. Members on the Liberal Benches would refuse to support a proposal which would have that effect. The hon. Gentleman had made a mistake; because this was no question of Party whatever, and ought not to be treated upon that basis. But he (Viscount Lewisham) had risen, on the present occasion, because, being a member of the Proportional Representation Society, he wished to explain the reason that prevented him from supporting the Motion. In the first place, personally, he had a grievance against the Society. Having a little scheme of his own, which he believed to have many advantages over the proposed scheme, he had endeavoured to explain it to the Society in certain letters, but had never yet received an answer. That, however, was not the main reason why he did not propose to support the present Motion. Ho had another reason altogether. Not long ago, while travelling in a train with some hon. Friends of his, including the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Arnold Morley) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), they had tried two or three test elections, and as every single election came out in a different form it was perfectly clear that there would be a decided element of chance introduced if the present proposal were adopted. On one occasion three Liberals were returned; on two occasions two Liberals, the Conservative and the third Liberal running a dead heat for the last place; and on the other three occasions two Liberals and one Conservative were returned. It was perfectly plain, therefore, that the system now proposed would involve a very considerable element of chance, as in no two consecutive cases were the same results attained. He was, therefore, prepared to abide by the proposals contained in the redistribution scheme now before the House; and he could not support the Instruction which had been moved by the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock).


said, that the hon. Member behind him (Mr. Albert Grey) had referred to the views of Mr. Bagehot in reference to Parliamentary Reform, and had said that Mr. Bagehot objected to proportional representation simply on the ground that it was a reproduction of Mr. Hare's scheme. That was not quite correct, because in his essay on Parliamentary Reform, published in 1859, Mr. Bagehot said— If every minority had exactly as much weight in Parliament as it has in the nation, there might be a risk of indecision. Members are apt enough to deviate from the plain, decisive path from vanity, from a wish to be original, from a nervous conscientiousness. They are subject to special temptations which make their decisions less simple and consistent than the nation's. We need a counteracting influence, and it will be no subject for regret if that influence be tolerably strong. It is therefore no disadvantage, but the contrary, that diffused minority in the country is in general rather inadequately represented. A strong conviction in the ruling power will give it strength of volition. The House of Commons should think as the nation thinks, hut it should think so rather more strongly and with somewhat less of wavering.


said, the extract read by the hon. Gentleman referred to Mr. Hare's plan, and not to the plan advocated by the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock).


said, that it referred to the general principle of minority representation taken as a whole. The volume from which he had quoted had no special reference to Mr. Hare's plan, but only to the general principles of Parliamentary representation. The arguments against the principle of minority representation were forcibly urged by Mr. Bagehot; but he did not think the j hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey) had in any degree removed the difficulty. The whole question had been so fully discussed that he would not attempt to protract the discussion; but he did hold strongly that the objection of Mr. Bagehot was one which could not be got over. It was pointed out that the adoption of Mr. Hare's system, or of any other scheme of minority representation, would give minorities a power which would tend to produce a stagnant Parliament, an undecided Parliament, and one that did not know its own mind as well as it ought to do. He felt certain that the more hon. Members reflected upon the subject, the more they would come to the conclusion that that was a most serious objection. A great deal had been said about the unfairness of the present plan. Well, it was impossible to have a perfect representation of everybody's opinion. How was it possible that that could be done? They must keep as near as they could. Every individual could not be represented in every opinion he entertained. There were not three men in the House who agreed about everything. It was desirable to make the representation as perfect as it was possible to make it; but if they were to give to every conceivable crotchet the power of getting itself represented simply because it existed, they would run the danger of having a Parliament—he was going to say a Parlia- ment without a mind—but a Parliament having so many minds, that it would be unable to use any of them to any effect. He thought that was an objection which had never yet been disproved, and no thinker had ever discussed the question with more ability than Mr. Bagehot. For his own part, the more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that this proposal was a most dangerous one—one that would only lead to confusion, and not to real, genuine representation. No doubt, there were objections to the proposal contained in the Bill of single-Member constituencies; but he did not know of any plan which could be proposed that would not be open to objection. Single-Member constituencies would unquestionably be objectionable in various points of view—such as being somewhat rough and uncertain in their results. There could be no doubt about that; but it was impossible to make any system perfect, and whatever objection there might be to single-Member constituencies the system had more common sense about it than the plan which professed to give representation in that House to every fraction of the community made up of a certain number of people with different opinions combining together to vote. The hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey) had pointed out that it would be necessary for a certain proportion of the electors to combine in order to produce a certain result; but according to the plan proposed by the Government there might be a great variety of combinations even in the same borough. In a large borough there might be seven or eight bodies differing from each other in their opinions—for instance, they would not find the same class of people in Westminster as they would find in Whitechapel, and certainly the combinations would be very different in different parts of a great city or a great town. So they would get a variety of representation by the single-Member plan. His main objection was that the adoption of this principle of minority voting would make Parliament weaker than it ought to be made, and not so forcible or so strong in its opinions as the nation itself; whereas he thought that Parliament ought to reflect the views of the majority of the people even more decisively than they were at present represented.


said, that when first the Proportional Representation Society was started he had been extremely anxious to go into all the arguments and hear all that could be said in favour of the scheme; but he must say that the more he had seen of it the less he approved of it. He wished to point out three objections to the present proposal which he had not yet heard put. The first was that according to their system of Government—namely, Party and Cabinet Government, he did not see how it was possible they could expect to go on for any length of time except on a system somewhat similar to that which existed at present—by which the voting community became practically divided into something like two great parts—the one holding one set of principles which united certain men, and the other part in favour, on the whole, of a different set of principles; the one supporting the Government of the day, while the other supported the Opposition. He thought it was far better for the stability and the proper conduct of the affairs of the nation that this principle should continue to exist. He did not see how it was possible for the system advocated by his hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) to have free play under such a Parliamentary system as that which the country now enjoyed, and which he believed to be the best for the nation. Then, again, he wanted to know what was to be the relation of a Member to his constituents? Surely that was not an unimportant part of the question of their Parliamentary system? Take a county constituency as an example. In it the number of voters returning a Member to oppose vivisection would be spread all over the county; the same would hold in the case of the temperance, anti-vaccination, and similar movements; and the question was, therefore, how was a Member for any particular section to get into the same sort of relations with the great body of his constituents as he did at present? Surely that was not an unimportant part of their Parliamentary system? The third question he wished to ask was this—Is it not to be expected that the wire-pullers, practised in the business of manipulating elections, would be even more powerful under this system then they are now? Would it not be just as possible, or even more possible, to manage the votes so as to give an un- due proportion to particular men than could be done at present? He did not know what there was that would compel the voters to give the whole of their quota of votes, if they chose to concentrate their efforts upon the election of one or two men; and by that means an undue advantage would be given to a Party which might not happen to be in reality the strongest in the constituency. He hoped the House would hear stronger arguments than had yet been used in favour of this proposal; but he must say that the reasons which had been given, together with others, completely convinced him that the scheme propounded by the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) was far from being at present practical, especially when it was remembered that a very large proportion of the new constituencies to which they were about to appeal consisted of persons who scarcely knew what the giving of a vote was. Until, therefore, such persons were made acquainted by experience with the nature of the duty they had to perform, it was too bad to condemn them to an intricate system which it was impossible for them to understand.


remarked, that, as one of the Representatives of a minority which would suffer more by this legislation than any other body in the Kingdom, he wished to say a few words in support of the proposal which had been submitted to the House. He was anxious to cite a case in point. He represented a county constituency numbering 103,000 Roman Catholics and 87,000 Protestants. The 103,000 Roman Catholic electors would, as a rule, support the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell); while the 87,000 Protestants would, as a rule, be supporters of the Crown and the Constitution. It seemed to him that a population of 87,000, as opposed to 103,000, had a prospect of being swamped by the present measure; and therefore any proposal which offered a change for the better representation of such a minority was the one which they ought to support. He believed that by the division proposed in his own county there was scarcely a chance offered of any Representative of the loyal classes being returned. It was his opinion that if the proposal of the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir John Lub- bock) were adopted there would he a good chance of securing at least one-third of the representation of that county, although he contended that they were entitled to still more. That being so, he should certainly support the proposal of the hon. Member, and not that of Her Majesty's Government.


said his hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) had made a pathetic appeal to the Conservatives to support his proposal, assuring them that it would give them a much better chance of representation; but immediately afterwards, and almost in the same breath, he was quite as pathetic in pointing out that under his scheme a second Liberal candidate might find a seat by having a number of second votes handed over to him where the first votes were given to his more popular colleague. On the one hand, his hon. Friend wanted them to believe that his proposal would secure that the minority should not be improperly represented; while, on the other hand, ho pointed out that minorities would be over-represented. His hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey) said that he wished to prevent "faddhists" from having too large a share in the representation. But by this proposal "faddhists" were encouraged. It was not necessary for a voter to say that he would give them his first vote; but all he would have to do was to promise his second. These were reasons which induced him to object to the scheme; but he objected to it also upon other grounds. As it had been forcibly stated by the hon. Member who had just sat down, the wire-pullers at elections would have a greater chance of success under the scheme of his hon. Friend than they would have under single constituencies and a single vote scheme. Then again, and especially in the counties, he thought that a great deal would not only be left to chance, but a great deal also would be left to manipulation. He was quite certain from what he had seen of county elections under the ballot that if the Returning Officer chose to act improperly he might do a good deal to affect the result of an election. He had in his mind at that moment an election in which he was quite certain that the Returning Officer could have returned either of two candidates he chose out of the three who were proposed. All he would have to do would be to take the ballot boxes of a particular district in which he know a large proportion of voters belonging to a particular Party resided, and count them first, and he would then secure that all the second votes on those papers would be thrown away. Now, Returning Officers and Under Sheriffs were not unfrequently Party lawyers living in the county, who were perfectly well acquainted with the various districts in which the voters lived, and knew how they would vote for particular candidates. They would, therefore, know, as well as possible, which of the districts were being counted, and by this manipulation of the ballot-boxes they could affect the result. He admitted, although it was not often done, that any candidate could claim that all the boxes should be emptied and mixed before they began to count the votes. He was also of opinion that much more would be left to chance by the adoption of the proposal of his hon. Friend than by the creation of single-Member constituencies. He believed that these were good reasons for rejecting the Motion in favour of the scheme proposed by Her Majesty's Government, and which had these two advantages—in the first place, the area would be smaller, and every elector would feel that he enjoyed greater power; and, in the next place, a contested election would be much less expensive to the candidates. For these reasons ho, for one, felt called upon to oppose the proposal of his hon. Friend.


said, he was not quite able to follow the argument of the hon. Member who had just sat down, and, therefore, would not attempt to discuss it. Ho would only say that it was the duty of the Returning Officer to go through all the ballot-boxes, and they were invariably sent to him sealed up, the votes were afterwards carefully gone through, and it was not possible that any manipulation of the votes could take place. What he had risen for, however, was to explain why it was that he could not support the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock). Certainly, if the question had came before the House at a time when hon. Members were able fairly and properly to consider it, ho thought it was a proposition that deserved very careful attention at their hands Although he was not a member of the Proportional Representation Society, he had read many of the papers issued by that society. He had always regarded their scheme as a fair proposal, and one that deserved to be fully tested; but he thought it would have been better if his hon. Friend the Member for the University of London and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), instead of going about the country during the autumn, had come to the House and submitted their proposal at a time when it could be fairly discussed and considered. He believed that many hon. Members might in that case have been disposed to give it their support. But they had to consider now the position in which the House was placed in regard to the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill. A phrase had been used which very well described the position in which hon. Members stood. The authorship of the phrase had been somewhat unnecessarily repudiated, in "another place," by the Marquess of Salisbury, and he believed that his right hon. Friend below him (Sir Stafford Northcote) also repudiated it on behalf of the noble Marquess in that House. But, whoever was the author of it, the phrase "that they were debating redistribution with a rope round their necks" was, he thought, a very happy phrase indeed, for it certainly seemed to him that they were, on the present occasion, debating the great principles of the Bill with a rope round their necks. Now, what was the actual position in which they stood? On the 1st of January next, the great change which had been introduced into the franchise would become law by the Act which was passed last Session. That change had been carefully debated in the House of Commons, and received the general support of the Party opposite, yet, as regarded the Party who sat on that (the Conservative) side of the House, it was not met with a decided opposition. His noble Friend the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) moved a Resolution in favour of seeing the whole scheme of the Government before the House consented to pass a portion of it. A similar Motion had been proposed in a former Parliament, and it had received great support; but his noble Friend, last Session, only obtained the support of the Members of that great Party of which he was so distinguished an ornament. He (Mr. R. N. Fowler) had been one of his noble Friend's supporters, though, as an humble individual, he had not been prepared to go so far as the Government and many of his hon. Friends. But he found himself standing, perhaps, not altogether in a minority of one. [Mr. WAHTON: Hear, hear!] Certainly, his hon. and learned Friend who cheered him took the same course, and he thought there were a few others. Still, there was no doubt that a large proportion of the House, and particularly those who were most entitled to speak upon a question of this kind—namely, those who represented county constituencies—did not altogether oppose the proposals of Her Majesty's Government; and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) as a burgess, and he (Mr. R. N. Fowler) as a citizen, could not put in the same claim to be heard on a question which principally affected the county constituencies; and there was no doubt that the county Representatives did give a modified support to the Bill, and seemed to think that the change proposed, perhaps, was, on the whole, beneficial It was found, further, that in "another place" those with whom they were connected by Party ties went even further than the county Members did; and when some of the most influential Members of the Conservative Party expressly gave their consent to the Bill, there could be no longer a doubt that the time had come when there must be a great change in the representation of the country, and that the time had arrived when the question should be settled. It was under these circumstances that the present Session of Parliament assembled. The Bill of Her Majesty's Government had been brought forward last Session, and it had not been decidedly opposed, although there had been a few individuals like himself who had not given support to it, while in "another place" it was met with no opposition, but rather with assent. Therefore, when the House met in October last there was a general feeling that the time had come for the settlement of the question. The question then arose, whether the redistribution scheme which Her Majesty's Government were prepared to submit ought not to be laid before the House before the Franchise Bill was passed. ["Divide!"] The hon. and learned Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth) called out "Divide;" but he (Mr. R. N. Fowler) ventured to think that he was fully entitled to be heard, seeing that he had risen many times in the course of the debate upon the second reading, and had failed to catch the Speaker's eye until too late to discuss the subject. Not having had an opportunity of expressing his sentiments on that occasion, he certainly should not be deterred by the hon. and learned Member for Chelsea, who had his own personal reasons for interrupting him, from expressing them now. When Parliament re-assembled for the Autumn Session, it was quite evident that the question was quite ripe for decision. It was generally admitted on both sides of the House that the extension of the county franchise was virtually conceded, because the proposal had not been opposed except by a few antiquated Tories like himself. That being the case, they had to consider what would be a fair scheme of redistribution under the circumstances in which they were placed. The contention of the Conservative Party was, that they were not justified in introducing a great change in the county franchise until they had before them the whole scheme of Her Majesty's Government with regard to redistribution. On the other hand, the contention of the Party opposite had been during the preceding Session, and also during the Recess, that the House of Commons should give a blank cheque to Her Majesty's Government, binding the House to pass the Franchise Bill on the understanding that, when it came into operation, Her Majesty's Government would condescend to submit their redistribution scheme. By that means they would have handed over the whole power of altering the Constitution of the country to Her Majesty's Government. What was virtually said was this—"Pass the Franchise Bill, then humbly wait until Her Majesty's Government ask you to pass any Redistribution Bill which they may think proper to introduce." That was the suggestion of the Party opposite during last Session; it was the contention of the same hon. Gentlemen when they were engaged in perambulating the country during the Recess; and it was the object for which the Prime Minister went down to Mid Lothian. ["Question!"] Hon. Members cried "Question." Was he stating the Question unfairly? If so, he would be glad to hear the remarks of any hon. Gentleman upon that point. But ho apprehended that he was simply stating the history of the last seven months. If any hon. Member opposite disputed his facts he was prepared to listen to him. These were the circumstances under which Parliament assembled in the early part of the Session. The Franchise Bill was passed by a large majority in the House of Commons and sent to "another place," where it was read a second time. The question then arose, whether the Conservative Party in that Assembly should allow it to pass without knowing what the whole scheme of the Government was?


The hon. Member is travelling beyond the Question before the House, which is that it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power, in all cases where an elector is entitled to one vote only, to enable the elector to nominate more than one candidate to whom that vote might, under certain circumstances, be transferred.


said, he was aware that that was the question directly before the House, and he was about to come to that point. But the point ho wished to put before the House, in the first place, was that there was an arrangement entered into between the two political Parties, which arrangement the two Parties were bound to carry out, but which would be materially interfered with if the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) were adopted. That was the point which he was going to allude to presently, and he hoped ho was not out of Order in attempting to illustrate that point. The question he had to consider, as an individual Member of the House, was whether he could support the scheme of his hon. Friend opposite. He had said that under the circumstances to which he had been alluding, an arrangement had been entered into by the Leaders of the two great political Parties, and he had no doubt that in entering into that arrangement the Marquess of Salisbury and his right hon. Friend below him (Sir Stafford Northcote) did the best they could for the interests confided to their charge. As the Leaders of the Conservative Party, they had entered into the arrangement; and that being the case the question now arose whether he (Mr. E. N. Fowler), as a Member of the House, ought to give his vote against the spirit of the arrangement which had been entered into. It might be stated that no Member was bound to vote for every detail in the Bill. That was perfectly true; but, at the same time, if the Amendment now before the House were carried, there could be no question that it would upset the whole scheme contained in the Bill. If his hon. Friend carried his proposal, it would be found that the arrangement, on the faith of which the Franchise Bill was passed, would be upset, the whole scheme of Her Majesty's Government would be thrown into confusion, and the subject of Parliamentary Reform would be left in the condition in which it would have been if Her Majesty's Government had carried the plan they recommended last year. That being the case, he thought that every Member of the House ought to ask himself whether, under such circumstances, he was justified in supporting the Motion of his hon. Friend. Had that Motion been brought forward at a time when it could be fairly discussed, and if there had been no other considerations in the way, he might have been glad to give his support to it; but they must bear in mind that the scheme which had been agreed upon by every eminent statesman of both Parties was the scheme submitted by the Government. He (Mr. E. N. Fowler) believed that the question might have been dealt with in a better way. His hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) asserted that his plan was a much better one. That might be so. He was disposed to think it might have been the better scheme, but that was not the question now before the House. The question was whether his hon. Friend had any possible chance of carrying the proposal he had submitted to the House, seeing that, if carried, it would upset the whole arrangement entered into by Her Majesty's Government and the Leaders of the Conservative Party. Under these circumstances he and other hon. Members sitting on that side of the House had to ask themselves whether they would be justified in upsetting the scheme which had the support of their Leaders, and which met the views of most practical men. The proposal of the Government was that there should be single-Member constituencies, by which means a greater variety of representation would be introduced than that which now existed. He was disposed to believe that the Government scheme went as far as any practical scheme could go even in the direction of carrying out the views of his hon. Friend the Member for the University of London. He had to thank the House for its indulgence, and he would conclude, as he had begun, by repeating, that as the House were debating the matter with a rope round their necks, they had no course before them but to support the Bill in its present shape. He repeated that it would ill become hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House to upset the arrangement which had been made, with very great care, by the Leaders of the Party to which they belonged. Under the circumstances there was no other course open to him than to vote against the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London.


said, he looked upon the proposal of the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) as a powerful weapon that could be used against that most vicious of all contrivances, the dividing of Parties at elections. He had therefore worked with his hon. Friend a very great deal during last summer, and he did not now share the arguments which had been adduced against his proposal. But when the proposal came from Her Majesty's Government to deal in a moderate way with the question in the Bill he considered it was entitled to consideration. He had nothing to say in the abstract against the Motion, and felt that in the case of very large constituencies a proportional scheme would be a powerful one for the purpose referred to. The House had before them a counter scheme to that of his hon. Friend, put forward by Her Majesty's Government, and he thought that proposal deserved support; it was, in his opinion, one which deserved the support of the country, and around which both Parties should rally. Having had experience of single-handed constituencies and others, he believed there was a great advantage in having large constituencies, although, on the other hand, they were open to objections. For instance the candidate could not come to the same personal contact with the members of the constituency in the case of those of large size, which was possible in the case of constituencies of more moderate dimensions; and the labour of canvassing them was extremely hard. He believed that the proposal of Her Majesty's Government would have the effect of bringing the candidate into more close personal contact with their constituents, and of reducing expenses. On these grounds he asked the favour of hon. Members and the country to the proposal of Her Majesty's Government.


said, his hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler) had informed them that during the last autumn some negotiations had taken place between the contracting Parties—the Government and the Front Opposition Bench—with regard to this Bill, and on that ground had appealed to hon. Members not to support the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London. There were few Members of the Conservative Party who respected more than he the authority of their Leaders, yet he felt himself in no way bound by that agreement. He viewed this question from an Irish standpoint, and it was his intention to give his vote in favour of the Motion of the hon. Baronet. He believed that the system which ho proposed was an honest and a fair one, and that it would go far to give a fair and true representation of all classes and of all opinions; and although he was aware that there were some difficulties in the practical working out of the system he could not suppose that they were insurmountable. If hon. Members reflected for a moment they would see the effect of the Government proposal. Let them consider the case of Ireland, for instance; it showed in the most emphatic manner the injustice of the Government measure. There was in Ireland a loyal minority of fully one-third of the population; and yet as the Bill stood, if it became law, that loyal minority would not be able to return more than one-seventh of the representation. Notwithstanding the number of the Loyalists in Ireland, no estimate that he had seen of what their representation would be under the proposal of Her Majesty's Government gave them more than 15 or 16 Members. Could this be just; was it possible that the House of Commons with open eyes could commit such a wrong as he had pointed to as being the effect of the measure now before them? And yet from what they had heard he was afraid that it was useless to try to induce Her Majesty's Government to listen to reason on this subject. However, in the name of the Loyalists of Ireland he protested against a proposal which would, practically annihilate their influence in that House, and should record his vote in favour of the Motion of the hon. Baronet.


said, he should detain the House but a very short time in stating his view upon the present question. He wished to say that, as he was a member of the Proportional Representation Society, he did not intend to follow in the train of other Members who had joined the Society, but meant to vote against it. He was prepared to vote for the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the University of London; but he would advise him not to divide the House upon it now, because he thought his hon. Friend would see that his arguments might be reserved to influence the country at a future time with better effect. In his opinion, there was a great deal to be said in favour of a system of proportional representation beyond what had been advanced in the course of that night's debate. He considered that its adoption would have the effect of entirely preventing the influence of those Associations, Liberal as well as Conservative, who endeavoured so largely to influence the election of Members of Parliament, and leave no choice for the voter except to vote for one of two candidates presented to him, who, probably, did not represent his opinions at all. Having said so much, he would merely add that, from his point of view, he would rather advise his hon. Friend who brought forward the present Motion not t3 divide the House upon it. He did not think he would miss his chance by doing so, but would gain by having had his Motion put so fully before the House.


said, although he had listened to the various arguments ad- dressed to hon. Members by speakers who had taken part in the latter part of the debate, he thought it extremely unfortunate for the House that the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Lubbock) had made his speech in support of his present Motion during the dinner-hour, the consequence of which was that very few hon. Members heard the whole of that speech. Since that, however, they had listened to some able speeches delivered by Members of Her Majesty's Government in support of their scheme, and they had also had a very able speech from the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey). But most hon. Gentlemen on those Benches were very desirous of hearing the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) on the Motion, who was, no doubt, very anxious to address the House, and to dispose, in his speech, of a great number of the arguments which had been put forward by Her Majesty's Government. He did not think it would be fair, at that hour of the morning (12.30), for the hon. Member for Liskeard to make his speech, because, although hon. Members would most willingly remain in the House to hear him, it would not be possible to have a very full report of his statement, which, he had no doubt, would be looked for and read very carefully throughout the country. He would, therefore, propose that the debate should be adjourned—a course which he did not think the Government could consider unreasonable, because the question before the House was one in which the country was very largely interested; and it was probable that another opportunity of fully discussing it would not present itself during the subsequent progress of the Bill, if the Government obtained a majority, as, no doubt, they would, on the present occasion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Gorst.)


said, he was sorry that the Government could not agree to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member opposite. The reason given for the adjournment of the debate was that, although it had lasted a very long time, the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had not had an opportunity of addressing the House, and that many hon. Gentlemen had been absent during a large portion of the debate. The debate had already, extended over a period of four hours; and, under the circumstances, as they wished to make progress with, the Bill, ho trusted the hon. and learned Gentleman would not press his Motion for Adjournment. Of course, the hon. and learned Gentleman was perfectly right in wishing this question to be fully debated; but he would remind him that the hon. Baronet who introduced the Motion had already informed the House that he should raise the subject again on a future occasion.


remarked that the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had not had an opportunity of speaking.


said, he had heard, with much surprise, the reply made by the right hon. Baronet to the extremely reasonable proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham for the adjournment of the debate. And what were the reasons of the right hon. Baronet for not agreeing to the Motion? He said that the Question before the House had been debated for four hours, and that during that period it had appeared to him to be somewhat slack, the effect of his contention being that, therefore, this question, which had excited so much interest during the Recess, was to be determined in one evening. He had never heard a more audacious proposition. This Bill before the House was the most important measure that had been before the House for years; and how had it been dealt with hitherto? Why, there had been no debate upon it, practically; the House were told by Her Majesty's Government that they would have an ample opportunity of discussing it in all its aspects on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair; and now the right hon. Baronet said that this question was to be disposed of—absolutely disposed of—before the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had had an opportunity of stating his views upon it. He was bound to say that his own views upon this subject were in abeyance at the present moment. He was anxious to wait and hear the speech of the hon. Member for Liskeard, which, he had no doubt, would be as lucid and full of knowledge as were all his speeches on these questions, and which would enable him, perhaps, to come to a perfectly right conclusion on the subject. An hon. Gentleman had said just now that the view entertained by a great many people was that the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill must be considered as a foregone conclusion, because the Leaders on both sides of the House were agreed. He (Mr. Chaplin) protested altogether against that position. This was a matter which affected every Member of that House, and in that capacity ho had nothing whatever to do with any arrangement that might have been entered into between Parties. He said that the question should be threshed out, and in order that it might be threshed out, let the House have an opportunity of hearing the hon. Member for Liskeard to-morrow; for it was impossible that at that late hour it could be properly dealt with. He begged to support the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) for the adjournment of the debate.


said, that all Her Majesty's Government asked was that the Amendment should be disposed of by the House, after which they would certainly agree to the adjournment of the debate. Hon. Members to-morrow, or at any future time, would be able to raise any questions they desired to raise.


said, it should be remembered that the debate on the present Motion had come on quite unexpectedly. Her Majesty's Government appeared to think that those hon. Gentlemen who had spoken in the course of the debate represented the real amount of the interest taken in this question; but that was not a correct view of the position. He himself had come down to the House in a state of complete ignorance as to the debate coming on at all. He understood that his hon. Friend near him was absolutely burning to hear all the arguments on both sides of the question; and he believed that if Her Majesty's Government agreed to the Motion for the adjournment of the debate they would find that more hon. Gentlemen desired to speak upon it than they appeared to think. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board said that at one moment the debate was languishing, and that when the Postmaster General rose to address the House no other Gentleman rose to do so. But he believed that the right hon. Baronet was under a misapprehension on that point, because he (Mr. Balfour) had risen at the time referred to. Ho trusted that, without putting the House to the trouble of a division, the Government would accede to the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend for the adjournment of the debate.


Sir, I am very anxious to make progress with this Bill; but I am bound to say that it is my opinion, from what we have heard, that Her Majesty's Government will not gain anything by the course they are taking of resisting the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. Everyone, I think, must be struck with the fact that, with the exception of the hon. Baronet who brought forward the Motion, and one or two other Gentlemen, everyone has told us that, although in favour of the principle from the beginning or in the past, they saw no reason on the present occasion to vote in favour of the proposal. It is not unreasonable to ask how far the supporters of the proposal are prepared to carry that argument? Now, I think, if they have exhausted all the arguments in favour of the proposal, that we should go to the division. I should, in that case, desire to give reasons, not why I object to, but why I cannot approve, the proposal of the hon. Baronet opposite. But if we are to understand that the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) is anxious to address the House, I do not think we should be wise in stopping the debate on a question of so much importance.


said, he thought that his right hon. Friend had made, as the Minister in charge of the Bill, a very natural suggestion. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who had only just come down to the House, had said that he had not received sufficient instruction on the subject. A great number of Members, however, considered that the instruction imparted had been quite sufficient. He was bound to own that the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), whose interest in the progress of the Bill was well known, advanced a very strong argument in favour of adjournment; and in deference to the right hon. Gentleman's wish, and out of respect to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Court- ney), whose views on the question a large number of Members were anxious to hear, the Government would be only too happy to accede to the desire for an adjournment of the debate.


said, he was one of those who had had the advantage of hearing the debate which took place during the time the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) was absent; and he had been waiting in the House since 11 o'clock on the promise that they were to take a division on the question. He hoped the Government would not attempt to repeat the occurrences of that night. If they did they need not count upon him staying in this public-house till the time when all others were closed by the law—[laughter]—all the respectable public-houses—only to find that the debate was adjourned for the convenience of some particular hon. Gentleman. It would be within the recollection of the House that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) gave the House something like one evening's lecture upon this subject only a few weeks back, and that at the end of it those of them who had previously thought they understood the question were more fogged than ever. They had had quite enough debate upon this very complicated electoral plan—a plan which seemed to be deserted by its friends at every step it attempted to take. He sincerely hoped that the Government would take a division that night. He, for one, would not be persuaded to stay another night on the promise of a division.


repudiated the idea put forward by his hon. Friend (Mr. Broadhurst), that the cause of proportional representation had been deserted by its friends. As a matter of fact, several hon. Members interested in the question would have been present that night to speak had they had any idea that the subject would have been brought up. He considered the question of vital importance to the country, and hoped to have an opportunity of speaking upon it. He sincerely hoped the Government would adhere to their intention of agreeing to the adjournment of the debate.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.