§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.] [SECOND NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Motion [2nd March],
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) (re-committed) Bill, 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.)
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE
said, he was unable to be present last evening and hear the debate on the point under discussion; but he had read the reports, which were somewhat meagre, and he failed to see that any very valid arguments had been raised against the proposal of the hon. Baronet. He, however, had found in The Daily News a leading article which referred to the debate. There was one sentence in the article which he would like to read, as it appeared to him to describe the debate very correctly and succinctly—Many of the stereotyped objections to the single alternative vote really resolve themselves on examination into little more than thinly 1918 veiled accusations of ignorance and stupidity against the nation.That was an argument which could hardly be refuted. He was astonished that hon. Gentlemen should express a difficulty in understanding the proposal which was upheld by the advocates of proportional representation. It was not merely a question of argument, but a question of fact. They had held test elections at all the public meetings, and at no single one had there been the slightest difficulty in uneducated people understanding what they were required to do. What was more, they had uneducated people to count the votes, and they had no difficulty in coming to a satisfactory conclusion. One convincing proof of the feasibility of the proposal was the Northumberland test election. In that case the voters were all miners, and the counting of the votes was conducted by miners. The objection of the hon. Member for Huddersfield that the adoption of the proposal would destroy the secrecy of the ballot was a most extraordinary one, for it was not proposed that the electors using this means of recording their votes should sign their names. The secrecy of the ballot would be as inviolate under the proposed scheme as it was now. He could quite understand Her Majesty's Government being anxious to push the present measure forward, because it might be that they wished to carry the Bill and then gracefully to make their bow to the House. He, however, thought it would be better for the House and the country that they should thoroughly thrash out the proposal of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London. It was urged against their proposal that the country had not accepted it. The fact was, its advocates had not yet had time to put the question before the constituencies, so as to make them understand it. There were, however, many other questions, like those of Free Trade and the Ballot, which had taken quite as long to drive into the heads of the electorate. Then it was said that their scheme would lead to a great amount of cross voting—but there was no more reason for it under their proposal than that of the Government—and that it would induce some electors to give their votes to men on some such grounds as that they were good customers. A voter, however, who 1919 would act in that way could not be regarded as a person of any great stability of character, and could hardly be called a capable citizen. A great objection made was that too much scope was allowed to the element of chance. But at present the representation was very much left to chance. There might be a Liberal majority in the Throe Kingdoms, which, if equally distributed, would secure the whole representation. In that way, a minority, however large, would gain no representation in that House. Therefore, by the Government scheme the representation of the minority depended entirely on the chance disposition of the electorate. Yet they were told that the scheme of the Government would give a fair share of the representation to the minority. By increasing the size of the constituencies as they proposed, the element of chance would be very nearly eliminated. He believed that it would be far better now to waste a little time in thoroughly threshing out this very difficult question of representation and arriving at the best possible solution than to plunge into the proposal of the Government, which experience in foreign countries had shown to be eminently unsatisfactory in its working. He believed that in the short time they had had at their disposal they had strongly impressed the people with the necessity of something in the direction of proportional representation being adopted; and if it was impossible to get some kind of fair proportional representation in the passage of this Bill through the House, it would not be long before the country would have seen the absolute necessity of such a measure. The question would have to be re-opened, and, sooner or later, either the proposed system or one analogous to it would be carried to a triumphant issue.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he thought it was quite evident from the speech of the noble Lord that people had come to the conclusion that the proposals of the Proportional Representation Society were not such as could with advantage be adopted. No doubt in every large constituency there wore certain persons who would naturally sympathize with the scientific and philosophic notions of the noble Lord and his Friends; but he believed that for every one of these scientific and philosophical politicians 1920 there were at least 100 practical men who would have nothing to do with such a new-fangled proposal to obtain an expression of public opinion. Certainly the people at largo were not in favour of it. The truth was that there was an element of chance in the system which could not be overcome. The experiments which had been made had certainly not been satisfactory in this respect, and it was impossible that the public could accept a system which would give the possibility of large differences in the results arising from chance. If anything turned upon how the papers were sorted, or on the way in which they were shuffled, it would take a good deal of cutting and shuffling before the people would be satisfied, whoso candidate had boon rejected. Then, in a constituency like Liverpool, where they might have 30 or 40 candidates, the confusion of voting papers would be very great. He thought that so far from improving the House of Commons, the effect of that proposal would be to emasculate the political life of the country. At present men entered on a political contest with a clear issue before them, and those who might at one time be a minority were stimulated to endeavour to turn themselves into a majority; but the minority vote would destroy, to a great extent, that stimulus which tended to political growth. Of course, people who liked crotchets approved the proposal, because my means of it their mouthpieces might obtain seats in Parliament. Ever since Mr. Cobden, with great wisdom and prescience, recommended the scheme of single-Member constituencies, he had himself been anxious to see it adopted, and he hoped that the day was not very far distant when they would have entirely got rid of double-barrel constituencies; when constituencies throughout the country would be of the same size, and would each be represented by one Member, for that he believed to be the way to secure a true representation of the feeling of the nation.
§ MR. GREGORY,
while admitting that fair proportional representation was desirable, held that the real question was whether they could carry it further than was proposed by the present Bill. On the whole, he thought they could not. Under the plan advocated by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), it 1921 was intended that a candidate should be returned by one rote above a certain quota, any excess of votes given to him beyond that quota to be transferred to a second candidate. Now, under the ballot, they reserved the power of scrutiny; and if a scrutiny took place, and two of the candidate's votes were bad, he would lose his seat, notwithstanding that he might have had a majority of some thousands of votes. He agreed with the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) that the second vote would be, to a great extent, a matter of chance. The first vote would most likely be given upon principle, and in accordance with the political bias of the voter; but the second vote would very probably be given to anyone for whom the voter had a personal preference. He did not think, therefore, that it would, as a rule, give much indication of the strength of political opinions. Then the manipulation of the system appeared to be of so difficult a character that it was almost impossible that it could be substantially carried out in practice. They were told that it had been tried experimentally, and had proved successful; but he would remind the House that the experiments had been personally conducted by the hon. Baronet who had made the Motion, by the hon. Member for Liskeard, the hon. Member for South Northumberland, and other friends of the scheme—superintendence and assistance which could not be provided when the scheme was set to work practically in an election. It would require men of mathematical knowledge, and of practical skill, to work the system with any approach to a satisfactory result; and he thought, under the superintendence of our present Returning Officers, they would find that the scheme would entirely break down. If the proposal became law, he should feel inclined to bring up a clause to the effect that every Returning Officer should be a duly accredited mathematician. He believed that the plan of single-Member constituencies was the only way of obtaining a fair representation of the people; and he should, therefore, oppose the proposition before the House.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, there appeared to be an idea in the minds of some hon. Members that the Instruction only applied to single-Member constituencies; but on looking at the Instruc- 1922 tion it would be seen that it had been rather misread. Its terms were not "where only one person is elected," but "where an elector is entitled to one vote only." The constituency might have three, four, five, or more Members to return, but each voter was only entitled by the scheme before the House to one vote; and the Instruction was intended primarily to enable the voter, where there was a multiplicity of candidates, to indicate the order of his preference among them by writing the figure I against the name he preferred first, 2 against the name he preferred next, and so on. In fact, the Instruction was meant to enable the clauses for carrying out the system to be considered in Committee. He should not, however, be dealing frankly with the House if he did not point out that, although the Instruction was intended by its framers to apply to constituencies electing a number of Members, it also extended to constituencies returning one Member only, because there the elector was entitled only to one vote. He would now indicate what would be the use of that machinery in the case where only one Member would be returned. In that case the adoption of that machinery would be the means of effecting in the simplest, easiest, and least expensive manner, whether of time or of money, the objects aimed at by those who desired a second ballot. A second ballot was a matter that was already pressed out-of-doors, and one of which much more would be heard. The objects of a second ballot could be achieved by their machinery without the objection that was so strongly made to a second ballot. It was said by the leading journal that the worry, the delay, the anxiety, and the expense of a second ballot constituted almost a fatal objection to its adoption. He admitted the great weight of those objections; they were so strong that he should be reluctant himself to adopt a second vote. He desired to avoid it if possible. Under the machinery now suggested the result would be achieved without the necessity for a second election. Taking it that there was only one Member to be elected, there might be four or five candidates for that one seat—say one candidate belonging to the one side that was best organized, and two, three, or four on the other side. If on the voting paper the elector was able to 1923 indicate the order of his preference by writing 1, 2, and 3 among the candidates belonging to his side, as he preferred them, then, if on the first election no one obtained an absolute majority of the votes—the condition on which the second ballot depended—they would be entitled to take the votes given to the candidate who polled the lowest number and distribute them among those marked second on his papers, thus reducing the number of candidates by one. If necessary, that process would be repeated until they obtained a candidate who was left with an absolute majority of the votes. He pointed out that by this method, without the anger arising from prolonged contest, without the anxiety and worry of a week's delay, and without the trouble of bringing the electors up a second time, they gained by this most simple machinery the result of a second ballot, and altogether avoided what he believed to be the practical objection on the Treasury Bench to the institution of the second ballot. He had shown that the Instruction on the Paper would cover the adoption of that machinery; but the Instruction was not intended, primarily at least, for that purpose. It was intended for the purpose of enabling voters to record their successive preferences when three or more candidates were to be elected; and their object was to secure that the divisions of the electorate should be represented when three or more candidates were to be elected. For that purpose they provided machinery, and power was given in that machinery which would give effect to the wishes of the different divisions of the constituency. This Instruction was simply to enable the House to discuss the propositions in Committee in further detail; it did not compel its adoption; and if a vote was passed in favour of the Instruction, it committed the House to nothing as to what the Committee should do. Objection had been taken the previous evening by a right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench as to the practicability of the measure. The advocates of the scheme had addressed many audiences throughout the country, who had come to the meetings without any previous knowledge of the subject. Crowded, and to some extent excited, meetings had been addressed in Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, and elsewhere. Test ballots had 1924 been held at all of those places under the proposed machinery; papers had been distributed and collected in those crowded meetings; votes had been given and the election held; and, so far as the electors were concerned, their part had always been discharged with perfect smoothness and regularity. In one or two cases there had not been a single spoilt paper, and the proportion of spoilt papers had always been extremely small. It had also to be remembered that the persons taking part in those test ballots had had no preparation whatever before undertaking the task. Look, again, at the experience gained by his hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey). Several test elections were held by the working miners of Northumberland. They had been conducted by themselves, held under their own organizations, and held, so far as the voting was concerned, with perfect success. His hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) said that the Returning Officer would have a very elaborate and painful task to discharge. At the test elections which were held bankers' clerks, lawyers, accountants, and others of this class assisted; and they had all proved themselves not merely competent for the counting and the sorting of the papers, but had proved themselves to be intelligent masters of the machinery. At no place which they had visited in the course of these test ballots had they experienced any difficulty whatever in finding a Returning Officer ready and able to discharge the business. Here, again, they were entitled to appeal to their experience, and to show that the practicable character of the scheme had been proved. It was idle to talk á priori of the incapacity of the capable citizens they had enfranchised. The advocates of this proposal could point to experience; they could point to facts. They could show that working men, factory hands, miners, and others belonging to the lower classes of society had been addressed on the subject; and they had all shown a capacity for doing that which, it was said, the electors would not be able to do. So much for the practicability of the scheme. Then, again, they had insisted over and over again that under this system, and under this system alone, they would secure a representation of the different minorities which deserved representation. The 1925 President of the Local Government Board on the previous evening said that he thought single-Member seats would secure the representation of minorities, and the same thing had been said that evening by the hon. Member for East Sussex. Thoughts and hopes were, no doubt, valuable things; but here, again, they could confront thoughts and hopes with facts. They might, in the first place, ask whether Parliament had indeed secured the representation of minorities in past experience? He was not now speaking of securing the representation of the Liberal Party as against the Conservative Party; this was a most valuable object to be aimed at, but it was not all. He appealed to facts; and he asked any right hon. Gentleman whether the facts and the experience of the last 16 years had shown that under what was practically single-Member seats—that was to say, under majority representation—they had obtained a sufficient certainty of securing the representation of minorities. Take the working men as an example. Working men as householders had been enfranchised since 1867. They had commanded a very large proportion indeed of the votes in the Metropolitan boroughs, and in the large manufacturing and commercial towns of the Kingdom; and yet it was a remarkable fact that throughout this time no working man had ever been elected to the House by the working-men electors in any of those boroughs. Lambeth, the Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Southwark, Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham were full of working men; and in not one of tbos8 places had the working men been able to obtain a seat in the House. Did that give any assurance of the representation of minorities? It might be said that it was a thing not to be desired; that was a different question; but at all events he showed the House that a very numerous minority of the Kingdom which had enjoyed the franchise all those years had not obtained a seat from the constituencies referred to; and they had very little promise of obtaining from similar seats in the future the representation of working men. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. E. A. Leatham) said that the truth was that the working men had a generous confidence in their employers. That was what Members said for themselves; but as far as he had discovered the working 1926 men were keen to obtain a representation by their own men. They had tried it again and again, and it was not from a want of desire, or from a surfeit of generous confidence in their employers, that they had not been able to obtain that representation. There was another class to which he wished to refer. Since 1832 the large tenant farmers of the Kingdom had had votes and a considerable share in the county electorate. How many tenant farmers had got into the House? There were something like 200 County Members, and out of this number there had not been an average of one tenant farmer in the House. It might be said that they did not wish election. [General Sir GEORGE BALFOUR: Hear, hear!] The hon. and gallant Member for Kincardineshire said "Hear, hear." The hon. and gallant Member was one of the foremost members of the Farmers' Alliance, one of whose objects was to secure a larger representation of tenant farmers in the House of Commons. The tenant farmers who desired representation, and whose representation would be valuable not only for themselves but for the House, had failed to secure representation in the past, and there was no warrant to show that they would secure in the future a representation commensurate with their numbers. Next, as to the labourers—great things were expected from the emancipation of the agricultural labourers; the world was going to be turned upside down by the agricultural labourers. The agricultural labourer, however, had had a vote since 1867. ["No, no!"] He asked his hon. Friend (Mr. Jesse Collings) to allow him to finish his sentence. The agricultural labourer had had a vote since 1867 in some eight or ten constituencies which were dominated by agricultural labourers. East Retford, Cricklade, Shoreham, and other places were patterns of county constituencies of the future. The agricultural labourer had had his vote in those places; but he had not been able to get a single Representative into the House. He also regarded with alarm the prospect that under the proposed system political economists would, as had been foretold, be driven from the House. [Mr. JESSE COLLINGS: Hear, hear!] It was because he had so great an apprehension of his hon. Friend and his Friends that he deprecated the exile of political 1927 economists. He was inclined to think they were going to have rather a bad time in respect of some questions which they had thought were settled some 50 years ago, and that they might have to fight over again the question of the Poor Law and the question of Free Trade, and the banishment of the political economist would, he thought, be a serious thing for the nation. Another important aspect of the question was one which had already been alluded to—namely, that the system proposed by the Government would fail to give adequate representation to the Conservatives of Scotland and of Wales, and also to the Liberals of the Southern parts of England. But, worse still, the one-Member one-seat system would leave the House with scarcely any, and perhaps with no Representatives of the loyal Liberals of Ireland. There would still be some Representatives of the loyal Conservatives of Ireland; but the loyal Liberals would be practically disfranchised. Roughly speaking, it might be said that two-thirds of the population of Ireland were Nationalists—persons desirous of a separation of the Legislatures of England and Ireland; the remaining one-third were in favour of maintaining the Union. Elections in Munster and Connaught had recently shown the existence of a large proportion of Liberal electors who were desirous of maintaining the Union with Great Britain. These voters would not be disfranchised, and notwithstanding the extension of the franchise would still remain a good proportion of the electors. This had been shown in the contest at the General Election for the representation of the County Roscommon, when the O'Conor Don was defeated, and also in Sligo, when an election a year or two later took place upon the death of Mr. Denis O'Conor. It was also a well-known fact that there was a large body of Loyalists even in Tipperary and Cork. But under the one-Member system there would in future not be a single Representative of the Loyalists in Munster and Connaught. The whole hope of the Loyalists was derived from Ulster and Leinster; and in regard to Leinster it was very faint, while in Ulster there would be a considerable diminution of the Loyalist Representatives. They were thus face to face with a most serious condition of things. They were face to 1928 face with the fact that they were about to compass the extinction of the representation of a large Liberal class in Ireland. That appeared to him to be a matter of the very gravest anxiety. He confessed that if this one-Member system was adopted he did not know how they would bear the strain in the next Parliament. The passing of this Bill would be a serious trial, if it were not, indeed, the death-knell, of the Union. When 80 or 90 Irish Members were returned, pledged to extreme Nationalist views, the result, not alone on Parliament, but on English opinion, would be pregnant with most tremendous issues. It would be impossible to keep Englishmen alive to the fact that there was a large mass of loyal opinion in Ireland unrepresented. The votes in Parliament of the 85 Members would alone be borne in mind, and this must have a most injurious effect on the maintenance of the Union. It would also have a considerable effect in Ireland, for Irish Liberals, deprived of their representation in Parliament and on Local Boards, would be compelled to throw their fortunes in with the Nationalists, and would cease to desire that Union which had failed to secure them any sort of influence over the destinies of their country. Under a National system of government in Ireland they might still hope for some influence, and he believed they would get it. Under this one-Member system, which was said to secure the adequate and satisfactory representation of minorities, they would extinguish the representation in that House of the great loyal minority in Ireland, and put in eminent jeopardy the maintenance of the Union, which they were all pledged to support. Though it might secure the fair representation of the Conservative Party by over-representation in one place and under-representation in another, the system would certainly fail to secure the fair representation in the House of the different classes whose presence, by their Representatives, was necessary to the making of good laws and the integrity of the Empire. The Postmaster General, in his speech last night, repeated his argument as to the figures of the General Election, and showed extreme ingenuity I and tact in keeping the real issue clouded in words and figures which quite concealed it. There was no doubt whatever of this fact—that at the Election of 1929 1874, when the Conservatives had a majority of Members, they had a minority of the votes actually given, and the discussion on this point was as to what should be considered as the number of votes in the constituencies which were not contested. His hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) took the number of votes as the same as at the previous Election in 1868; and that showed that the Liberal electors, though in a majority, did not secure a minority of seats. The Postmaster General, however, instead of this method of estimation, set up an arbitrary estimation of his own, which threw the balance the other way. Supposing that they took the county constituencies that were contested in 1868 and in 1874, and calculated how much the Liberal votes had retrograded, and if they applied that standard of retrogression to the uncontested seats, which surely was a fair method of calculation, they would find that in 1874 the minority of electors secured the majority of Members. On a previous occasion he had referred to the results of elections in the United States, where the franchise was the same from beginning to end, and where the constituencies were equalized every 10 years, and where, nevertheless, a majority of Members were sometimes returned by a minority of electors. No Member of the Government had met that statement, or attempted to get over it. Why did not right hon. Gentlemen face the facts of the American case? Why did they run off on hypothetical cases when they had ugly facts to meet? It was because they were ugly. We, too, should realize again and again in the near future that a minority of electors would secure a majority of Members. Why should we run that risk when we were offered a means of escape? A good deal was said against chance; but why should we run this real chance? The chance incurred depended upon the distribution of voters and their inclusion or exclusion by this or that line; and upon such a chance it rested whether the elected corresponded with the electors. Those who were so apprehensive about chance in the shuffling of the voting papers were indifferent to a chance which exposed the real objects of Parliamentary institutions to peril. The case of Switzerland had been mentioned repeatedly, 1930 and no answer had been given to it. The Federal Council passed a law, and the electors disapproved of it. If that happened here with the Permissive Bill, should we say the House represented the people? It was said this system took no account of abstentions from voting; but it would diminish them, because it would bring to the poll those who had hitherto declined to vote for candidates in whom they felt no interest, as he himself had done sometimes. With a greater choice of candidates, and of better candidates, we should remedy a state of things which had prevailed in some places in which 60 per cent of the electors did not vote, and of those who did nearly 50 per cent were unrepresented. Candidates were now selected with the object of keeping the Party together. They were not to offend any prejudices; they were not to have strong opinions; and often they were not strong in any way, and so could accommodate themselves to all the varying demands made upon them. But candidates and electors would be emancipated under the proposed system; electors would enter into political life, and they would come to the poll. The effects would be salutary upon both electors and Members. The Members would not need to trim so for the sake of keeping the Party together. A more vigorous political life would be developed among the whole body of electors by the fact that fewer ignored their political rights and duties. Single-Member constituencies gave no such promise of improvement. There were some who said, that all this was assumption, and that men who were born slaves would remain slaves; but surely it would not be denied that machinery did affect our political life. The Postmaster General had spoken on the element of chance, and had mentioned an experiment on a small scale which gave varying results. But when the Postmaster General assumed that the operation of chance would be the same with 70,000 as with 70 voting papers, he forgot his experience as a Director of an Insurance Company, which would regard the risks as the same in dealing with 70 or 70,000 lives. And an underwriter would not restrict his risks to 70 vessels. The greater the numbers the less the risk of the operation of chance, and, so infinitesimal was it, that it could not have falsified an 1931 election if the proposed scheme had been in use since the days of pre-historic man. The Attorney General had said that a dealer might have 13 trump cards in his hand; but, according to eminent mathematicians, the chance against that was l50,000,000,000 to one. This element of chance could most easily be got rid of, so that not a shadow of it should remain. Let them suppose that 8,000 votes had been given to the Prime Minister, who, by the way, always received an enormous proportion of the votes in these test elections—and that he only wanted 5,000. Then 3,000 of these votes would have to be transferred. Let those 3,000 be distributed among the other candidates in exactly the same proportions as their names were marked 2 on all the 8,000 papers where the Prime Minister was first. If, for example, B was marked 2 on 4,000 out of the 8,000, let him have 1,500 out of the surplus 3,000; and so on. What was the difficulty in thus transferring the surplus votes and distributing them in the exact proportion in which the second choice was expressed? Thus, the question of chance entirely disappeared, and the plan might be made comparatively simple and easy. If this method were adopted, it might, indeed, take a little longer time, but it would be perfectly easy to carry out. This terror about chance was a mere terror of superstitious ignorance. What was the objection to the system, if a machinery could be devised so simple, that it could readily remove this tremendous bugbear? It had been shown that proportional representation insured the representation of minorities and majorities in the proportion in which they stood to each other. It had also been shown that the objection to its impracticability was baseless, because the system had been tried, and that the element of chance might be entirely eliminated. There only remained one objection, which was that it would prevent a strong Government. It was said that you must have a Government with a large majority at its back. He could suggest an easy way of getting over that difficulty. If it was so necessary that the Government should always have a strong backing in the House, however feeble might be its majority in the country, let the Government always begin its divisions with 50 up. [A laugh.] Hon. Members laughed at the sugges- 1932 tion. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) laughed. But it was really of the essence of the argument advanced in favour of what was called strong Governments. It was admitted that the balance of opinion was not really represented in the House. Why not then have a nominal 50, instead of 50 actual human beings? Suppose that the Government were defeated by 36 Members present, in that case the result would be a majority of 14. But that opinion about a strong Government was falsified by experience. We did not always get a strong Government when they had a strong majority. Prom 1874 to 1880, for example, the Government had a strong majority; but they were not a strong Government, and could not carry out the policy they wanted. That confirmed his statement that a Government was not strong by a virtue of its strong majority. If we wanted a strong Government, we must have strong people and strong men in the House of Commons, men capable of forming strong re-combinations, independent of the two great Parties, on the different questions of the day, and who by their action would maintain a Liberal or a Conservative Government in power, according to the general balance of political opinion. Elections must not depend on the settlement of compromise in the constituencies, resulting in the sending of weak Members to the House of Commons. What they relied upon was the preservation of a right representation of all the political elements in the country. That was absolutely necessary for the maintenance of a healthy political life. With respect to Ireland, he would remind the right hon. Member for North Devon that he shared the responsibility of settling the representation of that country with the Government. If the representation of minorities in Ireland were not secured, and the Union was in consequence put in jeopardy, the blame would rest on the right hon. Gentleman as heavily as on the Government itself.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, it was impossible for him to refrain from speaking on this occasion, especially after the concluding words of the hon. Member for Liskeard, (Mr. Courtney). It was right that someone on the Conservative Benches should at once accept the challenge thrown out by the hon. Gentleman, that the Leaders 1933 of the Conservative Party would have to take their share of the responsibility of the destruction of the representation of the Irish Protestant Party. However much the Ulster Members had reason to complain of the conduct of the Leaders of the two Parties in reference to this Bill, they could not dispute that there would have been pretty much the same result if, under the new franchise, the country had been divided into two-Member constituencies. The real injury was the lowering of the franchise. It had struck him that the great weakness of the action of the advocates of proportional representation was, that they had brought forward their plan at the wrong time. To have been consistent, and to have had the smallest chance of obtaining a fair and legitimate consideration to the proposal, they were bound to bring it forward on the Franchise Bill. This was not a Party question, and one could not shut his eyes to the fact that Liberals supported this plan, because they were afraid of what they had done in so largely extending the franchise, and the Conservatives took refuge in the proposal as the only amelioration of the supremacy of mere numbers. It appeared to him that the House and the country had, like ostriches, put their heads into the sand, and had refused to consider what was likely to be the result to the Sister Country of the passing of the Franchise and Redistribution Bills. The hon. Member had just said the result would be the demolition of all the power of the House to resist the advocates of the repeal of the Union. It was generally suggested that the Loyalists of Ireland would retain only 15 or 16 out of the 103 seats. Assuming that suggestion to be made good, what would be the result? From one end of the Session to the other, Parliament would be told by the 87 Members,—"All your work as regards Ireland is merely idle business." They would delight in calling Ireland a foreign country, and they would appear in the House riot for the purpose of taking a useful part in legislation, but for the purpose of accomplishing their one object—namely, the repeal of the Union. And, having regard to the speeches made by the Prime Minister and his Colleagues, they would ask what justification there was to resist the demand of 85 out of 100 Members from Ireland. This was a question purely between 1934 those who were loyal and those who were disloyal. Since the House had been sitting they had had a specimen of what had been going on, when the hon. Member for Westmeath went to Ireland to a meeting of the National League, and described the relations between England and Ireland, stating that the people of Ireland were most hostile to the Power which they desired to overthrow. The hon. Member was so severe as to suggest that the only refuge for the Liberal Protestants in Ireland would be to join the Nationalists after this Bill came into force. He did not think so badly of the Liberal Protestants. He did not believe that they would take refuge among the Nationalists. He felt that they would rather join their fellow-Protestants and fellow-Loyalists; and he protested most emphatically against the suggestion that the Liberal Protestants of Ireland, when they were effaced—and unquestionably they would be effaced—by this Bill, would throw in their lot with those who were the enemies of the Queen and the Constitution.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, that that was severer still. The hon. Member recognized that there were Loyalists amongst the Catholic population of Ireland now, but held that these Loyalists would join the Nationalists out of spleen or spite, because they were so obnoxious to the Conservative portion of the Protestants of Ireland that they would not join them. He repudiated that altogether. As a matter of practical legislation, this question never came before the House until a thoroughly democratic franchise was imminent, a proposal which was brought forward by the Liberals, first to get them back into power, and next to maintain them in power when they had got back. He had been driven to consider if this proposal offered any practical salvation from that to which one so much objected—namely, a purely democratic franchise, giving the power over to mere numbers. He admitted there were objections to this plan, and that there were difficulties connected with it; but, on the other hand, he believed this plan was slandered by its opponents. He was convinced that it was by no means impossible even for an ignorant person to take part in these 1935 elections so as to produce a definite, clear, and intended result. In the discussion of voting by ballot, in the case of illiterates, it was said it would be impossible to get them to understand it; but they now found by experience that the difficulty had been very slight indeed, and the truth was, that in many cases the difficulty arose, not with uneducated, but with well-educated people. As to the carrying of it out, he did not think that this plan presented greater difficulties than were presented at school board voting, or ordinary voting by ballot. He was surprised to find that the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) raised the objection that the Returning Officers of the country would not be able to perform the duty imposed upon them. He thought that objection was even more ill-founded than that raised with regard to the voting. He also made the statement that second votes would not be recorded by the persons who had to fill up the papers, but would be thrown away. That also was a most extraordinary objection. His principal object in rising was to say that, if there was any portion of the United Kingdom in which such a measure as this would be useful, it was that part of the Kingdom with which by representation he was connected. In Ireland he could name such counties as Donegal, Fermanagh, Antrim, Down, and many others, where, under the Bill, many portions of the constituencies—certainly in Donegal—the Protestant population entirely would be wiped out by the extension of the franchise, notwithstanding the division of the constituency into single-Member divisions. He concluded by expressing his thorough conviction that, so far as it was possible, under the present system of voting, to represent the minority, the single-Member constituency was the best and purest. It was because he thought that this proposed system of proportional representation was an effort towards real and genuine representation that he should give it his support. There might be many difficulties in carrying it out, which might render it obnoxious in many respects, and ultimately bring it into discredit. It would be a vast advantage in Ireland, at all events, if it were possible by this system to secure an adequate representation of those who would otherwise be practically effaced.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he wished, before the House went to a division, to state, in a very few words, his view of this matter. He objected to the views of the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock), and to the proportional representation system, not upon the ground of difficulty in understanding or working the scheme, because that difficulty might easily be solved by the ingenuity of those who had to administer the system, but upon the ground that it would destroy all the variety which it was said ought to be maintained in our representation. The necessary consequence of the adoption of such a measure would be first to overthrow the single-Member divisions, and, in the next place, to carry out to a much greater extent the principle of equal electoral districts; because if the theory was that everybody had a natural right to be represented in the precise proportion of his individuality to that of the population, it would seem to follow that everybody had a right to be equally represented, and there must be a recasting of the present system, which would bring about equal electoral districts. They were entering upon an important experiment in the great enlargement of the constituencies. His hon. Friend who had just sat down said truly that those who were advocating this measure were endeavouring to shield themselves from the consequences of the enlargement of the franchise. Everybody must feel some anxiety as to the working of a greatly extended franchise; but he did not believe that the way to meet the difficulty was by artificial contrivances, but rather by bringing the Member and elector as closely together as possible, and by making the question of the election depend upon the elector's knowledge of the man, and not upon his subservience to a system. What he was afraid of in these elaborate pieces of machinery was that clever electioneering agents would set to work and see if they could use them for the benefit of their Parties; and then they would have not a man who would do all he could to impress his ideas upon the electors, but a number of persons put forward on a ticket. He was afraid that the proposal, however well-intentioned and ingenious it might be, would land them in that system to which he had the greatest aversion—the system of scrutin de liste. The real way to get 1937 safely through, the dangers which some thought they were threatened with was not by endeavouring to evade difficulties, but by fighting them boldly. It was upon these grounds, and not upon any mere technical question, or question of detail as to the working of the system, that he found himself obliged to vote against it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 31; Noes 134: Majority 103.1938
|Allman, R. L.||Hay, rt. hon. Admiral Sir J. C. D.|
|Archdale, W. H.|
|Beresford, G. De la P.||Hicks, E.|
|Blennerhassett, R. P.||Lea, T.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J.F.||Lewis, C. E.|
|Lindsay, Sir R. L.|
|Cartwright, W. C.||Macartney, J. W. E.|
|Cohen, A.||Pennington, P.|
|Corry, J. P.||Rankin, J.|
|Courtauld, G.||Rathbone, W.|
|Courtney, L. H.||Read, C. S.|
|Cowen, J.||Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.|
|Crichton, Viscount||Thomasson, J. P.|
|Cropper, J.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Ewing, A. O.||Folkestone, Viscount|
|Grant D.||Lubbock, Sir J.|
|Grey, A. H. G.|
|Ainsworth, D.||Davenport, H. T.|
|Armitstead, G.||Davey, H.|
|Asher, A.||Davies, R.|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Dawson, C.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. J. B.||Deasy, J.|
|Barran, J.||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Bass, Sir A.||Dickson, T. A.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Dilke, rt. hn. Sir C.W.|
|Biddell, W.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Duckham, T.|
|Borlase, W. C.||Duff, B. W.|
|Brand, hon. H. B.||Earp, T.|
|Briggs, W. E.||Ecroyd, W. P.|
|Bright, rt. hon. J.||Evans, T. W.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Fairbairn, Sir A.|
|Brogden, A.||Ferguson, R.|
|Brown, A. H.||Ferguson, R. C. Munro-|
|Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C.||Fitzmaurice, Lord E.|
|Bruce, hon. R. P.||Forster, Sir C.|
|Caine, W. S.||Fowler, H. H.|
|Callan P.||Fowler, W.|
|Campbell, R. F. F.||Fry, L.|
|Campbell Bannerman, rt. hon. H.||Giles, A.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.|
|Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.||Gladstone, H. J.|
|Clark, S.||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Clarke, J. C.||Gourley, E. T.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Grant, A.|
|Collings, J.||Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V.|
|Colman, J. J.|
|Corbett, J.||Hayter, Sir. A. D.|
|Cotes, C. C.||Healy, T. M.|
|Cross, J. K.||Henderson, F.|
|Heneage, E.||Peddie, J. D.|
|Hibbert, J.T.||Picton, J. A.|
|Holden, I.||Powell, W. R. H.|
|Holms, J.||Power, P. J.|
|Hopwood, C. H.||Power, R.|
|Howard, J.||Ramsay, J.|
|Illingworth, A.||Roe, T.|
|Ince, H. B.||Rogers, J. E. T.|
|Inderwick, F. A.||Russell, G. W. E.|
|James, Sir H.||Scott, M. D.|
|James, C.||Small, J. F.|
|Jenkins, D. J.||Smith, E.|
|Jones-Parry, L.||Smith, S.|
|Kenny, M. J.||Stanhope, hon. E.|
|Kinnear, J.||Sullivan, T. D.|
|Lalor, R.||Summers, W.|
|Leatham, E. A.||Sutherland, T.|
|Lee, H.||Thompson, T. C.|
|Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S.||Thornhill, T.|
|Lloyd, M.||Tillett, J. H.|
|Lyons, R. D.||Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury.|
|Macfarlane, D. H.|
|M'Arthur, A.||Trevelyan, rt. hn. G.O.|
|M'Carthy, J.||Vivian, A. P.|
|M'Carthy, J. H.||Waddy, S. D.|
|M'Mahon, E.||Walker, S.|
|Magniac, C.||Warton, C. N.|
|Manners, rt. hon. Lord J. J. R.||Waugh, E.|
|Meagher, W.||Willis, W.|
|Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.||Winn, R.|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Wolff, Sir H. D.|
|Mundella, rt. hn. A. J.||Woolf, S.|
|Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.||TELLERS.|
|Grosvenor, right hon. Lord R.|
|Onslow, D. R.||Kensington, rt. hn. Lord|
|O'Sullivan, W. H.|
§ MR. KENNY
rose to move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to include within the boundaries of the county of the city of Limerick, as at present existing, such additional areas as may be necessary to increase the population of the Parliamentary borough to the limit necessary to entitle it to retain its present representation.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the hon. Member would be out of Order in moving the Instruction, as the Committee had power to do what the Instruction proposed.
§ MR. HEALY,
in moving—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert an Amendment that medical relief shall not disqualify any voter under £12 valuation,said, that in Ireland they were quite in the dark as to what the effect of medical relief would be. By the 13 & 14 Vict., passed in 1850, any person in receipt of pauper relief was disqualified 1939 from, the exercise of the franchise. It had been held in a Sligo case, under the Municipal Law—3 & 4 Vict.—on appeal, that medical relief was not pauper relief, and that, therefore, it did not disqualify a person from exorcising the municipal franchise. Under the Municipal Corporations Act persons in receipt of relief were disqualified from voting; but objection was taken to it in the appeal "Phipps v. O'Brien," in which it was decided that medical relief was not pauper relief, on the ground that the Medical Charities Act passed some time after the disqualifying Act became law. No decision had been given on the subject with reference to the Parliamentary franchise; and the consequence would be that when persons appeared before the Revising Barristers in Ireland those Revising Barristers would act according to their fancy. In the Orange districts they were already preparing to disqualify electors who had been in receipt of medical relief. The Orange Lodges, who had the entire machinery of the Poor Law in their hands in the North of Ireland, and the dispensary doctors and clerks of Unions at their disposal, were now making arrangements to disqualify labourers and others wholesale who would be entitled to the franchise. It appeared to him to be a very hard thing if they proposed to give the vote with one hand and take it away with the other. They all know the labourers of the country were quite unable to pay for medical relief. There were thousands of men who only earned 10s. per week, who had a wife and family, and who were compelled in the ordinary course of nature to get the "red ticket." That "red ticket" was being worked in Ireland to disqualify the working men. Even free vaccination might be held to disqualify. He ventured to say that unless his Amendment passed at least 250,000 voters would be disqualified. That Amendment was a compromise. It did not propose to qualify every person who received relief; but only those who were under £12 annual valuation. That was to say, that any person who had held the franchise previous to the passing of the new Act would still be disqualified by receiving medical relief; but any person who became a voter under the new Act would not be disqualified under similar conditions. He moved his Amendment be- 1940 cause the law was not quite clear on the subject. The Judges had decided that the receipt of medical relief did not disqualify a voter from exercising the municipal franchise; but they might distinguish between that and the Parliamentary franchise, and disqualify the latter. Last Session they heard continually from the other side of the House that the Irish Party were opposed to the extension of the franchise to the labourers, but not as regarded the farmers, because they preferred having the present constituencies. If the innuendo had any truth, they would have been glad for the present law to stand. The Solicitor General for Ireland was in his place, and he should like him to state his views on the Sligo case. There was at least one way of dealing with the difficulty that presented itself, apart from Parliamentary enactment. Why not have in the Registration Bill a provision that in the case of every man objected to because he was in the receipt of medical relief a column should be inserted in the Schedule in which the clerk to the Poor Law Guardians should be obliged to write the amount of medical relief received by each voter; and, in the event of that being done, on the voter appearing before the Revising Barrister, and repaying the amount which he had received, he should be reinstated on the list of voters. It was not really the services of the doctor that these men so much required as medicine; and the salary of a medical officer—£100 or £150 a-year—spread over a whole district, would amount to very little for each person. In Ireland Revising Barristers need not grant cases for appeal unless they liked to do so, and they never liked to do it. The Monaghan Revising Barrister, 40 years ago, sentenced a man to death for stealing a goat; and this showed the mental calibre of those who would have to decide nice legal points. The voters in Ireland should have the privilege, the right, of going before the Supreme Court when they wished to appeal against the decision of the Revising Barrister.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert an Amendment that medical relief shall not disqualify any voter under £12 valuation."—(Mr. Healy.)
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member had stated his case very 1941 clearly, very ably, and very fairly. There could be no doubt that in England medical relief disqualified a voter. At Shaftesbury, for example, 60 voters were, on a certain occasion, disqualified, because their families had received some boxes of pills. In the case of England, however, Parliament had hitherto shown no desire to do away with this particular ground of disqualification. He himself had been instrumental in having a Bill brought forward with this object—a Bill proposing that people should not be disqualified as voters who had, when suffering from infectious disease, been removed compulsorily to hospitals partly kept out of the public funds. The Bill passed with difficulty, and was thrown out in "another place." He mentioned this to show the hon. Member that he felt some sympathy with his view. There was a good deal of doubt in Ireland whether medical relief acted as a disqualification; and he admitted that it would be desirable to have the question settled once for all. He should himself be unwilling to distinguish between the case of voters under the £12 valuation and that of other voters.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he had quite followed the hon. Member. He believed, however, that the question raised by the hon. Member could not rightly find a place in a Redistribution Bill. It was a matter to be dealt with in a Franchise or Registration Bill. Then, as the measure before the House partook of the nature of a consent Bill, he felt constrained to resist the introduction into it of what might be called extraneous matter, for otherwise he should be guilty of committing a breach of faith with the House generally. His suggestion to the hon. Member was that he should raise the matter upon the Registration Bill. The hon. Member might possibly have a doubt in his mind as to the Registration Bill being an equally certain chance; but he could assure the hon. Member that a Registration Bill for Ireland was essential, and must be passed, and the hon. Member would lose nothing practically by raising the question. Then the hon. Member had raised two other points—one was as to possible repayment. If the House should be disposed to accept the general prin- 1942 ciple the hon. Member might make valuable use of that suggestion. It was not, however, new, for it had already found a place in Acts of Parliament. He undoubtedly sympathized with the hon. Member upon the question of appeal; and he thought it would be very desirable that Revising Barristers in Ireland should be obliged to grant appeal.
§ MR. CALLAN
reminded the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that the House had not proved favourable to the proposal on former occasions. Many things had happened since then, and it would likely prove more favourable now. After the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he should have been disposed to appeal to his hon. Friend to withdraw his Motion, had it not been for the fact that the Local Government Boards in Ireland had received peremptory instructions to object to any person being placed upon the Registers who had received parochial relief. When the matter was under discussion on the Franchise Bill, the Attorney General for England and the right hon. Gentleman had expressed opinions contrary to the proposal. He would be glad to receive a definite pledge from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE,
while declining to bind himself by any pledge, was disposed to give the subject of the Instruction favourable consideration.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
remarked that, in prospect of the immense amount of registration work which would have to be done, it was most desirable that this point should be settled. Great uncertainty at present existed as to whether medical relief was a disqualification, and there had been conflicting decisions. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles W. Dilke) suggested that the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) should bring up a clause in Committee on the Registration Bill; but that was hardly the way to dispose of the question. It should be dealt with by the Government. The Solicitor General for Ireland was present, and knew the difficulty, and the Government had all the facts before them.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. WALKER)
said, there was no doubt that there was serious 1943 difficulty in determining what the law was. There was indoor relief, which ought to disqualify; there was outdoor relief, which most would agree ought to be on the same footing as indoor relief; and then there was the debatable ground of relief under the Medical Acts. This raised difficult questions about which lawyers had been divided. That being so, it was the duty of the Government, when they brought in a Registration Bill, to make it clear what were their views upon the subject. There was a difference between English and Irish registration with regard to the right of appeal, and that right ought to be given in Ireland the same as in England. The bon. Member's present proposal, however, was not within the scope of the Bill now under consideration; and he hoped, therefore, that, having regard to the answer of the President of the Local Government Board, the hon. Member would hold the matter over until the Registration Bill.
§ MR. DEASY
said, that the reply of the Solicitor General was satisfactory so far as it went; but it would be more satisfactory if the reply of the hon. and learned Gentleman was more explicit. They did not claim that persons who broke up their homes and went into the workhouse should have votes. All they asked was that labourers and others should not be disqualified from voting because they were attended by a dispensary doctor, and had their children vaccinated. At present, the sanitary authorities might order a house to be disinfected and whitewashed; and if the householder did not pay the expense of the operation he would, under the present law, be disqualified from voting. It would be necessary for them, therefore, to insist that the law should be amended in this respect.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
who had the following Motion on the Paper:—That, considering the admitted right of Scotland to a large increase in the number of Representatives, this Bill is not satisfactory, in so far as it makes that increase dependent on the chance of both Houses of Parliament consenting to an addition to the number of Members in this House,said, he felt he ought to apologize to the House for interposing between the 1944 House and the Committee with a discussion on a matter which might appear to many to be a local question. From an Imperial point of view, no doubt, the adequate representation of Scotland was a local question; still, from a Scotch point of view, it was a national question of the very first importance. Indeed, he might say that in Scotland they regarded it as the pivot, upon which much of the future of the political state of Scotland turned. They believed that if they were to have an adequate representation in Scotland they should get along with that representation many of the reforms which had been pressing for some time, but which had never yet been carried out. They should have reform in the management and administration of Scotch affairs, and in other political matters which specially interested their country. That was one reason for the great anxiety that existed among the Scotch Members, and in Scotland, that they should have a full and adequate representation. During the Recess there had been meetings held in different parts of Scotland—not Liberal or Conservative meetings only, but non-Party and public meetings—and in nearly every one of these—certainly in every one he had followed—where this question was raised, resolutions were passed urging the Government to make it a vital provision that Scotland ought to have the 12 Members promised in the Bill. Another reason for anxiety was the manner in which the Government had dealt with this matter. The Government had admitted by their Bill that Scotland was entitled to these 12 additional Representatives. There were many of them who thought that, having regard to the population and taxation of Scotland, this was but a scrimp allowance; but he did not suppose any Member in that House would quarrel with the number, provided the offer of the Government was fairly and fully carried out. The question he had to ask the House and the right hon. Gentleman was this—Was that offer to be fairly and fully carried out? The Bill and the Schedules were as satisfactory, so far as Scotland was concerned, as anything they could desire. Under the Bill England was to have 465 Members, Wales 30, Ireland 103, and Scotland 72. That, as far as they were concerned, was satisfactory; 1945 but if they added up these numbers they found they came, not to 658 Members, but to 670 Members. For his part, he had no serious objection to an increase of 12 in the number of Members of the House. He thought it was Mr. Disraeli who said there was no magic and no cabalistic charm about the numerals 658. He supposed most of his Scotch Colleagues would agree with that; and if the House took that view there would be no more difficulty about the matter. If it had not been for the gloss which the Prime Minister gave in his opening statement to the Bill and the Schedules, he thought no one from Scotland would have cared to raise this question. In his opening statement the Prime Minister said—There is…a great unsatisfied claim on the part of Scotland; and we propose to meet that claim by asking the House to enact, or if Gentlemen like, to submit to an increase of its own numbers by 12 seats.From those words it was clear that if the House should decline to add to the number of its Members, Scotland would suffer. It was quite obvious what would happen—England would get her 465 Members, Ireland would get her 103 Members, and "Wales would get her 30 Members; but Scotland would have to do without her increase. There was no other interpretation to be put on those words of the Prime Minister than that, if the House should decline to add to the number of Members of the House, Scotland would have to go without. It was admitted by the Government that Scotland had a right to that number provided, and provided only, that the House submitted to an increase of its Membership. Did that fairly and fully carry out the offer of the Government? The Bill professed to deal equitably with all parts of the United Kingdom. His right hon. Friend said last night the Government had proceeded on equal lines, and had drawn no distinction between one part of the United Kingdom and the other. It was quite true that the Bill had drawn no distinction; but by that gloss of the Prime Minister the Government had drawn a distinction. The Government said the claims of England should be satisfied unconditionally; that the claims of Wales should be satisfied unconditionally; that the claims of Ireland should be satisfied superabundantly and unconditionally; but that the claims of 1946 Scotland should not be satisfied except under conditions. Why should Scotland be subjected to conditions, and other parts of the United Kingdom not subjected to these? Scotland was not an alien part of the Kingdom. It was as loyal, enlightened, and vigorous, and as capable of governing, as either England, Wales, or Ireland. Why should the satisfaction of the claims of Scotland be conditional, while that of the claims of other parts of the United Kingdom were unconditional? He thought they were entitled to press the Government strongly on this point; and, in so doing, they would be only following the advice given them by the Prime Minister himself. In 1867, Mr. Disraeli made a similar proposal, with this difference—that it was only proposed to give them seven Members. The Prime Minister, who was then in opposition, pointed out that the Scotch Members would have to bear the whole force of the objection to increasing the Members of that House, and asked the Scotch Members to remember the assailable position in which they would stand if they had no fund on which to draw except the speculative increase of the numbers of the House. The Scotch Members were in precisely the same—if not in a worse—position now. The circumstances were identical. The adverse judgment was as strong as ever in regard to the increase of its numbers. The position of the Scotch Members was just as assailable now as it was then; and if the Prime Minister was right in giving the advice he did give in 1867—and that he was right was proved at the time, because, though Scotland got the seven additional Members, she had to get them from a different source—then the Scotch Members were justified in acting upon that advice now. But, looking at the matter as practical men, what was the chance that the House would consent to the addition to its numbers? He believed that there were only two occasions in the last two centuries on which the numbers had been increased—in 1707, at the time of the Union with Scotland, and in 1800, at the time of the Union with Ireland. Since then various attempts had been made by strong Governments to increase the numbers, and not one of them had succeeded. In 1852 an attempt was made, which failed; in 1867 and in 1868 attempts were made, which failed; and in 1866 the Cabinet 1947 considered the question, and determined that it was no use to propose an increase, as the House would not listen to it. The present attempt might, no doubt, be more fortunate; but it was obvious that the proposal was not popular in the House. He did not suppose that many of them would agree with an hon. Member who, in 1867, expressed the opinion that it was the most dangerous proposal ever submitted to a Legislative Assembly; but it was very generally regarded as an evil precedent, and there were many who thought it would be better to decrease than to increase their number. That feeling existed among the rank and file on both sides of the House, and they also saw it expressed in the leading organs of public opinion. The Edinburgh Review contained a strong protest against the increase of Members, while The Quarterly Review said it was obviously objectionable, and the most unpopular part of the scheme, and that the Scotch Members themselves would probably prefer to see their claims postponed than purchase the additional Members at such a price. That was what the writer in The Quarterly Review said; and he added that they might pefer six Members drawn from another source to 12 Members who could only be got by swelling the numbers of the House. He did not know whether the writer in The Quarterly Review knew the temper of the Scotch Members bettor than he did; but he would be much surprised if they would be content with six when they were entitled to 12. He had never known that his countrymen were proverbial for their readiness to accept 6d. as full change for 1s. It was obvious that the proposal was unpopular; and the question was whether its unpopularity would defeat it? He believed that the question of success or failure was in the hands of the Government. If the Government made the proposed increase a vital point of the Bill, and used their authority to get it carried, then he believed it would be carried; but if the Government would not do this, then his opinion was that the House would reject the proposal. Would the Government make the proposal vital? The Scotch Members had tried in vain to get an answer from the Government on that point. His hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) had twice asked the question, and the Prime Minister replied that 1948 that was not the time to ask what points of the Bill were vital, and what points were not vital. They had raised the question again before the adjournment; and in the Recess the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was asked what his opinion was on the matter; but they had not got a very re-assuring answer from him. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to divide himself into two parts. He spoke as the Member for the Border Burghs, and also as a Member of the Cabinet; and while his answer in the first capacity was all that could be desired, there was a very different ring about that which he gave as a Cabinet Minister. They had made two more attempts since the meeting of Parliament. The Lord Advocate had told them that he could add nothing to what had been said in debate upon the subject. But nothing had been said in debate, so that the anxiety of the Scotch Members had not been diminished by that answer. Then a Memorial had been presented to the Prime Minister from an important body in Scotland, signed by many influential names. The Prime Minister, through his Secretary, replied as follows:—The Council may rely on the Government to continue to be alive to the importance of securing to Scotland a just representation; but they will not expect him at the present moment to go beyond this assurance.That certainly seemed to them like asking for bread and getting a stone. To most of the Scotch Members this hesitation on the part of the Government to give a straightforward answer was very perplexing, and they had hoped that the Government would show some determination and not let the matter drift. They only asked the Government to exercise their authority upon the matter. In Scotland, they knew that they had right and justice on their side, and they knew that the Government could give them the extra Members. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would give a satisfactory answer on the subject. He would ask him whether the Government would make it a vital point of the Bill that Scotland should receive her rights; whether they would give an assurance that in this increase Scotland should be treated as England, Wales, 1949 and Ireland were treated, unconditionally; and whether Scotland would get these additional 12 Members even if the House did not agree to the increase of its numbers? In the belief that the Government would respond to this appeal, he did not propose to put the Motion to the House of which he bad given Notice; but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he could give an answer such as would be satisfactory to the people of Scotland on this point, he might be assured of the most cordial and full acceptance of the Bill by the people of Scotland, and by the Scotch Members, and they would use every effort in their power to get it passed into law.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that, in his opinion, the hon. Member had wasted a little of his indignation against the Prime Minister in the remarks which he had made. He could not think that the hon. Member could have any real doubt as to the nature of the position taken up by the Government in this matter. Did the hon. Member seriously think that the Government could go on with this Bill if the number of Scotch Members were to be left as it was? The Prime Minister had not departed from the usual practice of the House in declining to state, a longtime in advance, what exact parts of the Bill would be considered as vital to its passing. Although the Prime Minister declined to state whether the increase of the number of Members of the House was a vital part of the Bill, the Prime Minister did state it was an essential portion of the Bill that the same lines would be observed in regard to the different parts of the United Kingdom. That statement in itself, as the hon. Member had first shown, implied a very large increase, if not the whole increase of 12. The hon. Member had quoted The Edinburgh Review and The Quarterly Review, as showing that an increase to the numbers of the House of Commons would not be made. But surely the House, just now, were better judges of what they were likely to do than either of these reviews. The hon. Member himself had laughed at the idea that Scotchmen would rather give up their claim to more Members than that there should be an increase in the number of the House. That was so notoriously erroneous, and so entirely 1950 opposed to Scotch views, that it quite disposed of the authority of The Edinburgh Review and The Quarterly Review on that matter. The hon. Member asked him to make a very strong statement as to what were the vital parts of the Bill. Now, he did not hesitate to say that it would be impossible for the Government to go on with that Bill if the essential lines which the Bill laid down were departed from in any large degree. The increase of 12 Members for Scotland was, he thought, required to keep even lines—which were an essential part of the measure—between the various parts of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member said that he thought the House would disagree with a proposal to increase its numbers. He did not himself agree in that anticipation; he did not know whether the hon. Member was himself going to vote against that increase; but he rather thought not. His own belief was that when the House had fully considered the matter, it would, by an overwhelming majority, vote in favour of that increase. He had not himself the least doubt on that question. The hon. Member had assumed, however, that no alternative was open to the House, as between an increase in the number of the House and the loss of the increase to the number of Members for Scotland. They had no reason to believe that the House generally was likely to support any proposal to raise the 15,000 line or the 50,000 line drawn by the Bill. The Bill was one which was generally agreed on by a large number of Members on both sides; and now all of them must be content to give up something of their individual opinions. There might be some who would wish to increase the number of disfranchised boroughs, or to raise the limit of population at which boroughs with two Members should lose one seat; but although these might be the individual views of certain Members, he thought that the House would hesitate before it altered the essential character of the Bill by raising either the 15,000 or the 50,000 line. Owing to a newspaper indiscretion, they knew that a suggestion had been thrown out by the Leaders of the Party opposite as to a possible alternative to increasing the number of the House. That possible alternative was a reduction of the Irish Members from 1951 103 to 100, and a corresponding reduction of the English Members so as to supply additional Members for Scotland. But when the House carefully considered that alternative proposal, he thought they would reject it by a large majority, and that an increase in the number of the House would be carried. The fact was that, if the House considered any alternative scheme, the probability was that the House would find itself face to face with a difficulty in regard to what seats it would have to give to Scotland. They would find that these were seats which were given somewhat grudgingly to large constituencies, which were at last receiving something like justice, and these would have to be reduced or limited by any such proposal being carried. Take the case of Ireland. The result of a proposal that Ireland should lose three seats would be that the first three to go would be one for Belfast, one for the county of Tyrone, and one for the county of Tipperary. In England the first to go would be such counties as Warwickshire, perhaps Wiltshire, and such boroughs as Birmingham, Sheffield, and other very important constituencies. The House would thus find itself face to face with the fact that Warwickshire, Birmingham, Sheffield, Wolverhampton, and Hull would have to lose seats which the Bill would otherwise give them, in order that they might go to Scotland. He did not think that the House would accept such an alternative, but rather believed that the proposal of the Government would meet with the acceptance of the House. He did not think that his hon. Friend would wish him to go beyond that statement, and tell him definitely at what point of the Bill the Government would give it up, and the Bill be abandoned; but he could assure him that the Government had all along stated, as an essential part of the Bill, that an even line should be observed as between the constituencies of the three countries; and one reason why he should find a difficulty in agreeing to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold), which had yet to come before the House, was that it would draw an uneven line as between one portion of the United Kingdom and the other portions.
said, he admitted that Scotland was entitled to her fair share of representation as compared 1952 with the rest of the Kingdom; but he was much astonished at the statement just made by the right hon. Baronet in regard to Ireland. The right hon. Baronet had said that, if the Irish Members were to be reduced from 103 to 100, the first constituencies to lose Members would be the largest, most prosperous, and increasing town in the country—Belfast, the county of Tyrone, and the county of Tipperary. If the right hon. Baronet had compared the representation of the different Provinces of Ireland, he would have found that Leinster had one Member for every 43,000 or 44,000 of population, while Ulster only had one for every 55,000. England had not more Members than she was entitled to; Scotland had not as many as she was entitled to; Ireland had more, and Wales infinitely more than she was entitled to. Looking at the arrangement which had been come to between the Leaders of both Parties on that subject—an arrangement by which the Loyal Party in Ireland were to be great sufferers—he was reminded of the memorable meeting of the three Roman Triumvirs, when each of them gave up for sacrifice his own friends in order that he might murder his enemies.
said, he did not know whether it was owing to the diplomatic reserve which the right hon. Gentleman had acquired from his training at the Foreign Office or not, but he had not spoken explicitly on the main point. He said it was imperative that the Government should procure a very large increase for Scotland, if not the whole increase. What Scotch Members wanted was the whole increase to which they were entitled on their population. They did not care whether that increase was to be got by increasing the number of the House, or by other means. That was a matter which the Government would have to decide for themselves. He took it that they were all agreed that the increase of 12 Members to Scotland was not merely an accidental number put into the Bill, but that it was less than Scotland was actually entitled to, numerically speaking, and it was impossible that anything short of that number could be accepted. The number of 12 was not a novel suggestion. If they were to have any faith in railway station speeches again, the additional number proposed must be adhered to, 1953 as months ago the Prime Minister named precisely the same number of 12. He thought it could be shown that 12 had not been selected at random, but after careful consideration. The assurance had been given them that it was requisite in order to keep up the even line for the United Kingdom that the number of additional Members allotted to Scotland should be 12. He, personally, had never had any doubt as to the intentions of the Government in that respect; but he ventured to say this, that if any diminution was made in the number of 12—and it was just as well that they should understand this—it would be considered by the people of Scotland as a gross breach of faith on the part of the Government. Notwithstanding the rather diplomatic language in which the speech of the President of the Local Government Board was couched, he thought they need have no apprehensions on the point. [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: Hear, hear!] He was glad to know from the cheers of the right hon. Gentleman that what he said was a correct interpretation of the position of the Government.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he rose to make the Motion which stood on the Paper in his name—namely,That it is inexpedient that the numbers of this House shall be increased, and, in the opinion of this House, Ireland will be sufficiently represented by ninety Members, and Wales by twenty-five Members.His Motion was based on the fact that an increase in the numbers of the House was a proposal that should never be assented to by the House. A Return which he held in his hand, and which had been laid on the Table of the House since the autumn, showed the proportions of population and representation for the different portions of the United Kingdom. They ascertained from that Return that England had a population of between 25,000,000 and 26,000,000; Wales, 1,360,000; Scotland, 3,867,000; and Ireland, 4,963,000. At present there were 463 Members for England, 30 for Wales, 60 for Scotland, and 105 for Ireland. The Bill of the Government proposed to give 465 Members for England, 30 for Wales, 72 for Scotland, and 103 for Ireland, making the total number 670. The Resolution which he was submitting to the House was founded on the figures stated in the Return, and 1954 he proposed that England should have 471, Wales 25, Scotland 72, and Ireland 90. It must be remembered that in 1832 and 1867 the Welsh Members were increased from 26 to 30, and that was done in consequence of the ratio of population requiring it; but since then the population of Wales had almost been stationary, whereas the population of England and Scotland had increased. He regretted that the population of Ireland had also diminished considerably. It must be remembered that the 100 Members given Ireland at the Union were increased in 1832 and in 1867 to 105, and that at one period the population of Ireland had increased to over 8,000,000—one-third the population of the United Kingdom—and in conessequence the number of its Members had been increased. He maintained that it was the duty of English and Scottish independent Members to unite together on this great occasion, when the redistribution of seats was about to be settled for a generation to come, and to make such an arrangement as would be advantageous to the country and just according to the Returns before the House. The exact proportion on which Members ought to be distributed was one to every 54,000 of population; but in the case of Wales and Ireland one was to be given to every 44,000 or 46,000. [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: No, no!] That seemed to him most unfair.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, even including the Universities, the proportion in Ireland would be over 50,000.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
thought his figures were correct, and remarked that the question the House had to decide was whether Wales and Ireland should have one Member to every 44,000 of population, whereas England and Scotland should only have one to every 54,000 or 55,000? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded by moving the Motion.
§ VISCOUNT CRICHTON
seconded the Motion. On a previous occasion he had remarked that if the framers of the Bill had wished to reduce to a minimum the influence of the Loyal minority of Ireland they could not have succeeded better in their purpose. He had also stated that, looking to the number of its population, Ireland had received a most unfair 1955 share of representation. He saw no reason to alter those opinions. Whether the House looked at this question on the basis of the Census Return of 1881, or on the basis of the Registrar General's Return of 1884, an overwhelming case had been made out for a reduction in the number of Irish Members. An argument against this reduction had been brought forward by the Prime Minister, who said that in the case of Ireland, as in the case of other parts of the country, some regard ought to be had to the nearness and distance from the seat of Government. But this argument had been completely demolished by the treatment vouchsafed to the three countries. According to the Bill, Scotland had one Member to every 53,290 of the population, Ireland had one Member to every 51,140, and Wales had one Member to every 45,342. In Ireland itself no attention was paid to nearness or distance from the seat of Government. Leinster was nearer to the seat of Government than Connaught, yet Leinster had one Member to every 45,530 persons, and Connaught had one Member to every 55,000 persons. The only other argument against reducing the number of Irish Members was the Union argument, which he believed had a great deal of weight with his right hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench. It was urged that the number of 100 Members was fixed by the Act of Union, and that it would be dangerous at a time when so many attacks were being made on the integrity of the Union to alter the number then fixed. That might have been a very good argument 15 or 16 years ago, before the Church of Ireland was disestablished and disendowed. But the maintenance of the Irish Church was declared to be a fundamental part of the Act of Union, and it was scarcely fair that the Act of Union should be disregarded when it told in favour of the Irish Loyalists, and thrown in their teeth when it told against them. As a matter of fact, Ireland would, according to the Bill in its present form, obtain an excessive number of Members, whether the calculation was based on the Census of 1881 or on the Registrar General's Return of 1884. Ireland at most was only entitled to 96 Members, without including those for the Universities, and this would release five seats, which could be given to Scotland if the 1956 House was disinclined to diminish the total number of Members fixed by this Bill. It should be borne in mind that the population of England and Wales and of Scotland was increasing, whereas that of Ireland was decreasing. Since the Census of 1881 the population of England, Wales, and Scotland had increased by 1,175,057, whereas the population of Ireland had decreased by 202,728. There was every reason to believe that this decrease would continue, and the anomaly in 10 year time would be something ridiculous. The five Members now allotted to Ireland above its rightful number should be taken from certain counties, for the county representation of Ireland was excessive and most unfair to the boroughs; and it was very dangerous, from a public point of view, that in a country where the Land Question was the burning question nearly the whole political power should be thrown into the hands of the rural population. But there were strong political reasons for reducing the representation of Ireland. What would the political results of this measure be? They were all agreed that the result of this Bill—and of the Bill passed in the autumn—would be that, at least, 85 Members would be returned as followers of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), leaving 17 seats to be divided among the Liberals and Conservatives of Ireland. That was a prospect which those desirous of maintaining the Union, and of preserving decency and order of debate in the House of Commons, must look forward to with nothing but dismay. At meetings now being held in Ireland cheers were often given for the Mahdi; and a few days ago the Lord Mayor of Dublin declared that when the Prince of Wales came to Dublin he should haul down the civic flag from the Mansion House. Was this the party to be still further strengthened? There was another party which would also be indirectly strengthened, though not represented in that House—the party of dynamite and the dagger—the party who had murdered their Secretaries, and attempted to blow up the House of Commons. There was a third party which would be immensely weakened—the party of loyalty and of law and order in Ireland—the party which through good report and ill report had maintained its fidelity to England and the English Crown. The position of 1957 that party in Ireland was always a difficult one. Under the provisions of this Bill its position would be made almost intolerable, and it was because by accepting something in the nature of the proposal of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay) they would in some degree decrease the inequality in the representation of that party, that he supported the Motion.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient that the numbers of this House shall be increased, and, in the opinion of this House, Ireland will be sufficiently represented by ninety Members, and Wales by twenty-five Members."—[Admiral Sir John Hay.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that he desired to say one word on the speech of the noble Viscount who had just sat down before he dealt with that of the right lion, and gallant Admiral. He would not go into the political question, because he had a complete answer to the speech of the noble Viscount on general grounds. He had referred to the matter of distance. The argument of the Prime Minister, to which allusion had boon made, was that it was desirable, other things being equal, that the most distant portions of the United Kingdom should receive very full representation. It was a remarkable fact that, though they followed strict population lines, nevertheless the most distant portions of the United Kingdom were very fully represented under the Bill. Ireland and Wales, and the North of Scotland, were very largely represented, and upon even lines. The right hon. and gallant Admiral assumed that Scotland was under-represented; but it so happened that there was Scotland, and Scotland and the Highlands and Islands, and the more distant portions were represented without any general departure from the principles of the Bill on a higher scale than England, and higher than Ireland or Wales. Upon any even line they could take, Leinster would be over-represented, as compared with the other three Provinces. If they adopted a system of equal lines, which was the only fair and solid ground on which he thought the House could take its stand, whichever even line they adopted 1958 they would over-represent Leinster. The right hon. and gallant Admiral desired to retain four Members for the City of London. As he was the most advanced revolutionist in the House, it was an extraordinary thing for him to go out of his way to do this. The day population of the City was not a matter of official record at all; but he might point out that the night population of the central wards of all great towns was considerably lees than the day population. In regard to the hardship supposed to be inflicted in this matter, it must be remembered that there was a great set-off in the fact that all these persons dwelt elsewhere and had double votes. The Government, taking into consideration the ancient character of the City of London, had rather strained a point in its favour, and had left it with two Members. As to University representation, he should be very glad to hear the case which the right hon. and gallant Baronet would make later on. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke), for one, speaking as an individual, was opposed to University representation; but he intended to waive his own opinion and to support the scheme embodied in the Bill. He thought the right hon. and gallant Baronet, who wished to cut up the whole country afresh, would have great difficulty in justifying University representation. The right hon. and gallant Baronet spoke of even lines; but he would apply them to the test of population in 1884 as between county and county and different parts of the United Kingdom. Here he might, in passing, observe that Wales had never been separately treated for Parliamentary purposes, but had been always regarded as a part of England. In speaking of even lines, the right hon. and gallant Baronet ignored altogether the even lines proposed by the Bill. They were even as between constituencies and constituencies. They proposed the same rules of enfranchisement and disfranchisement as between all constituencies throughout the whole of the different parts of the United Kingdom. The right hon. and gallant Baronet, as he understood, first of all said that Ireland ought to have so many; that Wales ought to have so many; that Scotland ought to have so many; and that England ought to have so many; and then, having made these four divisions, he apportioned the number in each of 1959 these four divisions separately. The result of that would be undoubtedly that he would obtain a different line in each of the four countries; and while remedying one apparent anomaly he would really create another in the representation. The right hon. and gallant Baronet's Bill could not be taken as altogether accurate, for there were one or two mistakes which he should have to point out when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman brought it before the House. The argument which he had to offer to the House in regard to the various portions of the United Kingdom was as follows. It was true, as the right hon. and gallant Baronet pointed out in his Motion, that while Ireland was somewhat more highly represented than England, Wales was considerably more represented than Ireland. But what was the case with regard to various parts of England itself? If they took certain large districts of England itself, they would find very large districts—districts larger than Wales in area and population—which were greatly over-represented, as compared even with Wales. By the Census of 1881, their Bill would give to Ireland one Member to every 51,200 of population, excluding University seats, and Wales one Member to every 45,300 of population; but there were 23 whole counties—not divisions of counties—of England which were more highly represented than Wales, one of them being Rutland, which by the Bill would have one Member to every 21,400. There could be no doubt whatever of the fact that the Eastern and South-Western counties would be more highly represented than even Wales; and, under these circumstances, was it desirable that the House should lay down a system of chopping up the United Kingdom into four separate parts? On the contrary, would it not be better that they should lay down an even line, constituency by constituency? Unless they made a clean sweep of the whole country—a more revolutionary plan than was now placed before the House by the Government—it would be impossible to avoid all anomalies. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman excepted the Universities and the City of London from the clean sweep proposed by his Amendment; and he, therefore, might reasonably appeal to him to make some larger concessions towards other exist- 1960 ing antiquated institutions than he was inclined to do.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, there was this strange circumstance about the Motion of the hon. Member for Haddington, that while it had been on the Paper for long, it was now not only not to be divided upon, but it was not even to be moved. There was something pathetic in the attitude of both the hon. Member for Haddington (Mr. Craig-Sellar) and the right hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Wigtown (Sir John Hay), inasmuch as they were Members whose constituencies were to be improved off the face of the earth. Yet the Bill generally, notwithstanding their position, was receiving their full attention. In regard to this matter of the additional Members for Scotland, the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had really made no promise whatever. His argument had simply been—Was it possible to suppose that the Government would do this, or would not do that? For his own part, he would not be surprised at anything the Government might do. But he thought they would think twice before they would defraud Scotland of the proposed addition of 12 Members in her representation. He protested against the notion that this was what was called a local question. It was a matter of the highest possible importance. The practice of treating Scotch questions as matters of local interest led them into great mistakes; and one of these mistakes was that the language adopted was such as to make it appear that they were suing for what was their undoubted right. What was so singularly invidious was the method by which it was proposed to give Scotland this supposed increase of representation. If the claim of Scotland was undoubtedly just—as he understood was admitted—it ought not to be made to depend on an invidious and unpopular proposal to add to the numbers of the House. It ought to be granted in any case. He noticed that the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) spoke as if it would be shocking to take Members from Warwickshire or Belfast, in order to give them to other parts of the Kingdom. There was, it seemed to him (Mr. Dalrymple), nothing shocking about it if these places had more than their share of Members, and if there were no other source from 1961 which to get the Members to which other localities might be entitled. The right hon. Baronet deprecated different treatment being applied to different parts of the Kingdom; but Scotland was being treated very differently by the method in which it was proposed to provide her with the additional representation to which she was entitled. Much had been said about justice to Ireland, and there was not a man in the House but would desire to do justice to Ireland; but justice to Ireland meant too often injustice to other parts of the country. He could understand the stipulation that Ireland should have 100 Members, as had been settled at the Union; but the Bill proposed to continue 100 Members at the very time that Scotland could with difficulty obtain the increased number which was her due. He had always understood that this Bill was to remove all anomalies; but it was now confessed that anomalies were still to exist, and there were none worse than that of giving a Member, as was done in some cases, to boroughs with 29,000 of a population; whereas there was at least one large county constituency of 94,000 in Scotland that would only have one Member. That was not equal legislation on equal lines.
§ MR. MORGAN LLOYD
said, that whenever the Welsh Members had asked for any legislation for Wales, the hon. Members opposite, belonging to the Tory Party, had invariably objected to any such legislation on the ground that Wales was part of England, and that no distinction could be made between the two countries. But now that they wanted to deprive Wales of five of its Representatives, they said that Wales was not a part of England, and that it must be treated as a separate Nationality like Scotland and Ireland. That was a very unfair argument to be used by those who always, when it served their purpose, maintained the contrary. Ever since the time of Henry VIII., Wales had been treated as a part of England, and every Act of Parliament passed for England extended to Wales as a matter of course. In the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867, Wales was treated as a part of England; and in all the Franchise and Redistribution Bills that had ever been proposed in that House, the same rule had been followed, and no distinction made between the two countries. The present Bill had followed those 1962 precedents and the same invariable rule. The Bill was framed on certain well-defined lines, which were applied to Wales in exactly the same way as they were applied to England. The incidence of those lines might, in some instances, be favourable to Wales; but, on the other hand, they had produced hardships in some cases. The application of the principles upon which the Bill had been framed would have the effect of disfranchising the Anglesey boroughs, which had the largest population of all the boroughs to be disfranchised. The county of Cardigan, by the operation of the same principles, was to have only one Member for 73,000 inhabitants, which was one of the largest county populations to whom one Member only was given. Some English counties had one Member to 45,000 inhabitants. The county of Huntingdon had one Member for every 29,000 inhabitants, whilst Rutland had a Member for its 21,000 inhabitants. Cardiff, with a population of 85,000 in 1881, and a population of over 100,000 at the present time, was to have only one Member, being the largest borough in the Kingdom with one Member only. It could not, therefore, be said that Wales had been unduly favoured by being allowed to retain its present number of Representatives. The Bill was, upon the whole, a fair one, and was framed on certain broad and general principles which had been applied with impartiality to the whole of the United Kingdom. In his opinion, the greatest blot in the Bill was that it proposed to give too many Members to London. The large population in and around that centre was to have 71 Members; and when they considered that the Metropolitan Members represented a population which surrounded that House, and were at all times in immediate touch with their constituents, he foresaw danger to the independence of that House, and an undue influence that might be exerted by the compact population of London in the affairs of this Kingdom. In quiet times the danger would not be felt; but circumstances might arise when the danger might become real. The distant parts of the Kingdom ought to have a relatively larger representation than the seat of Government, in order to maintain and exert their just influence in legislation. The danger he now suggested was pre- 1963 sent to the minds of the framers of the American Constitution, who adopted an extreme course to avoid it. They declined to select any large town as the centre of their Government, and went so far as to deny any representation to the capital. The City of Washington had no Representative in Congress. That was one extreme; but they were certainly going to the other extreme with regard to London.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, the House was somewhat embarrassed by the unexpected course taken by the hon. Member for the Haddington Burghs (Mr. Craig-Sellar). It was one thing to hold that Scotland was entitled to an increase of representation, another thing to hold that Ireland should be shorn of a part, another thing to hold that Wales should be shorn of a part, and a separate proposition to allege that the number of the House ought not to be increased. By the ill-advised course adopted they had to discuss all these four questions together. He, for one, was strongly of opinion that the number of Members of the House ought not to be increased, and if they had a Reform Bill of an ideal character, and one that could be framed without too much regard to the special predilections of Members of the House, the aim would be rather to make a change in the opposite direction. He believed that the number of Members was too un-weildy for debate, and when the House was filled, as it was last week, it did not present the appearance of a deliberative Assembly, but rather degenerated into a mob. He could not help thinking that the reformers of the future, proceeding on more exact principles than those which had hitherto governed Reform Bills, would look in a direction opposite to that of an increase of numbers, because if they followed the unfortunate example of the Government, who proposed to get out of their difficulties by increasing the number of Members, they might run the risk of impairing the character and efficiency of the House as a deliberative Body, and of disparaging its credit. He should be prepared to vote for part of the Amendment on the Paper, because it affirmed the proposition that it was inexpedient to increase the number of Members of the House. He should be quite prepared to go with his right hon. and gallant Friend in affirming the first 1964 part of his proposal—"That it is inexpedient that the numbers of this House shall be increased;" and he should also have been prepared to have supported the Amendment which was expected to have been moved, and which he thought ought to have been moved, by the hon. Member for the Haddington Burghs (Mr. Craig-Sellar)—That, considering the admitted right of Scotland to a largo increase in the number of Representatives, this Bill is not satisfactory, in so far as it makes that increase dependent on the chance of both Houses of Parliament consenting to an addition to the number of Members in this House.His right hon. and gallant Friend, however, appeared to have put forward the question in a most unfortunate connection. He not only asked the House to affirm a proposition which he imagined hon. Members from Ireland and Wales would be prepared to accept, but he put forward a second one, and he did not suppose that in any part of the House there was any great desire that the increase should be associated with a declaration hostile to the representation of Ireland and the representation of Wales as they at present existed. The hon. and learned Member for Beaumaris (Mr. Morgan Lloyd) spoke, of course, with personal interest in the matter, because he represented a doomed constituency. The borough represented by the hon. and learned Gentleman was described as that of Beaumaris; but, as the House was aware, it did not consist of one borough alone, but was made up of four separate and distinct places, and as the population of the entire district fell below 15,000, the borough was likely to be extinguished. It was worth while, in referring to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill (Sir Charles W. Dilke) as to "the equal line," to point out the entirely exceptional treatment which Wales received with regard to borough representation as compared with the treatment of England and Ireland. All towns in England below 15,000 were disfranchised by the Bill; but there were in Wales 30 or 40 towns, each of them below 15,000, which were not disfranchised. [An hon. MEMBER: They are grouped.] In Ireland all secondary towns were disfranchised. Lisburn, for instance, was to be disfranchised, but Newry was not, the population there being increased by drawing 1965 upon neighbouring towns. Nevertheless, the representation was refused to such places as Queenstown and Kingstown, where there existed a large population fairly entitled to representation. Therefore, the case was not exactly as the right hon. Gentleman had described it, nor could it be said that the Government were proceeding on an equal line. The right hon. Baronet said that, in dealing with Wales, the Government had acted upon an equal line analogous to that drawn for England. He presumed the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was this—that he found a constituency existing which exceeded a certain limit, and he did not propose to ask how many towns contributed towards constituting the necessary population. The statement of the right hon. Baronet amounted to this—"We say that all boroughs containing less than 15,000 ought to be disfranchised; but if we find a borough already existing with a population larger than that, we do not stop to consider whether it consists of one, four, or eight towns, but we leave it alone." Now, he (Mr. Raikes) would not quarrel with that argument, which was an extremely Conservative one. He simply wished to point out how different the system of representation was in Wales when compared with that of England, and also with that to be established in Ireland. When the Bill was introduced some months ago, he had ventured to point out that in North Wales there was not a single town which contained 15,000 inhabitants, and, therefore, if the same rule were applied to North Wales which was applied to England, and which was to be ruthlessly applied to Ireland, it would have been necessary to destroy the whole of the borough representation of North Wales. He was not there to argue the case of the contributory boroughs. He was inclined to think that it would have been well if the Government, rather than destroy the district boroughs in Wales, would have condescended to have taken a lesson from them, and have extended the principle by creating more district boroughs. The insoluble questions which had been transferred to the Boundary Commissioners would have been better met by creating groups of boroughs in England analogous to those in Scotland, rather than that they should be compelled to 1966 create districts of most extraordinary shape and most unequal area, which were to be called "county districts," although some of them were created expressly with a view to their containing an urban population. He was only seeking now to put the House in possession of facts which he did not think they would obtain from the statement of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) alone. He had said that he was prepared to support the first words of the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay); but he confessed that he felt very great difficulty in supporting the latter part of that Amendment. There was a great deal of force in what had been stated by the President of the Local Government Board with regard to the apparently unequal treatment which had been meted out by the Government to Ireland and Wales. The disproportion in the number of Members was, no doubt, palpable; but he hardly knew whether it was sufficiently considerable to justify them in upsetting the very basis of the scheme upon which they were proceeding. The House of Commons was invited to accept a measure framed on certain broad and intelligible outlines; and if, in the case of Ireland, they declared that they would not proceed upon the principles which up to the present point had been accepted by the House, they would find themselves re-opening the whole question of the readjustment of representation, and would tax the utmost efforts of the House to deal with the subject satisfactorily. Therefore, he had great difficulty in supporting the latter part of the proposal of his right hon. and gallant Friend. With regard to Ireland, they were told that that country, upon a numerical basis, was only entitled to 86 or 90 Members. At the present time the nominal number was 105, and its actual representation was 103 Members. The Act of Union gave to Ireland 100 Members. Now it seemed to him that the Government had had before them a very easy and a very obvious course to take, and one which would probably have received support in the main—namely, if they had reverted to the Union number. If they had taken 100 Members as the proper representation of Ireland, that country would still 1967 have been in the position of the most favoured nation, as she would have had a larger representation than either her wealth or her population entitled her to, and, at all events, the House would have been in a position to say that they were not acting in a manner that was disadvantageous to the interests of Ireland. He should have been quite willing, if the Government had dealt with the question on that principle, to have supported them in resisting any proposal to reduce the number of Members below 100. But he was entirely at a loss to understand how they could justify the proposition to keep up the number to that of the 103 or 105 seats at present enjoyed. That number had been given to Ireland under a condition of things very different from that which existed at present, when the population of the country was so much larger than it was at present, and very much larger as compared with that of the Three Kingdoms, At that time the population of Ireland nearly approached, to one-third of the population of England. But there was nothing like that proportion at the present time. His right hon. and gallant Friend proposed to cut down the representation of Ireland to 90, and that of Wales to 25 Members. He did not believe that any hon. Member who spoke in that House wished to say anything objectionable to any body of Members; but as reference had been made to the existence of disloyal feelings among a part of the Irish people, he must say that he did not think the best way of reinforcing those who entertained feelings of loyalty was by subjecting Ireland to what might be considered an act of injustice. He had already expressed his opinion as to what ought to be regarded as the representation of that country, and, as a resident of Wales, he must say that he could not altogether approve of an actual reduction in the number of Welsh Representatives. He did not think that a more loyal or law-abiding population than the people of Wales could be found among Her Majesty's subjects, and although most of their Representatives in that House sat on the Ministerial side, he should be very sorry that the people of Wales should be induced to think that they were not treated with fairness or due consideration by the House of Commons because of their small number and their inability to de- 1968 fend themselves as compared with others. He could not help thinking that the representation of the Metropolitan districts under the Bill was less than it ought to be; but he would not go into that question now. What hef wished to ask his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay) was, whether he could see his way to confining his Motion to the first portion of it—That it is inexpedient that the numbers of this House shall be increased,leaving to the Government, upon whom the responsibility would fall, the duty of saying how the increase in the case of Scotland should be provided? He thought it was most undesirable that the House should assume a responsibility which properly belonged to the Government. He had sufficient confidence in the ingenuity and knowledge of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) and of the Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), to feel satisfied that they would have no difficulty in making provision for the 12 seats proposed to be given to Scotland, if it was loft to them to say what the arrangement should be.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that complaint had been made by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down against his hon. Friend the Member for the Haddington Burghs (Mr. Craig-Sellar) for not having proceeded with his Motion, His hon. Friend had made an interesting speech, in the course of which he had complained of the Government for not having been sufficiently explicit in reference to its promise with regard to an increase in the representation of Scotland. His right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) replied to that complaint, and replied to it in such terms that he was glad to find his hon. Friend was quite satisfied, and intimated that he would not proceed with the Motion. It was true that other Members who followed his right hon. Friend had expressed themselves not altogether satisfied with the declarations of the Government on this point. For instance, the hon. Member for Buteshire (Mr. Dalrymple) said he considered that no actual promise had been given by the Government in regard to the increase of Scotch Members, and that he did not 1969 attach much importance to the words of the President of the Local Government Board. The hon. Member then proceeded to say, that after all, the Government ought to perform its promise. Now, what was the promise? His right hon. Friend said he considered it essential that the same line which had been observed in regard to the representation of Ireland should be observed in Scotland also, and that practically involved an addition to the number of Scotch Members. In point of fact, the Government carried out exactly the same policy of enfranchisement and disfranchisement in all of the three countries, and the effect of that was that Scotland would receive 12 Members, which was the number it was entitled to receive, if the population at the Census of 1881 was to be taken into consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) had expressed himself as being, on the whole, against increasing the number of the Members of the House, and had said that he was quite prepared to support the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay), so far as the first part of it was concerned, but that he was not prepared to support the last part. His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge had rather flinched from carrying out his principles. The right hon. Gentleman was ready to say that the numbers of the House should not be increased; but he was not prepared to say how that should be effected. He said that Scotland ought to have an addition of 12 Members. Then whore were those 12 Members to be obtained? Were they to be obtained from Ireland, or from England, and in what proportion? He did not know what negotiations the right hon. Gentleman might have had with the Irish Members, or what it was that induced him to be so little anxious to follow the right hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir John Hay) in affirming the second part of the Motion. The speeches of right hon. Gentlemen opposite only showed the difficulties by which the whole of the question was surrounded. If the House determined that 12 additional seats should be given to Scotland, how were those additional seats to be obtained except by increasing the numbers of the House? It was 1970 the belief of the Government that that was the only way in which this operation could be effected. His right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board said the Government believed the House would accept that proposition, and they were, therefore, determined to support it, believing that it would be carried, and it rested with any Member who objected to the propostion to suggest something else. But the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) had put forward no alternative plan. He declined to support what the right hon. and gallant Admiral suggested as an alternative, but did not submit any other proposal to the House. They had listened to an interesting speech from the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton), in which, speaking as an Irishman and as the Representative of one of the counties of Ulster, he, nevertheless, expressed himself in favour of a diminution in the number of Irish seats. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes), replying to that speech, said he did not think it the right way of reinforcing the Loyal Party in Ireland to deal with that country in such a way as would involve an injustice. It appeared to him (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) that those words were just and true, and he would commend them to the noble Viscount, whom he would ask to consider whether, speaking as an Irish Member, he thought that his recommendation to the House to reduce the number of Irish seats was altogether the best way of reinforcing in Ireland the Party of which he was such a distinguished ornament? For his (Mr. Shaw Lefevre's) part, he would be very loth to see any reduction in any of the loyal Members for Ireland, and he trusted that that would not be the case. He firmly believed that the effect of establishing a universal system of one-Member districts in Ireland would be to enable the minority to be represented in many more places than hon. Members supposed. But he would ask the noble Viscount, how it was likely that the Loyal Party could receive reinforcement by adopting the proposition which had been made by him? He should be very much surprised if those hon. Members who sat on that side of the House, and who were also Members of 1971 the Loyal Party in Ireland, though not quite in accord with the noble Viscount—he should be much surprised to find that they supported the views of the noble Viscount. He certainly thought it would be a most unwise course to reduce the number of Irish Representatives. Perhaps some argument might be adduced in favour of going back to the number which was fixed at the time of the Union; but after all that would only give a reduction of three, and was it worth while, for so small a reduction, to raise a great Constitutional question, which would probably give rise to great discontent? He ventured to think that, on the whole, the House would do wisely to adopt the proposal of the Government to increase the representation of Scotland by the number proposed in the Bill—namely, 12—and to provide for the addition by increasing the number of Members of the House, and not by entering upon the very difficult and arduous question of reducing the numbers either in Ireland or Wales, or in any other part of the Kingdom, in order to do an act of justice to Scotland.
§ MR. BIDDELL
said, he thought that before deciding on the number of Members of the House, hon. Members would do well to bear in mind coming events—namely, the federation of the Colonies with the Mother Country, when he thought the chief of them would have a claim to have a Representative in the House. At present they had nothing to guide them but population. He thought they ought to take another element into consideration, and that was taxation. Through the kindness of a former Member of the House (Sir Henry Peek), he held in his hand certain statistics showing approximately what the general taxation of each of the Divisions of the nation was, taking the Property and Income Tax as an index. He found that in England there were 465 Members, representing an assessment to Property and Income Tax of £418,000,000, giving each Member the representation of taxation equal to £810,000. In Wales there were 30 Members, representing taxation amounting to a little more than £14,500,000, so that in the case of each Member the taxation was represented by a Property and Income Tax assessment of £487,000. In Ireland the 103 Members were only assessed to the Property and Income Tax at £35,000,000, 1972 giving to each Member a taxation only of £340,000. He, therefore, thought that this was an element which ought to be taken into consideration; and although it was practically impossible to provide Members in proportion to the taxation of the country, he thought they ought not to overlook entirely the question of taxation, as they had done under the present Bill. He should have great pleasure, if the right hon. and gallant Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay) went to a division, in supporting the Motion. Only one word more. An hon. Gentleman opposite had spoken of the over-representation of the Eastern counties. If that remark was meant to apply to the county of Suffolk, he begged to tell the hon. Member that each Member for that county would represent a population of over 50,000, and he thought the Government would not have done its duty if they had not provided for an increase in its representation, for which he begged to thank them.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
remarked, that he was nearly and almost entirely in accord with the first part of the Resolution of the right hon. and gallant Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay)—namely, that it was inexpedient that the numbers of the House should be increased; but, at the same time, he would venture to express a hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would not press that Motion to a division. The question to which it referred was no new question. It had arisen upon every Reform Bill—namely, the question of compensation to Scotland, and the increase of the numbers of the House. But on former occasions the subject had not been dealt with by a proposal on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair, but had invariably been dealt with by a proposal of a more practical character. He was extremely glad to notice that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was sensible of the great irregularity he had committed when he referred particularly to an Amendment which stood in his (Mr. Arnold's) name on the Paper dealing with this question. He declined to imitate the bad example of the right hon. Gentleman, and would only say that immediately they got into Committee, the second Amendment on the Paper 1973 would raise this very question in a direct form. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, in his second speech, had referred to the great disproportion in the representation which prevailed in different parts of the United Kingdom, and the House could not fail to observe what an extremely strong argument his right hon. Friend had supplied, in his remarks, against the proposal to increase the numbers of the House, because, by showing that disproportion, his right hon. Friend had given conclusive evidence that the Bill could not be accepted as one of a final character. Probably at no distant date—perhaps at the issue of the next Census Returns—the House would be called upon to consider whether it could not give this scheme a more effective character. That formed an additional reason why they should not increase the number of Members. He had been surprised to hear hon. Members opposite complain of the hon. Member for Haddington (Mr. Craig-Sellar) for not having submitted the Amendment which stood on the Paper in his name. Judging from the nature of his speech, his hon. Friend evidently perceived that the proposal before the House was not exactly accurate. But there was an alternative proposal which had been pursued in former Reform Bills, and which he (Mr. Arnold) hoped would be pursued in this—namely, to give compensation to Scotland on the line of the Reform Bills of 1832 and 1868 without increasing the number of Members of the House. He was certainly more surprised than all at the request which had been made, not by the hon. Member for Haddington (Mr. Craig-Sellar), but by the right hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Sir John Hay) and the right hon. Gentleman who sat behind him (Mr. Raikes), for positive declarations on the subject from the Government. It was said that it was a very little matter; but the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill was a Minister of great skill and ingenuity, and knew far better than to say that the Government would treat the increase of the House as a vital part of the Bill. Such a declaration would be resented by every Member of the House. It would have been altogether wrong if the Government had come down to the House and announced their intention of 1974 making a question of a domestic character relating to the House itself a vital point. He congratulated his right hon. Friend on the discretion he had shown in refusing to make such a declaration, with a view of coercing the action of any Member of the House.
§ MR. H. S. NORTHCOTE
expressed a hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay) would press his Motion to a division, and, in that case, he would certainly support him. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), in commenting on the speech of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes), had said that he thought the effect of carrying out the proposal of the right hon. and gallant Admiral would be rather to discredit the loyal representation of Ireland instead of having any effect in improving the representation of that country. He was afraid that an important question, which would have to be presented to the next Parliament, would be how they were to deal with the Irish Nationalists, who entertained views entirely opposite from those represented by the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton). How were they to hope, under the present Bill, to increase the power of the Loyal minority in Ireland? In plain words, it was perfectly certain that in the next Parliament there would be an overwhelming body of Irish Nationalists; and he confessed that his own feeling was that they should try to take some action in the direction of diminishing, instead of increasing, the power of that overwhelming Nationalist majority, rather than start off on a wild goose chase for the purpose of increasing the power of the small Loyalist minority. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), in a speech which he made earlier in the evening, had taken occasion to censure the views which had been put forward in The Quarterly and Edinburgh Reviews; but, at the same time, the right hon. Gentleman laid considerable stress on a newspaper article in which the Conservative Party were advised to go in for the reduction of the Irish representation from 103 to 100 Members. If he might quote the words of an hon. Member who sat below the Gangway (Mr. Par- 1975 nell), and which were now historical, he would not "venture to take his coat off" for the purpose of securing a reduction in the Irish representation from 103 to 100 Members, because he thought such a small and insignificant reduction would not make such a substantial inroad upon that dangerous force of Irish Nationalists as would make it worth while for any independent Conservative to "take off his coat." The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board said the House had already declared itself in favour of fixing a population of 15,000 for one Member, and of 50,000 for two. He did not know upon what the right hon Gentleman based his assumption that those figures would be acceptable to the House. He could well understand that such a scheme as that, which was shadowed forth some months ago in The Standard newspaper, in which 10,000 population for one Member was made the unit, might commend itself to a large section of the House—10,000 as the unit of single representation, and 40,000 for two Members. Or he could understand why a sweeping scheme based on the limit of 50,000 or 54,000 population, might have been advocated on the ground, that it would secure finality; but he was astonished how any scheme of this kind, which secured nothing in the shape of finality, could be considered satisfactory. In regard to the Instruction placed on the Paper by the hon. Member for the Haddington Burghs (Mr. Craig-Sellar), he confessed that in his opinion the Scotch Members had made out a fair case for an increase of the representation of Scotland; but he would qualify this by saying that they had only made out their case on the supposition that the Government intended to deal in a reasonable way with the whole question of representation in that House. Speaking as an independent Conservative, he had not the slightest objection to an increase in the number of the Scotch Members, although, as a general rule, the Scotch Members belonged to that Party with whom he had not the honour of agreeing. But although he might concede to Scotland an increase of Members, he would only do so on strict grounds of reason and justice, and he would not be prepared to do so unless those grounds could be advocated and supported by Her Ma- 1976 jesty's Government. He agreed with the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) and the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold), that there was the greatest possible objection to an increase in the total number of Members in the House of Commons, and he would again, even at that hour, suggest to Her Majesty's Government that it might be possible still to re-cast their scheme, so as to provide for the necessary and inevitable increase in the number of Scotch Members, by dealing in a more fair and reasonable manner with the second-class constituencies of England and Wales. At the same time it might be found possible to deal more fairly with the second-class constituencies in Ireland also. The hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny), whose Amendment the Speaker had ruled out of Order, had intended to move that the City of Limerick should be omitted from the provisions of the Bill; not that the City of Limerick should be deprived of representation, but that its boundaries should be extended, and such additional areas included as would increase the population of the Parliamentary borough to the limit necessary to entitle it to retain its present representation. Now, he confessed that he was in the same boat with the hon. Member, because he had the honour to represent a constituency (Exeter) which was almost in exactly the same position as the City of Limerick, and he would express a hope that Her Majesty's Government would be able to see their way to some alteration in the details of their scheme by which they might deal more fairly with second-class constituencies, such as Limerick and Exeter, by enabling towns where the population was close upon 50,000 to increase their area, and thus retain their second Member. He thought that would be a more reasonable scheme of representation, and one that would be more just to the country generally, than the present proposals of the Government.
§ MR. WEBSTER
observed, that the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir John Hay), while evidently introduced with a view of serving the interests of Scotland, proposed to do so by depriving the two Sister Countries of England and Wales of a portion of their present repre- 1977 sentation. He thought that the question had assumed a very awkward aspect indeed as regarded the interests of Scotland. The Government had told them now, even more distinctly than before, that the claim of Scotland to have 12 additional Members, must depend solely and entirely on the success of the proposal to add 12 more Members to the numbers of the House. It was quite true that the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Admiral opposite did not, in the first part of it, advert to the additional provision for Scotland. It did, however, deal with the question whether there was to be an increase in the numbers of the House; but, unfortunately, the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was accompanied by other conditions which other Members did not feel inclined to support. He wished to state distinctly that he had no desire whatever to be involved in any hostile division with Members from Ireland. He had no desire whatever to take part in a sort of triangular duel between Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. On the other hand, he confessed that he could not avoid attaching much importance to the entire absence of any declaration from the Front Opposition Bench that the arrangement come to between the Leaders of the two Parties in the House would be adhered to. The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Northcote), who might be supposed to know what was in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, had made a most extraordinary speech.
§ MR. WEBSTER
frankly accepted the statement, but certainly the speeches which had been delivered on the other side of the House were sufficient to justify the Scotch Members in asking for further explanations from Her Majesty's Government. It appeared to him that the Scotch Members ought to have a positive pledge from the Government that they considered it essential to give effect to the fair claims of Scotland. It was, therefore, desirable that the question as to where the additional Scotch Members were to come from should be brought to an issue as soon as possible. He thought that it was not properly dealt with by the proposition of his right hon. and 1978 gallant Friend opposite, or by any Amendment upon going into Committee; but that it should be dealt with by means of a substantive Motion that would not be embarrassed with additional provisions which he was satisfied most of the Scotch Members would not vote for. He wished to express the great satisfaction with which he and other Scotch Members had received the assurance that Scotland was entitled to 12 additional Members. He could not help recollecting how different was the way in which the claims of Scotland were now treated from that in which they were treated in the debate of 1868, when a far more moderate demand, on the part of Scotland, was resisted by the English Members. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government would give an assurance to the House that Scotland would have its increase of Members. If the Scotch Members did not receive such an assurance, it would become necessary for them to consider what course they ought to take. It was all very well to say that the majority of Members on the other side of the House admitted the fairness of their claim, if they objected to its being obtained by an increase in the number of Members of the House. He wished to emphasize as strongly as possible his fear that the question as regarded the fair and admitted right of Scotland might be seriously jeopardized by this uncertainty, and he thought that at this early stage it ought to be brought to a conclusion.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
was certain that no one could say a word against the conciliatory speech which they had just heard from the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Webster); but he could not say as much for that of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Northcote). That hon. Member objected to the Irish Members, because they were termed "National;" but what was the good of having Members from Ireland if they were not to express the national feeling? The hon. Member assigned that as one of his reasons for desiring to reduce the number of Irish and Welsh Members, in order that a second Member might be given to a few second-class constituencies. That was the second argument on which the hon. Member relied; but it would not bear the light of examination, and fell altogether to 1979 the ground. No doubt, Exeter was a very nice town, but it was of very little importance; and were they for the sake of keeping up the number of its Members to reduce the entire Irish representation? He now came to the broad question—What were the Irish Members to do? The question of Ireland was a very serious one for England. At present, perhaps, 10 or 12 Irish Members more or less was not of much consequence, because the Government had them completely in their power. [Mr. HEALY: No, no!] Well, he was afraid he had not the courage of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy). Nearly the whole of the Press in this country was against them; they were unable to secure by their own action the passing of any Irish measure. Therefore, they were entirely in the power of the Government, and it was absurd to suppose that they were in any other position. The question of Ireland, as he had said before, was a very serious one. It was not a question whether they had 10 or 12 more Members in that House; but it was more important to England, in the first place, to use Ireland as a friend. In the present state of things that was impossible; but he really believed that if they would govern Ireland with ordinary common sense for even eight or 10 years, they might make Ireland their friend. Sydney Smith, in one of his witty remarks, said that Englishmen were sensible in ordinary matters; but whenever they began to talk of Ireland they threw their common sense to the winds. Ho repeated, that their first object should be to make Ireland their friend, and to convince the world, and the Irish people in the United States, in Canada, Australia, and the other Colonies, that they were treating Ireland with justice. If they reduced the number of Irish Members, would it stand before the world that they were treating Ireland with justice? Some hon. Members said that the population of Ireland was less than her present number of Members justified. But what was the case for 60 or 70 years before? The population of Ireland was enormously in excess of her representation in the first instance, and it was only within the last 20 years, or, strictly speaking, at the last Census, that the population of Ireland had been so much reduced in proportion, and that hon. 1980 Members were heard to say that Ireland ought to be represented in proportion to her population. When the population was in excess of the representation they heard nothing about increasing the Irish representation. No doubt, to a small extent, amounting to some five Members, there had been an increase since the Union; but the moment the Census turned the other way there was a cry for a reduction, and the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Northcote) expressed a strong opinion that there ought to be fewer National Members in the House. He did not believe that a reduction would make very much difference to Ireland. If the Irish Members had any power, it was because they had the public opinion of the United States, Australia, Canada, and the English Colonies on their side; but he did not care, nor would he give a fig, for 10 or 12 votes more or less. There was another point. Some hon. Members thought the number of Irish Members was in excess of the number provided at the time of the Union, but that it was not worth while to knock of the extra three. Of course, if they did, one of the three must be a University Member. Personally, ho would not object to see both of them knocked off; but if they reduced the number to that which was provided by the Act of Union there would be 99 county and borough Members, and one for the University. If they adopted any other system of dealing with Ireland, they would still be violating the Act of Union, which, although binding upon this country, was not binding upon the Irish people, seeing that they had never consented to it. They had never had an opportunity of agreeing to it. On the contrary, the English Government bribed wholesale in order to obtain it; they were now enjoying the fruits of it, and the Irish people had no voice in it. He thanked the House for having allowed him to make these remonstrances, and to point out the difficulties and the dangers of the course which some hon. Members seemed desirous of embarking in.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, there was a great contrast between the plausible and interesting speeches which had been delivered by English Conservative Members, and the sentiments uttered regarding the Irish representation by the Irish Tory Members who had spoken during 1981 the debate. He need only refer to the speeches of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Northcote) and the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes). Those two speeches contrasted most favourably with the speeches they had listened to from the Irish Tory Members. On both sides of the House they heard the Scotch Members advocating increased representation for their country, and strongly supporting the proposal of the Government for conceding additional Members. But what did they hear from the Irish Tory Members? The noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton) advocated a reduction in the number of Irish Representatives, and suggested that Ireland was over-represented, that a number of her Members should be taken away and given to Scotland. That was a curious illustration of Irish patriotism, coming from a noble Viscount who represented the loyal county of Fermanagh. Nothing was heard of the over-representation of Ulster, when the Ulster Tories held the 29 seats, and when no Catholic or Presbyterian had a voice in the representation, and when before the Ballot Act, Catholics and Presbyterians were driven like cattle to the poll to vote in accordance with the will of their landlord. What happened now, when the franchise was about to be extended, and the tenant farmers, under the benefits of the Land Act, had been made secure in their holdings and were now in a position of independence? The noble Viscount told the House that the agricultural population of Ireland was over-represented. He should like to know what the loyal farmers of Ulster would say to-morrow when they read that speech? What did the noble Viscount also advocate? He said that Armagh should lose a Member, and also Tyrone. Why should Armagh lose a Member? The population of the county was 162,000, and it had only got three Members. Under the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill the noble Viscount would leave the county only two Members, which meant one Member for every 81,000 of the population. The population of Tyrone was 198,000, and under the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill it would have four Members, or one for about every 50,000 persons. The noble Viscount however, made no reference to his own county (Fer- 1982 managh), which only contained a population of 84,000. That county was still to return two Members, whereas the representation of Armagh was to be cut down. The noble Viscount thought that the agriculturists of Ireland were over-represented, but he was in favour of continuing the anomalies of the old borough system, which was a curious commentary upon what had taken place during the last few years since the passing of the Land Act. The noble Viscount and his Friends were now complaining of the people they had formerly relied upon. He hoped the noble Viscount and his Friends would act upon the advice they had received from the Marquess of Salisbury by going over to Ireland and trying to convert the people there to their views. He agreed with the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Northcote) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge that to adopt the Resolution new before the House would be a most unwise policy to pursue to wards Ireland. Let the people be represented, no matter what their opinions were. If there was a disloyal Ireland, and no one could question the fact, let it be represented on the floor of the House, and do not let them have a seething mass of disaffection in Ireland, claiming that it was not represented, or that it was under-represented. The present proportion of 103 Members to Ireland was not too many, considering the difficulties which the Irish Members had to contend with in attending Parliament. Some of them had to cross the Channel once or twice a-month, and found it necessary to travel sometimes 1,000 miles a-month in order to attend to their duties in the House of Commons, and at the same time to attend to private business in Ireland. English Members quietly living at home, and having easy access to the House, could scarcely realize the difficulties which an Irish Member like himself, living in the extreme North of Ireland, experienced in having to travel constantly between the two countries. He was satisfied that if hon. Members realized the position which the Irish Representatives occupied they would agree that Ireland was not over-represented.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, the hon. Member who had just spoken had contrived thoroughly to misunderstand his noble Friend the Member for Fer- 1983 managh (Viscount Crichton). What his noble Friend urged was simply this—the Government were now bringing in a Bill which based the representation, to a very large extent, upon population; and unquestionably, if that was the test, Ireland was over-represented, and his noble Friend had pointed out the consequences. What would be the result? It was all very well for the hon. Member to get up and state his opinion that every section of political thought in Ireland should be represented. But did the hon. Member know that the political Party to which he belonged would under this Bill be practically dead? [Mr. T. A. DICKSON: No.] It would be, practically, politically dead. [Mr. T. A. DICKSON: NO; decidedly no.] He would qualify the expression by saying that the Party would be politically dead if the number of votes behind it were taken into account—that was to say, that the political Party represented by the hon. Member would be universally under-represented. The same thing applied to the Conservative Party. [Mr. HEALY: Hear, hear!] He was glad to get that acknowledgment from the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy). And who would be the Party who would be over-represented, for that was the matter to bear in mind? It would be the Party of which the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan was an able and prominent Member. What were the feelings which would animate the majority of the Members of that Party in the next House of Commons? They had recently had a speech delivered by one of the ablest Members of the Party at a mass meeting in Ireland, and the statement then made was that the relations between England and Ireland were those of civil war, tempered by a scarcity of firearms. [A laugh.] It was no laughing matter, because, unfortunately, it was perfectly true of that particular section represented by the hon. Member for Mallow (Mr. O'Brien), and led by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). That Party would be enormously over-represented in the next House of Commons. He wished the House thoroughly to understand that in making this change they were doing it with their eyes open. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had just now stated on behalf of the Government 1984 his firm belief that under this single-Member system the representation of the landlords of Ireland would not be reduced. Was there a single man of any authority in Ireland who would express a similar opinion; if so, they had only to wait for a few months in order to see how utterly delusive that opinion was. His complaint was that Her Majesty's Government were acting altogether in the dark, just as they had been acting throughout the Egyptian business; and the result would be a precisely similar failure. They had been warned, in the most unmistakable manner, of the danger of the line of action they were adopting; they were again ignoring the advice which had been given to them; and, in his opinion, difficult as the situation was now, they would find themselves placed in a much more serious and difficult position with regard to Ireland a few years hence. He did not believe that any Redistribution Bill could immediately diminish the nature of the danger; but the danger which was ahead was chiefly due to the reduction of the franchise in Ireland. He had done all in his power to oppose that measure, because he knew perfectly well its dangerous character. Every man in the House, and especially every Irish Member on both sides of the House, knew what the reduction of the franchise would do in Ireland. They were told that if they treated Ireland with justice the feeling of disaffection which now existed in Ireland would be removed, and that the people of Ireland would be better disposed towards this country. They had passed a Bill for the reduction of the franchise in Ireland, and it was a tremendous concession to Ireland. Never before in any civilized part of the world had such a thing been done as to give largely increased political power to a people who, in consequence of their turbulence and disaffection, they had been compelled to deprive of their civil rights. Nevertheless, that was the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government. Was the feeling of Ireland one whit better towards England than it was before? On the contrary, the language used was even more violent. He therefore warned the House against listening with favour to the platitudes which fell from the Treasury Bench, by which Ministers maintained and tried to prove that the reduction of the franchise 1985 would not increase the Irish difficulty. It would increase the Irish difficulty; and when the danger came upon them, on those who had tampered with or failed to resist this line of action in time, and upon them alone, would rest the responsibility. He could not support the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman behind him (Sir John Hay); but he must point out to Her Majesty's Government that those who were pledged to the principles of this Bill were placed in a position of some little difficulty in consequence of the Government so unfairly applying the main principles of the measure. It was proposed that Ireland and Wales should be over-represented; but when they came to the Metropolis of the Empire the Government turned round and applied the strict population test, and declined to recognize any other principle. Was that fair, or just, or right? Was it fair, because, simply because, a better class of houses had sprung up in the City of London of late years, and there were, in consequence, fewer inhabitants, to reduce the representation, a line of action which they persistently refused in the case of Ireland and Wales? The Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had laid down a very rigorous principle. He said that if they increased the representation to be given to those parts of the country in which the population had largely increased, it must be done by adding to the Members of the House, and not by taking away Members from those parts of the country which were at present over-represented. Therefore, as the population of the country increased, the number of Members of the House must constantly increase. Yet everybody must admit that for deliberative and legislative purposes the number of Members was already too great; but whether it was too large or too small, the Chamber in which they sat was physically unable to contain the whole, or more than a moiety of the Members entitled to be present and take part in the deliberations of the House. As he had already intimated, he could not support the proposal of his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay). He should, however, be glad if the Government would give a Return, which he thought would very much facilitate the discussions which were likely to take 1986 place upon the provisions of the Bill. In the maps and in the Reports of the Boundary Commission which had been issued, the population of certain boroughs and of certain new constituencies was given; but a large number of the constituencies were not included in the maps. As far as he knew, no accurate Return had been presented to the House of the population of all of the constituencies.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that a Return had been given, on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). It might, however, be necessary to give a further Return.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, it seemed to him that if an accurate Return were supplied it would greatly facilitate the discussion. He hoped there would be one, and he should be glad to learn whether the Return referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, although not perfectly complete, was to be relied upon for accuracy as far as it went?
§ SIR CHARLS W. DILKE
intimated that an additional Return would probably be laid upon the Table to-morrow, and circulated within a week.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
continued: As he had said before, he could not support the proposal of his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay), and he thought it was perfectly useless to discuss whether the representation of Ireland should be reduced from 105 to 103 to the number of Members for whom provision was made by the Act of Union—namely, 100. But if the representation was to be maintained at the present number of Members, with a reduced franchise and the inevitable result of a still larger number of Nationalist Members being returned, it was perfectly certain that in the next Parliament a difficulty would be introduced which would require the highest statesmanship to deal with satisfactorily.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
expressed a hope that in this important discussion the House would have the advantage, before the debate closed, of hearing something from the Front Opposition Bench as to their attitude in the matter. They had just had a speech from the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), in which the 1987 noble Lord had displayed a considerable amount of anti-Irish feeling; and he wished to know whether the noble Lord was speaking simply as the Member for Middlesex, or whether his past connection with the Conservative Government enabled him to throw any light upon the views of his Party sitting on the Front Opposition Bench; and whether the opinions he had expressed were indicative of the attitude and disposition of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sat with him on that Bench in regard to the important question now before the House? He (Mr. Illing worth) could not abstain from noticing the fact that the English Members strongly objected to an increase in the number of Members of the House, for which they were to get no equivalent or compensation whatever. The proposal made by Her Majesty's Government to increase the number of Members by 12 was simply made in order to satisfy the claims of the Scotch Members. That claim, undoubtedly, was a reasonable one to put forward; and, being so, the Scotch Representatives, at any rate, ought to exercise that wariness and shrewdness which characterized their proceedings generally by not attempting to raise the question whether 658 was or was not a sacred number, beyond which the House of Commons ought not to go. As to the reduction in the number of Irish Members, it was the wish, he understood, of a certain section which sat above the Opposition Gangway to cut down the representation, and not to trouble or embarrass the House in any way. He would ask, however, whether hon. Members who were usually demonstrative in regard to their loyalty were pursuing a politic or rational course, when it was the object of the Government and of the House generally to cement the good feeling which ought to exist between different parts of the Empire, to say that they wished to decrease the influence of the Irish Members inside the House? The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) spoke in a despairing tone of the prospect of bringing about a better condition of things in Ireland, and warned the House against taking any step which might have the effect of placing increased power in the hands of the Nationalist Party. Now, he (Mr. Illing worth) did not despair of the future in 1988 Ireland, and had every hope that a better condition of things might, before long, be brought about. He therefore endorsed the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), and of Her Majesty's Government generally. The work might be slow and tedious; but the mistake which hon. Gentlemen made, both inside the House and out of it, was to say that as yet they had done a tithe of what was necessary in order that justice might be done to the Irish people. They were endeavouring to do now a substantial act of justice in giving the franchise to Ireland, in spite of the remonstrances of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton). They would be doing a further act of justice if they supported the Government in their resolution to act in no niggardly spirit towards the Irish people in regard to their representation, and to continue the number of Members on the present basis, regardless of the fact that, in comparison with other parts of the United Kingdom, the Sister Country might be, to a slight extent, over-represented. It was, in the opinion of some hon. Members, a most impolitic thing to extend at that moment the Irish representation. His hope was that the House of Commons, by a large majority, would adhere to the main lines laid down in the Bill as submitted to them by Her Majesty's Government. He appealed to Irish Members, and to the whole body of English Members, not to seek to alter the lines of the present measure, but to adhere to the proposal of Her Majesty's Government. With reference to the remark of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Biddell), who had brought forward the question of taxation as being one of some force, and an argument which the House ought to take into consideration, and who produced figures to show that Ireland contributed a far smaller sum to the general taxation in proportion to population than the other parts of the Kingdom, he (Mr. Illing worth) admitted the force of that argument; but if the statement were correct he drew from it the very opposite inference. He held that it was not property, but people—the poor and the down-trodden—who stood in need of additional representation. It was the people of this country who, in 1989 his opinion, had the right to claim that the House of Commons should be their Representatives, and it was their desire in this matter which should dominate in the present case.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said, he should not have taken any part in the debate of that evening but for a very curious coincidence which had occurred. The House was doubtless aware that certain Gentlemen, hon. Members of the House, had recently, inspirited by the example probably of other hon. Gentlemen on that side, resolved themselves into a Party, which he believed might with propriety be called the Fifth Party, in the House. He referred to some of the Irish Representatives, several of whom had spoken that evening. He believed that this was the first time that the Fifth Party had taken action; and he must congratulate the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson) and the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton) upon the able way in which they had put before the House and the country generally what the policy of their Party was intended to be in Parliament. He did not think that the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition need, in the slightest degree, be jealous of the object or the policy of that smaller body which was within the Party of which he was Leader. But it might be interesting for the people of Ireland to know and fully appreciate what the action of the Irish Conservative Representatives had been in the House that evening. A question had come up for discussion, brought forward, he believed, on the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay), which proposed to decrease the number of the Irish Representatives to 90. Now, the Irish people should very clearly understand what that proposal meant; and they should also very clearly understand the action which the hon. Gentlemen he had referred to had taken with reference to the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay). The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson) actually, through his loyalty, no doubt, had shrieked aloud for the loyal minority in Ireland; and the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton), whose constituents would, no doubt, appreciate his efforts 1990 in that direction, also endeavoured to alarm the House with reference to the future position of the loyal minority in Ireland. He had been in Ireland during the last Recess, and had travelled in many parts of the country which the loyal minority were supposed to inhabit; and he found amongst the Protestants in Ireland, and generally amongst the Irish National Party, a very great deal of indignation at the miserable and beggarly way in which the views of the so-called loyal minority in Ireland had been urged on the House of Commons. The loyal minority was composed of men who could very well take care of themselves—it was composed of men to whom it was distasteful, in the highest degree, that Members such as the hon. Member for Tyrone and the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh should come down and beg and cringe before the English Parliament to obtain protection for them. Several of the Conservative Members from Ireland had very cordially supported the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for the decrease of the Irish representation; and why? Because they affected to be vastly alarmed at the result which would occur at the next General Election, when the Irish National Party in that House would be considerably strengthened in numbers. Why, he asked, were the hon. Member for Tyrone and the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh so frightened at the Irish National Party attaining power and strength in the House of Commons, and in the country generally? They were afraid because they knew the way in which their Party, when in power, treated the Nationalists—they were afraid because their guilty conscience warned them to expect that the Irish Nationalists, in the day of their power, would extend to the Irish Tories the same unjust and bigoted treatment which they themselves had received. He held, however, that the loyal people in Ireland were very different from their Representatives in that House. The constituents of many hon. Members who talked about the loyal minority, and its position with regard to the future, knew very well that they had nothing whatever to fear from the ascendancy of the Nationalist Party in Ireland; it was only their Representatives who shrieked at the very idea of the Nationalists gain- 1991 ing power, and they did so not because they feared Nationalist ascendancy, but because the majority of them were connected with the landowning class—a class which had been driven effectually to the wall by the Nationalist Party. It was a feeling very different from that of patriotism which prompted hon. Members to whom he referred to come down to that House and protest against Nationalist ascendancy, in Ireland; it would be all the same to them who was in the ascendancy, so long as the broad acres of the class which they were connected with were left to them. English Members should have their minds disabused of the idea that the Protestants in Ireland had any fear of the Nationalists. The number was increasing day by day of the Protestant people of Ireland who were no longer opposed to the Nationalist views, and who were beginning to recognize that Protestants, as well as Catholics, suffered a great many disadvantages from having the laws of their country made in that House. It was proposed by the Motion before the House that the representation of Ireland be reduced, because that representation was likely to be overwhelmingly in the Nationalist interest. What was it that hon. Members wanted? Did the House want to have the opinion of the people of Ireland represented, or did they wish to have Representatives there who would give them nothing but a fictitious and unreal idea of that opinion? The majority of the people of Ireland were Nationalists; they were disaffected by their country being ruled in that House; and they were determined to do everything which man could reasonably do to win back to their country that rule and self-government which they desired. No matter whether the whole of the Irish Representatives in that House were Conservative or Nationalist, the spirit of the majority of the people would be the same. The Government might, if they so willed, bring in a Bill to-morrow that no one but Protestants and Orangemen should be returned from Ireland to that House, and the Bill might have the effect of returning Representatives who would be very desirable, perhaps, in the Government, or in a majority of the House; but even a Bill of that kind could not alter the feelings of the majority of the people in Ireland, who were distinctly Nationalists. And he 1992 would put it to any Member of the House representing either English or Scotch constituencies, whether, as long as there was disaffection, as long as there was disloyalty and discontent in Ireland, it was not better to have that discontent ventilated? Or was it desired that there should be no Member is at all in the House to give voice to the discontent of the people in Ireland? He assured hon. Members that the will and feeling of the majority of the people of Ireland could not be slighted. The Government might place restrictions upon the men who represented them, but it would avail nothing; even in the days when it was impossible for a Roman Catholic to be a Member of that House, and when there were only Protestants there and in the old Irish Parliament—even then the spirit of the people was not affected; and, therefore, ho said that, whatever Members might represent them in that House, the Government could not prevent the majority of the Irish people being Nationalists. They could not stifle their aspirations; and, as one who desired anxiously to be on fair terms with hon. Members, he assured them that it was better for this country, and for Ireland, that Irish discontent should have voice in the House of Commons, and not be turned into channels which might render it very disastrous to the British Empire generally. Now, the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh had given them one of his reasons why the representation of Ireland should be decreased, and it was that the population of Ireland was decreased. In a very cheerful way, he told the House, in flippant style, that the population was decreasing considerably, that no doubt it would continue to decrease, and that, while it was decreasing, it was extremely unfair that this Bill should give to Ireland a number of Representatives which, in a few years, would be still more out of proportion to the population of the country. The noble Viscount went on to say that the population was decreasing, because the people were starving. Irish Members on those Benches cheered that statement, and the noble Viscount answered their cheer by saying that Home Rule was starving the people; but he could assure the noble Viscount that Home Rule would never do that. It was the landlords who starved the 1993 people; and he challenged the noble Viscount to ask his constituents on the hill-side at Fermanagh, at the next Election, whether that was not the case; and he was confident they would reply, on every occasion, that they believed there was a greater chance of improving their position by Home Rule than there was of obtaining any improvement from the selfish class represented by the noble Viscount that evening. The right bon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) had been very condescending to the people of Ireland in his speech, and he had no doubt that the condescension of the right hon. Gentleman would be duly appreciated by them. The right hon. Gentleman said that the advantages of the Union of Ireland to England should be maintained, and that as the Act of Union provided for 100 Members for Ireland, and that as Ireland was to enjoy all the advantages of that Union, the 100 Members could not very well be interfered with, or words to that effect. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he could point out to the people of Ireland the advantages of that Union they would be very glad to recognize them; but he could also assure him that, during the 84 years which had elapsed since the Union, the people of Ireland had failed to see any advantages in it at all. It was a most unreasonable thing that certain Members in that House should approve of the argument that the number of Members who were wanted to increase the Scotch representation should be taken from Ireland. Now, Irish Members had not the least objection in the world to the Scottish people having full representation in Parliament. He did not believe that Scotch Members themselves were more glad that Scotland was to have full and fair representation in that House than were the Irish Members; but to say that 12 Members should be taken from Ireland in order to increase the representation of Scotland was a suggestion so sinister and so monstrous as hardly to be worthy of any criticism whatever. If any move were to be made in the direction indicated of decreasing the number of Irish Members, he was afraid that the Nationalist Party would be obliged to cause itself the great pain of recommending that the two Members who represented the University of Dublin should be sus- 1994 pended from their duties in that House. It was a monstrous thing that a University like the University of Dublin, the majority of those connected with which were altogether opposed to Nationalist aspirations, should have the privilege of returning two Members of Parliament. Reference had been made to the manner in which some boroughs were proposed to be disfranchised by the Bill. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had said that a considerable stretch had been made in drawing the boundaries of London, because of the antiquity of the City of London. He (Mr. "W. Redmond) was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman had respect for things which were ancient, which was not at all characteristic of the Party to which he belonged, and very fully appreciated the feeling which prompted the Government to leave to the City of London two Members of Parliament; but he remembered a borough which he believed was much more ancient than the City of London, and in the Government's treatment of which he could discern none of that respect for antiquity which prompted them to deal liberally with the former. The City of Limerick could vie very fairly with the City of London in point of antiquity, and yet he did not find that the Government had acted in the same way towards it by leaving it with its two Members. In many respects the disfranchisement of boroughs in Ireland had been most unfair. It was extremely hard that Drogheda should be deprived of separate representation, and there were other hard cases which he could enumerate if he had any desire to occupy the time of the House. ["Oh, oh!"] He might, in passing, just inform hon. Members that if they wished him to cease speaking they must not jeer him; jeering only made him speak the more. He merely rose for the purpose of giving vent to a certain amount of indignation which he felt at hearing the Irish Conservative Members monopolizing the debate, and making strenuous efforts to have the representation of their native country curtailed. In conclusion, he wished to emphasize this fact, which he hoped the people of Leitrim, Tyrone, and Fermanagh would remember well at the next General Election—that the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Vis- 1995 count Crichton), and the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney), and some of their Friends, had done everything they possibly could to have the representation of Ireland cut down to 90 Members. He did not think the farmers of Fermanagh and Tyrone would appreciate the action adopted by those hon. Gentlemen; indeed, he was perfectly certain that what had been attempted only needed to be brought under the notice of the farmers to induce them, at the next General Election, to tell the noble Viscount and the hon. Member for Tyrone to go about their business. He believed that if any serious attempt were made by Parliament to decrease the representation of Ireland, that attempt would receive an amount of opposition which would very greatly astonish the House. He and his hon. Friends were not particularly anxious to sit in the British House of Commons. They appreciated to its due extent the privilege of being allowed to sit upon those Benches; but they must have one of two things—they must either be allowed to make their own laws in their own country, or if they were to come to "Westminster they must be permitted to muster in their full force.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I think if anyone who had not been made aware of the character of this Bill had come into the House while the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was speaking he would have come to this conclusion—that the Bill which we are discussing is one that is to greatly diminish and unfairly destroy the power and influence of the Party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs; that it is, in fact, a Bill intended to give to the Members who have been described as the Loyalists—the Conservative Members from Ireland—an opportunity of entirely overriding the Party led by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). Sir, I venture to say that in this House we have no right to listen to language of such a character as that which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Redmond) has used with regard to the Loyalists of Ulster and other Members from Ireland. I must say that scant justice is done to the feelings of their constituents, that large and important loyal body in Ireland who cling to the principle of the Union with a spirit of true loyalty 1996 and of true affection. That there are large numbers of persons in Ireland who take a different view is perfectly true, and very much to be regretted; but that there is not a strong, firm, unselfish, and loyal Party in Ireland, and that that Party is not prepared to stand by the Union with this country, is entirely untrue. Now, I think we ought not to listen to attacks of this sort by the hon. Member without repudiating them, and without claiming for those to whom the hon. Gentleman refers that they have acted in this matter in a spirit of entire devotion to what they believe to be, and what we in this country believe to be, the general good of the Empire. While we allow every possible latitude, and every possible power of speech, to those who take a different view, we ought to insist that those who represent the Party who are attached to the British connection should be allowed to have their say, and to argue their points, and fight their own battles, without improper and unworthy language being used in reference to them.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I rise to a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman has imputed to me the use of unworthy language with reference to several Members of this House. I should be very glad if you, Mr. Speaker, or the right hon. Baronet, would, point out in what particular I have used language which could be described as unworthy.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I am within the recollection of the House. The hon. Member imputed to those who were arguing in favour of the loyal principles which they maintain low and base motives, and spoke of them as being mere land-grabbers.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. I really must interrupt the right hon. Baronet. Of course, I differ very much from the politics of the Ulster Members, and I disagree very much with the opinions they have expressed to-night; but I should not think of applying to them a term which I think is the worst term which can be applied by one Irishman to another—namely, that of land-grabbers. I would not call them land-grabbers.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I can only say I am glad I have called forth from the hon. Gentleman a disclaimer of language which I should be very sorry to let pass in this House unchallenged. Now, Sir, with regard to the actual position of affairs, I think we must look at it in this way. In the first place, with regard to the vote we are called upon to give. The Question which is immediately before us is the Motion that you, Mr. Speaker, do now leave the Chair, and to that an Amendment has been moved by my right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) to the effect that the House objects to an increase of the number of its Members, and that the number of Representatives for Ireland and Wales shall be reduced in certain proportions. Sir, I think everybody must feel that it is important that we should go on and make progress with this Bill, and that we should deal practically with it, and that we should not be taking a prudent or convenient step if we were to vote against proceeding with the Bill, in order to pass a Resolution of this kind. When we get into Committee will be the time for Members to consider whether they have any proposals to make which will mitigate the difficulties which they feel with regard to the scheme which is laid before them. There is, no doubt, a great deal to be said against the proposal to increase the number of Members of the House. Whether we can see our way to a settlement of the difficulty in a better way is another question; and I am not sure we shall not find, when we examine the different proposals which will be made in the course of the Committee, that each of the proposals contain so many difficulties that, after all, we may be driven to the increase of the number of Members of the House as being the best way out of the difficulty. I am not insensible at all to the objections there are to increasing our numbers. It is not merely a question of convenience as regards our accommodation, but it is a step which may hereafter be pleaded as a precedent for further increases, and I do not think that would be a very convenient state of things. It is a point upon which there is a very great difference of opinion; very strong opinions, I am bound to say, are held against the step of increasing the number of Members by a great many hon. 1998 Gentlemen on this side of the House, and those opinions are very deserving of consideration. How we will deal with the questions as they arise, how we will deal with the redistribution of seats, is, as I have said, a question we must determine in Committee. I only hope that hon. Gentlemen will not beforehand make up their minds on questions of such nicety and difficulty, but that they will, in Committee, deal fairly and intelligibly with all the proposals that may be made. Sir, I frankly admit that this measure, taken in connection with the alterations effected by the Franchise Bill, will introduce very considerable changes in the composition of the House, and that it will affect, amongst other things, the composition of the Irish representation. I believe that the lowering of the franchise will produce a change which is apprehended by some and desired by other Members from Ireland in the influence of the Nationalist Party. It is not so much a question of redistribution of seats as of the extension of the franchise; but I think that, in considering the redistribution of seats, we ought, undoubtedly, to take carefully into consideration any proposals that may be made to give the fairest possible expression to that which is the main principle, or one of the main principles, upon which the Bill is framed—namely, that constituencies should be so arranged that there should be a fair representation of the different classes and interests throughout the United Kingdom. That was the principle upon which the Boundary Commissioners were instructed to proceed in settling the boundaries of the different counties, and that same principle ought to be our guide in any proposals which may have to be considered with regard to the grouping or arrangement of the different constituencies of the country. I hope that we shall be permitted to-night to vote the Speaker out of the Chair, so that we may be in a position to-morrow to go practically to work with regard to the details of the Bill. I do not wish to detain the House any further at the present time; but my own opinion is that when we come to work the matter out, and work it out in a practical spirit, we shall find that the solution which is suggested by Her Majesty's Government will probably be the one which we shall adopt.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
said, that as this Motion had been made apparently in the interest of Scotch Members, perhaps he might be permitted to address a few words to the House. After what had been said on the part of the Government, and especially after what had been recently said by the Leader of the Opposition, he was not alarmed about the Motion. Indeed, he was astonished that the right hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir John Hay) had proposed it in the interest of Scotland, because the right hon. and gallant Gentleman placed himself first in antagonism with a great part of the Irish Members, with the entire body of Welsh Members; and then he put an effectual veto upon the increase of the number of Scotch Representatives by asking the House to affirm that it was inexpedient to increase the number of Members of the House. Anything more absurd he (Mr. Williamson) could not imagine. It was said that, having regard to the accommodation which the House afforded, the numbers ought not to be increased. As a matter of fact, it was only once or twice a Session that the attendance was very large, so that, practically, no discomfort would be experienced by an increase of the number of Members. In his opinion, to increase the number of Members was the best and most reasonable way of solving the difficulty; and, therefore, he hoped the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay) would withdraw his Motion.
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wexford (Mr. W. Redmond) said just now that he (Mr. Macartney) supported the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir John Hay). As a matter of fact, he did not say a word about it.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
begged the hon. Gentleman's pardon. If he said so, he did so inadvertently, and because he was of opinion that the hon. Member was in favour of decreasing the representation of Ireland.
said, his face must have spoken very plainly, because he did not know how the hon. Gentleman could have ascertained, his opinion on the subject unless it was through his facial expression. In his former speech he complained of the representation of Wales and Leinster; and now he wished to say to hon. Gentlemen who sat below the Gangway that, even in the 2000 event of them getting a Parliament in Ireland, the Loyalists and protestants of Ireland had no reason to be afraid. He could assure the hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Redmond) and his hon. Friends that the loyal men of Ireland were not afraid. Whatever reason they might have to be alarmed lest their rights should be taken from them as regarded representation in Parliament, whatever reason they might have to object to the present measure, which certainly swamped them unfairly, they were not afraid. They did not come from a race which ever was afraid. Having said so much to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, he merely wished to make one remark with regard to what fell from the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke), who had charge of the Bill on the part of the Government. In comparing the different countries, the right hon. Baronet spoke of the boroughs and counties in each country. Now, ho (Mr. Macartney) took a broader view than that. He thought that in the redistribution of seats each country ought to have been taken according to its rightful representation; and the redistribution of the representation should have been made as was thought best. However, that course had not been pursued, and he and others could only complain of the fact.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Justin M'Carthy.)
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he hoped that the debate would not be adjourned. If, after this, any other question was raised which was likely to occupy time, it would, of course, be impossible for him to resist the adjournment; indeed, he should not think of pressing the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair if there was any desire to raise any other question.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, it was necessary that an opportunity should be afforded of a reply to the speeches of the Irish Conservative Members. Although the proposition of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay) referred to the representation of "Wales and Scotland, the debate upon it had really resolved itself into an attack upon the representation of Ireland; and the House had had the pleasure of witnessing a monstrous combination of Scotch Radicals, English Tories, and Irish Orange- 2001 men. He hoped the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) would see his way to agree to the adjournment of the debate.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he would remind the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that, after all, the most conclusive argument was a majority.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
At any rate, it was so considered by those who obtained it. They had discussed at considerable length the question of whether or not the number of Members in the House should be increased; and after such a debate as they had had, particularly as it must be evident to the Irish Members that they were sure of a large majority—some believing in the expediency of the proposed increase for some reasons, and others advocating it for other reasons—he urged those hon. Members to allow the judgment of the House to be now taken on the subject. The decision of the question would clear the way very much for what was to come hereafter. The Scotch Members were anxious that the number should be increased; therefore, for their sakes, it was undesirable that the House should defer the decision of the question. The Irish Members were also anxious that the proposal of the Government should be affirmed; and he need not say that the Government themselves, who had produced the Bill, were strongly in favour of their own proposal. The Opposition also had declared that, on the whole, in spite of the difficulty of apportioning the seats, they were in favour of the proposed increase. This being the case, surely it was not undesirable that they should now take a division; for, after all, if the debate were adjourned, all that those who would continue it could do would be to reiterate and reinforce arguments which were practically accepted by an immense majority of the House. Under the circumstances, he trusted the House would allow the Amendment to be decided, so as to allow the Main Question to be proceeded with.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, that no doubt it was by inadvertence that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had stated that the question before the House was whether or not the number of Members should 2002 be increased, and that it had been decided affirmatively by large majorities on either side of the House. He (Mr. Arnold), for his own part, could only say that, though he voted for the Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair," he should consider the question of the proposed increase in the number of Members as still remaining open.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have now to put the Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SEXTON
said he wished to point out to the House that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had come forward most unnecessarily and interfered with the Minister who had charge of the Bill, that right hon. Baronet having stated that he would not oppose the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
With the permission of Mr. Speaker and the House I will explain. What I said was exactly what subsequently fell from my right hon. Friend. I said that the House should come to a decision on the Amendment of the right hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir John Hay), but that, as I believed there was a desire on the part of the hon. Member for Wexford and some of his Friends to go on with the discussion on the Main Question, I should make no objection to the adjournment of the debate after the division on the Amendment.
§ Original Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 132; Noes 25: Majority 107.2004
|Acland, C. T. D.||Asher, A.|
|Armitstead, G.||Ashley, hon. E. M.|
|Arnold, A.||Balfour, rt. hon. J. B.|
|Balfour, J. S.||Kenny, M. J.|
|Baring, Viscount||Kinnear, J.|
|Barran, J.||Lea, T.|
|Bass, Sir A.||Leahy, J.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Leamy, E.|
|Brand, hon. H. R.||Lee, H.|
|Brassey, Sir T.||Lloyd, M.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C.||Lyons, R. D.|
|Bruce, hon. R. P.||M'Carthy, J.|
|Buchanan, T. R.||M'Carthy, J. H.|
|Buxton, Sir R. J.||M'Mahon, E.|
|Caine, W. S.||Manners, rt. hon. Lord J. J. B.|
|Campbell, R. F. F.|
|Campbell Bannerman, right hon. H.||Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story-|
|Causton, R. K.||Maxwell-Heron, Capt. J. M.|
|Cavendish, Lord E.|
|Cheetham, J. F.||Meagher, W.|
|Childers, right hon. H. C. E.||Moore, A.|
|Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.|
|Clarke, S.||Mundella, rt. hn. A. J.|
|Colman, J. J.||Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Cotes, C. C.||Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.|
|Davenport, H. T.||O'Connor, A.|
|Davies, R.||O'Connor, J.|
|Dawson, C.||O'Gorman Mahon, Col. The|
|Dickson, T. A.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Dilke, right hon. Sir C.W.||O'Shea, W. H.|
|O'Sullivan, W. H.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Parker, C. S.|
|Duckham, T.||Peddie, J. D.|
|Duff, R. W.||Powell, W. R. H.|
|Dundas, hon. J. C.||Power, P. J.|
|Earp, T.||Power, R.|
|Edwards, P.||Rathbone, W.|
|Ellis, Sir J. W.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Elton, C. I.||Roe, T.|
|Errington, G.||Rogers, C. C.|
|Fairbairn, Sir A.||Rogers, J. E. T.|
|Farquharson, Dr. R.||Russell, G. W. E.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro-||Ruston, J.|
|Findlater, W.||Sellar, A. G.|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord E.||Sexton, T.|
|Fowler, H. H.||Sheil, E.|
|Fowler, R. N.||Small, J. F.|
|Gladstone, H. J.||Smith, Lieut.-Col. G.|
|Gladstone, W. H.||Smith, S.|
|Grant, Sir G. M.||Stanley, hon. E. L.|
|Grant, A.||Stuart, J.|
|Hamilton, J. G. C.||Sullivan, T. D.|
|Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V.||Summers, W.|
|Talbot, J. G.|
|Hartington, Marq. of||Thompson, T. C.|
|Hayter, Sir A. D.||Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury-|
|Healy, T. M.|
|Henderson, F.||Walker, S.|
|Heneage, E.||Warton, C. N.|
|Herschell, Sir F.||Webster, J.|
|Hibbert, J. T.||Whitbread, S.|
|Holden, I.||Williamson, S.|
|Holms, J.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Hope, right hon. A. J. B. B.||Woodall, W.|
|Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Ince, H. B.|
|James, Sir H.||TELLERS.|
|James, hon. W. H.||Grosvenor, right hon. Lord R.|
|Jenkins, D. J.||Kensington, right hon. Lord|
|Archdale, W. H.||Lewis, C. E.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Macartney, J. W. E.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Northcote, H. S.|
|Beresford, G. De la P.||Onslow, D.|
|Biddell, W.||Scott, M. D.|
|Buxton, F. W.||Severne, J. E.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Sykes, C.|
|Corry, J. P.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Ebrington, Viscount||Tottenham, A. L.|
|Ewart, W.||Whitley, E.|
|Hill, Lord A. W.||TELLERS.|
|Howard, E. S.||Crichton, Viscount|
|Lennox, rt. hon. Lord H. G. C. G.||Hay, rt. hon. Admiral Sir J. C. D.|
|Levett, T. J.|
Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
In accordance with a promise I gave the House, I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Sir Charles W. Dilke,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.