§ Clause 2 (Boroughs named in First Schedule to become parts of counties or boroughs).
§ MR. MULHOLLAND
said, he rose to move, as an Amendment, after the word "Act," in page 1, line 13, to insert the words—Except such boroughs in Ireland as shall hereafter by the provisions of this Act be grouped together, or grouped with other towns not at present represented, for the purpose of forming borough districts in Ireland.The object of the Amendment was to suspend the disfranchisement of certain boroughs of Ireland until the Committee had had an opportunity of considering whether some scheme might not be introduced by which the borough representation of Ireland might be increased by adopting a system of grouping something like that which was carried out in Scotland. In the event of no scheme being afterwards adopted the Amendment would be inoperative, as it was proposed simply to suspend the scheme of disfranchisement, so that the Committee would not be in any way committed by adopting the Amendment if it should hereafter be thought fit to disapprove of the scheme now brought forward. He hoped to be able to persuade the Committee that some modification of the proposals contained in the Bill in reference to Ireland were really essentially required. The scheme of disfranchisement, in regard to the Irish boroughs, was carried out to such an extent that it appeared to be in the interests of both Parties that some Amendment should be introduced; and he was glad to perceive, from the tone of the 753 speeches delivered, both last night and in the debate upon the Motion for the Speaker leaving the Chair, that that feeling was shared by both sides of the House. There seemed to be a general feeling of regret and alarm at the system of Irish borough representation proposed in the Bill. They had been told that this was inevitable, owing to certain broad lines having to be adopted in consequence, he supposed, of the agreement of the Leaders of the two Parties, who had already decided upon the fundamental principles of the Bill; but if it could be proved that the result of the application of those broad lines would lead to consequences that were really absurd and undesirable, surely it was not too late to remedy the evil which would positively arise from not considering the case of Ireland by itself. They were told there was a difficulty, because a compact had been entered into between the two Front Benches. His object at present was, if possible, to conciliate the two Front Benches, and therefore he would conclude that the agreement which had been made, and which was likely to lead to such consequences in Ireland, had been made in ignorance of the effect which the disfranchisement of the Irish boroughs would produce. He did not believe that there was any intention to do injustice to Ireland, or in a permanent settlement of so great a question to be guided only by views of temporary expediency; but as regarded the compact, it appeared to him that it was only a compact entered into between the two Front Benches themselves. A mutual agreement could be got rid of by another mutual agreement; and he thought that when they considered the position the Irish representation would be reduced to by this Bill, it would be felt that, even putting the interests of Ireland altogether aside, the interests of the United Kingdom required that both Parties should join in some arrangement by which a remedy could be provided. He might add that even if the two Front Benches were committed, individual Members of the House were not committed in any way, and he knew that there was a strong feeling on this subject in the minds of many individual Members on both sides of the House. But he did not wish to press that point, because he would rather that the question was settled by a gene- 754 ral agreement. They all knew that in that House opinions did not always coincide. That would be an answer to the question of the difficulty that had arisen from the compact entered into upon this question; but there was a stronger one still—namely, that the remedy he proposed did not appear to him to be in any way outside the broad lines on which the Bill had been framed. On the contrary, he found a distinct precedent for it in the Bill itself. The Bill included arrangements with respect to other parts of the United Kingdom precisely analogous to that which he now proposed for the adoption of the Committee in the case of Ireland. Therefore, it seemed to him that there could be no difficulty whatever upon the score of inability to break through the broad lines on which the Bill had been framed. The right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford North cote) stated last night upon that subject that it had been arranged last year that the Franchise Bill should be extended to Ireland; that the feeling of the House was against the exception of Ireland from the operation of the Franchise Bill; and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman thought that the House was bound to apply to Ireland the same rules with respect of redistribution which had been determined upon in respect of England. But why that was to be so the right hon. Gentleman did not explain. He (Mr. Mulholland) could see no reason whatever why the lines adopted in regard to England should be applied to Ireland if they could find a better analogy elsewhere. The effect of the present Bill was that in Ireland it led practically to the representation of one class and of one interest. The agricultural class in Ireland was so numerous that in any case that was inevitable. By no fair arrangement—and he asked for nothing that was not a fair arrangement—would it be possible to exclude the agricultural class in Ireland from a preponderating importance; but if it were possible to introduce a counterbalancing element, it would, he thought, be wise to do so. If it were possible in any way to alleviate it, it would be wise to do so. He complained that the present Bill went out of the plain path, not to alleviate this preponderance, and not to diminish it, but rather to exaggerate the anomaly and to increase the pre- 755 ponderance of this particular class. A year ago, when speaking in the debate upon the second reading of the Franchise Bill, he had stated that he felt there was great danger in the sudden enfranchisement of large masses in Ireland. There was no such danger in the case of England; but in Ireland the numbers proposed to be enfranchised exceeded the whole of the previous constituencies, and they would, therefore, have a complete monopoly of political power. He would say, further, that, from ignorance, or from want of educational advantages, from the fact of their poverty, because, according to the Census Returns, more than one-half of the new voters lived in houses represented to be cabins built of mud, there was great danger; and he hoped that when the provisions of the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill came to be disclosed, it would be found that there had been some attempt to guard against the danger likely to arise from such a state of things. In any country it would have been desirable, under such circumstances, to make some provision for the division of classes; but in Ireland it was more than ever necessary, because there was a distinct line which divided different pursuits and different industries, and the effect of this wholesale enfranchisement would be to place political power almost solely in the hands of the class who were intellectually inferior to the other class. His disappointment, therefore, was very great when he found, after the provisions of the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill had been disclosed, that not only had no such step been taken, but that the effect of the Bill would be greatly to increase the evil that would necessarily follow enfranchisement. It obliterated the distinction which naturally arose from the difference between a town and a county population. It was stated last night that there were now 36 boroughs in Ireland, and the Bill absolutely proposed to take 20 of them out of the list. Of the 16 that would remain eight were given to the three great towns, so that there would only be eight left to represent the mercantile, professional, and manufacturing interests of the whole of the rest of Ireland. He did not think any hon. Member would defend so sweeping a change in itself. Such a proposal, in fact, could not be defended upon its own 756 merits; and the only defence which had been placed before the House was that it was inevitable owing to the application to Ireland of those broad lines which had been laid down in reference to England. The result was that 85 seats were to be given to the agricultural population in Ireland. He had not a word to say against the enfranchisement of the agricultural population of Ireland; but it must be evident to everyone that in the present state of Ireland, with its subdivision of farms, with its small holdings, and with its congested population, in many respects the agricultural classes, from their individual isolation, were more likely to be led astray by agitators than any other class of the people. There was also a special temptation that could be addressed to them as being connected with the soil, of the gift of the land to the occupiers, so often advocated in Ireland, and as being calculated to follow the guidance of those who promised them revolution and confiscation. Now, he would say that, in any case, the agricultural population of Ireland would require a representation, according to its numbers, of nearly three-fourths; but the present Bill proposed, instead of three-fourths, to give them seven-eighths, notwithstanding the fact that the urban population was one-fourth of the whole, and they all knew that the urban population was more thoroughly represented than the agricultural population, because the unit which conferred the seat was smaller than in the counties. They were told that the principle of the present Bill was to continue the representation of boroughs of 15,000 inhabitants, and to continue a second seat to boroughs of 50,000. That was what was done in England, and was really the principle of the Bill for urban constituencies. Representation was given to towns of 15,000 inhabitants; and seats, therefore, would be actually taken away from larger numbers in the counties than if they had been divided into equal electoral districts. The proposition of the Bill was not to divide the country into equal electoral districts, but to give a fair representation to urban interests; but what he complained of was that that would not he the case in Ireland, because the application of the principle was not suited to the conditions of the country. There had been a proposal to remedy this evil and anomaly by re- 757 ducing the limit of population; but that proposal had been negatived, upon the ground that the 15,000 allowed was a hard-and-fast line which should not be transgressed or set aside. The proposal he now made was not open to that complaint, because he was quite willing to recognize the limit of 15,000; but he proposed to bring in the population of adjoining towns by grouping them together up to that point, in exactly the same way as was sanctioned by the Bill in the ease of Scotland. There were a sufficient number of towns in Ireland to enable this to be done, and quite a sufficient urban population to continue her borough representation. The towns at present represented were not large enough to secure representation if the principles of the Bill were adopted upon the present plan of the Government scheme. The towns of Ireland were comparatively small, because in Ireland trade and manufactures were still in their infancy; but in Scotland trade and manufactures were once in the same undeveloped condition. His proposal, if adopted by the Committee, would enable the Irish boroughs to retain that limit of population which would fairly entitle them to representation, and it was simply carrying out in Ireland the same principle that was already applied to Scotland, and which had worked well. As he had said, it was proposed to be continued by the present Bill; but with regard to Ireland, the measure took away 20 Members from the present borough representation, the borough representation in Scotland being, on the contrary, actually increased by the Bill. He asked, then, why the analogy of England should be taken instead of that of Scotland? He confessed that he was unable to see any reason for it whatever. It was open for Her Majeaty's Government to take whatever course they chose, and there was a precedent in the Bill itself for taking either the Scotch or the English system. The advantage of taking the Scotch system, in the case of Ireland, was, he contended, that it was adapted to the circumstances of Ireland, whereas the English system was not. Then what objection could there be? It was not yet too late to adopt the Scotch system of representation on this occasion. Surely there was no special reason why the Irish boroughs should be disfranchised, and he was afraid 758 that the mistake committed by the Government arose from their not having looked fairly into the facts. The effect of adopting the propositions contained in the Bill would be that the urban population in Ireland, which amounted to between 400,000 and 500,000, would be absolutely disfranchised. In the case of the English towns, notwithstanding their absorbtion into the counties, they would still have considerable influence in the representation. In some cases he was told that it was very doubtful whether the urban influence would not actually predominate in the English counties over the rural element; but in Ireland there was no parallel whatever. The towns there were very small, and the agricultural population was very large, and the result would be that when the towns became absorbed in the counties they would have no voice in the representation at all. Nor would it be just, he thought, to disfranchise the artizans, the traders, and all those engaged in different occupations in the towns to this large extent, merely because the town population was scattered, and not concentrated as it was in England, and only reached the arbitrary limit in a very few instances. He did not think that any hon. Member would say that that was either fair or just, nor could it be politic, putting aside mere Party considerations. He did not propose to allude to what was likely to be the result. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) told them last night that the Members returned would in all probability be Nationalists; and that would be so, no doubt, when the urban population found itself swamped by the agricultural element; but the town population was less likely to be influenced by the views of agitators than the rural population, as they had more intercourse with the world, and better opportunities for discussion among themselves. They had also a greater variety of interests at stake, and there was more chance that they would be persons of education and intelligence. By the Franchise Bill they were handing over power to the Democracy. Was it wise, then, to exclude from representation that portion of the Democracy which was likely to be the most intelligent? There were many towns in Ireland in which the intelligence of the people was very high. 759 There were seaport towns of considerable size, and inland towns also, and in all of them there was a highly intelligent population who would rise above the dead level which was likely to prevail if the constituency was to be all of one class. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) told them that, in his opinion, the interest of the towns of Ireland was so identical with that of the country, and that the trades of the towns were so much connected with the agricultural pursuits of the rest of the population, that he did not believe there would be any great divergence of opinion between the two, and that men chosen to represent the counties might be fairly assumed to represent the towns also. He admitted that that might be so in many instances, and that there were many towns in Ireland where the opinions of the farmers would have great influence upon the minds of the other sections of the population; but there were other towns to which that remark did not apply—for instance, there were the seaport towns such as Coleraine, Carrickfergus, and others, which had trade with other countries and which were not in any way dependent upon the farmers. Then, again, there were manufacturing towns in the North of Ireland which were comparatively large, and were certainly growing—such as Lisburn, Ballymena, Portadown, Newtonards, and Armagh. Those towns had no special farming interests, but they possessed industries of their own, and industries which, in his opinion, ought to be fairly considered and duly represented. The manufacturing towns he had just referred to were, no doubt, not so large as those which were to be found in the manufacturing districts of England, and were not relatively of such importance. That arose from the fact that power-loom weaving was supposed, for a long time, to be unsuited to the manufacture of linen. That industry was, therefore, for a long time carried on by farm labourers and others engaged in agricultural pursuits, and had the effect of increasing the rural population without concentrating the industry in towns. It was only within the last 20 years that the improvements in power-loom weaving had led to the manufacture of linen cloth in factories instead of the cottages of the people, 760 and it was only since that time that the rapid growth of the towns had brought them into importance. There was not the slightest doubt that that growth would still go on; and the manufacturing towns in the North of Ireland even now contained an intelligent, well-educated, and industrious artizan class, who were well deserving of representation. For these reasons he asked the Committee to affirm the principle of the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper. With respect to details as to how far the principle should be carried out, he was, of course, in the hands of the Committee. He did not ask that all the borough Members and all the borough seats should be retained which Ireland now possessed, although it had been pointed out last night that a precedent for that demand could be found in the Act of Union. He had not the slightest doubt, however, that at least eight or nine borough seats might be retained and brought well above the limit of 15,000 population by grouping more than one town together. It was suggested, last night, by some hon. Members below the Gangway, that two groups might be formed combining manufacturing towns—such as Lisburn, in the one case, and seaports, such as Carrickfergus, in the other. He should be glad to see that system adopted, but he did not think that it would be desirable to limit the representation to two groups of that kind. There were over 50 towns in Ireland with a population of more than 3,000. Among them were the important seaport towns and the important manufacturing towns he had named, which averaged about 10,000 each. Indeed, there were several above 10,000 and none below. Those boroughs could easily be formed into groups by combining them with neighbouring towns, and would, in every respect, represent a variety of interests, as well as an amount of intelligence on the part of the inhabitants, which would compare favourably with the groups now being continued in Scotland by the present Bill. As for the seats which would have to be provided being obtained from the counties, he maintained that many of the counties at the present moment were over-represented. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) said, last night, that it would 761 be dangerous to open that question, because it would be found that the Irish counties were in many cases over-represented as compared with the Scotch counties. But that was exactly the position he (Mr. Mulholland) took, and was the point he wished to impress upon the Committee. In Scotland the representation was allotted between the counties and the towns in such proportion that the towns got more than their fair share; and if they adopted the same system in Ireland, it would follow that the county representation must be diminished. He need only point to the ease of Mid Lothian, and compare it with Fermanagh. Fermanagh, with a very small population, enjoyed two Members, whereas Mid Lothian, with a much larger population, had only one. "Why should that anomaly exist? Why should Fermanagh have more representation than Mid Lothian? He thought that by far the best plan, in both cases, would be to divide the representation fairly between the towns and the country. There was this peculiarity with regard to Ireland, that in giving to the counties they gave to those who were more than adequately represented, and in taking from the towns they took away from those who were not represented as they ought to be. He had only alluded to Scotland, in the course of his argument, because the arguments raised last night had been confined to Scotland; but they had also heard of the grouping of Pembroke and Haverfordwest and of Warwick and Leamington. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan), in his speech upon the Question that the Speaker should leave the Chair, said that he could give a satisfactory explanation of those cases; hut the right hon. Gentleman forgot to do so. No explanation, however, could be given, and no case could be made out for the grouping of those boroughs, that would not apply, with still greater force, to many of the towns in Ireland. He now left the question with confidence in the hands of the Committee. If they affirmed the principle of his Amendment, he would at once put down the details of his proposal. He hoped that, in deciding upon what might effect a permanent distribution of political power in Ireland, Her Majesty's Government would take a broad view of the question. It was a 762 most important subject, and the most important part of it was the decision as to what would be a permanent settlement, and he feared that in any case the settlement would contain the germ of much future trouble; but if Ireland and England were to have their representation finally settled, he maintained that the present proposal was the only one by which they could hope to mitigate the evils of which he complained. He begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name upon the Paper.
In page 1, line 13, after the word "Act," to insert the words "except such boroughs in Ireland as shall hereafter by the provisions of this Act be grouped together, or grouped with other towns not at present represented, for the purpose of forming borough districts in Ireland."—(Mr. Mulholland.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that it would be perhaps right, before coming to an examination of the remarks of the hon. Member, that he should state the intentions of the Government, and the general principle upon which they were proceeding in this matter. They distinctly thought that the extension of the principle of grouping was generally undesirable. That remark applied to the whole of the United Kingdom; and when the hon. Member pointed out that grouping existed in "Wales and Scotland, he must say the Government felt that it would be more desirable to limit than to extend the principle, and if there were any question of making a large alteration in the existing state of things it would be in a contrary direction. They did not think, on the whole, that the results of grouping in "Wales and Scotland had been so good as to make it desirable to extend the system either in England or Ireland. No doubt, they had shown a certain amount of tenderness to the existing state of things in "Wales and Scotland, though it was open to the Committee to consider the principle on which that grouping rested. At the same time, they had made up their minds to resist any proposal for an extension of the principle. In their opinion it would be impracticable to carry out any system of grouping in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman had left his details very wisely 763 and prudently for a later stage of the Committee, and he asked the Committee to affirm in general terms the principle without entering into the details. The hon. Gentleman, however, had thrown out certain suggestions which showed what was influencing his own mind. He did not want to say anything that might be disagreeable to Members who represented any of the small boroughs; but he thought the Committee generally would be inclined to go with him as far as this—namely, to admit that the towns which it would be necessary to group together in Ireland had not always a community of political views and interests such as would induce them to lead afterwards a very happy life. He was bound to say, after looking carefully into the question of grouping in Ireland, and bearing in mind what towns it would be necessary to join together, that it would be like the grouping of domestic animals of a kind not generally supposed to live happily together. The hon. Gentleman had suggested that towns of 3,000 inhabitants might be grouped.
§ MR. MULHOLLAND
said, he had not made that suggestion. He had mentioned that there were 50 towns of over 3,000 inhabitants in Ireland.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Then the hon. Member had not committed himself to the suggestion that all towns in Ireland of over 3,000 inhabitants should be grouped for the purposes of borough representation.
§ MR. MULHOLLAND
said, he had not spoken of the towns with more than 3,000 inhabitants with reference to grouping at all, but simply to show the extent of the urban population.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
thought in that case he was entitled to complain that the hon. Member was extremely vague, as he had given no indication of the kind of towns he would propose to group. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had supposed that the figure "3,000" meant something, because the borough represented by the hon. Member himself (Down patrick) was a borough of between 3,000 and 4,000 inhabitants, and he had assumed that the object of the hon. Member was to save towns of that size. The hon. Member had spoken in general terms of the smaller boroughs in the North of Ireland as increasing in population; but he found that the hon. 764 Member's own borough was falling off in population, and had been doing so for some time. It was not the case that, as a general rule, these boroughs were increasing in population. Some were increasing and some were falling off, and the borough represented by the hon. Member was a case of falling off. Then the hon. Member had said that the urban population was likely to be more intelligent than the rural population; but he would be disposed himself to contest the general truth of that assertion, for there were parts of the country—certainly in Great Britain—in which the rural population was at the least as intelligent as the urban population. From what he knew of the miners of Durham and Northumberland, and of the shepherds in the agricultural districts of the Eastern and Lowland parts of Scotland, they would certainly support his assertion that the rural population wore quite as intelligent as the urban population. He knew less of Ireland, but his impression was that the agricultural population there was quite as intelligent as the population of the smaller towns. The hon. Member was also discreetly vague as to the sources from which he would draw the Members for the grouping of the boroughs. He had said that eight or nine county seats would be available for the purpose, and might readily be obtained; but the hon. Member had not given the slightest indication of the two-Membered constituencies from which he would take them. The hon. Gentleman must remember that when he came to details he would meet 'with very considerable opposition from his own Friends in the Conservative Party, because they would be forced to reconsider the case of the smaller English counties, such as Huntingdon and Rutland, if any steps were taken to reduce the representation of the Irish counties. For all of these reasons he thought the Committee would be very much indisposed to accept the proposal of the hon. Member, to which he must certainly himself offer the most decided opposition.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he certainly admired the self-control and commanding confidence with which the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) had submitted his proposal to the Committee. The hon. Gentleman had placed it before the Committee in a 765 most seductive manner, almost after the model of Joseph Surface, for he calmly asked the Committee to agree to the principles of his Amendment, and he would condescend to oblige them with the details at some future time. In point of fact, it was put before the Committee, as a simple matter of form, to accept the principle laid down by the hon. Gentleman. The course pursued by the hon. Gentleman reminded him of a somewhat impecunious tradesman in an Irish town, who confidentially asked the assistance of a friend in the shape of his signature to a bill, and consoled him with the assurance that it was a mere matter of form. That assurance, however, was not borne out when at the end of three months it became necessary that the bill should be met. What was the proposition now made by the hon. Gentleman? He (Mr. O'Connor) was gratified at the firm attitude the Government had taken in regard to the proposal, for they must have known, after what occurred last night, that they must expect no assistance whatever from the Conservative Party on that side of the House, either in the shape of Leaders or followers, towards adhering to the compact which had been made by the Leaders on both sides in reference to the present Bill. They had had a speech last night in which a picturesque and expressive phrase was used about passing the "hard word," and it was said that the Leader of the Opposition had passed the "hard word" to his followers that while he himself would abide by the agreement he had entered into on behalf of his Party, other Members would be at liberty to vote as they pleased with regard to the Amendment of the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton). ["No!"]
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
remarked that certainly the Irish Members of the Conservative Party persisted in taking a division, although their Leader went into the opposite Lobby. A nod, however, was as good as a wink to a blind horse, and hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Benches knew very well that they were at perfect liberty, so far as their Leaders were concerned, to do all in their power to violate the compact to which the right hon. Gentleman the 766 Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) was a party. He (Mr. O'Connor) was, therefore, glad that Her Majesty's Government had taken a firm attitude in regard to the insidious proposal which now came from that side of the House, because they must be perfectly convinced that they would get no assistance from the Heads of the Tory Party. The hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) had laid down the proposition that the urban population was necessarily more intelligent than the rural population. Certainly that was not the case in Ireland. The rural population in Ireland was perfectly conversant with the bearings of all the political questions brought before them, and for the excellent reason that they had had the best task-masters in the world, in the shape of the arbitrary and oppressive coercion they had had to endure from the Party of which the hon. Gentleman was a distinguished Member. There was not a peasant dwelling in his mud cabin who was not a reproach to the Loyal minority, and who had not been driven into the arms of the Nationalist majority by the systematic oppression he had undergone. There could be no doubt that the occupier of the smallest mud hovel in Ireland was perfectly clear as to which side his own interests would lead him in any contest in which he was called upon to take part. The hon. Member said there was no community of interests between the borough and the agricultural population of Ireland. As a matter of fact, there was practically only one interest in Ireland, and it was the agricultural interest. ["No!"] He would repeat that, generally speaking, there was no interest in Ireland except the agricultural interest. Perhaps there might be one exception, and he would deal with that exception presently; but, in the first place, he would remind the Committee that the exception proved the rule. Everybody knew that the prosperity of the towns entirely depended on the prosperity of the agricultural community. Every shopkeeper in Ireland knew very well that one of the main causes of the bankruptcy of agriculture in Ireland was that the hon. Member and the Party to which he belonged had done their best to drive their tenantry into the Bankruptcy Court. There was a perfect community of interest between the small boroughs and 767 the agricultural inhabitants around, and that was one of the causes why some of the small boroughs were growing in prosperity. He would take one of the cases mentioned by the hon. Member—that of Ballymena. He knew something of Ballymena. Ballymena had largely diminished in prosperity so far as its manufacturing interests were concerned, but it had largely increased in prosperity because it was the market town, and the people of Ballymena would before long know that their interests were not to be served by that Party which had impeded the progress of agriculture by bad Land Laws. The hon. Member said there was only one interest among the rural population, and he (Mr. O'Connor) had been glad to hear that statement. The rural population consisted partly of labourers and partly of farmers, and he was glad to find the hon. Member acknowledging that their interests were identical. No doubt they were identical, although wicked attempts had been made, in more quarters than one, to convince the labourers and the farmers that their interests were not identical. As the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had clearly pointed out, the hon. Member for Downpatriek (Mr. Mulholland) had taken very good care not to enter into detail. There was no plan the hon. Member could propose which would not group the boroughs at the expense of the county population. It would be impossible to group boroughs which did not contain within themselves the most discordant elements, and even grouping would not help the Party to which the hon. Gentleman belonged. The hon. Gentleman said that if the Bill passed in its present shape, no interest but the agricultural interest would be represented; but he (Mr. O'Connor) had pointed out that there was only one great interest in Ireland, and it was the agricultural interest. If there were any manufacturing interest, it was still in the infancy of its development; if there were any commercial interest, it had already decayed, or had still to grow. The only towns in Ireland in which there was any mercantile interest were already sufficiently represented—namely, Dublin, Belfast, Waterford, Limerick, Galway, and Cork. All of those towns were 768 adequately represented already, and to take the boroughs and group them with villages that were entirely dependent upon an agricultural population would not help the boroughs. The hon. Gentleman said that there would be no Representative for what he called the commercial and trading interests of the country. What were the professional interests outside Dublin, Belfast, and the other large towns? Did the hon. Member not know that every barrister in Ireland, practically speaking, had to live in Dublin, and that all the professional interests were centred in that City, and would receive adequate representation by the four Members which the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill proposed to give to the City of Dublin. There were a few solicitors scattered over Ireland, and a few doctors; but he did not think that the whole of them put together would make up one street of a ward in any borough constituency. Yet these were the professional interests which the hon. Gentleman asserted to be inadequately represented under the Bill. The trading and commercial interests, where they existed, were already adequately represented by the seats given to the large towns, and if trading or commercial interests existed elsewhere, they would still be represented. The hon. Gentleman had let the cat out of the bag in his closing observations. The hon. Member had spoken with alarm, either real or affected, of the evils the redistribution of seats would produce in Ireland. The only persons who had any cause to feel alarmed were persons who had hitherto been robbing the people, and who would not be permitted to rob them any longer of their natural rights and interests. "What was wanted was the creation of an artificial powder by which the masses of the Irish people would be able, in the future, to emancipate themselves from the thralldom of landlord coercion.
§ DR. LYONS
said, he must confess that he sympathized very much with the boroughs which were to be extinguished, and he believed that in the future of Ireland it would be found that the disfranchisement of those boroughs would be very much to the detriment of the country. He could not help remarking the large interests which were represented by those boroughs. Many of the 769 boroughs themselves were of very ancient date, and they had filled a very honourable position in the history of Ireland. Many of them were situated in the North of Ireland; and although he was not particularly familiar with them he strongly sympathized with them on this occasion. There were also boroughs in the South of Ireland which had been connected with very important interests in the past, and which, if Ireland was ever to undergo that large development which he, for one ventured to hope for it, must again become places of great importance, and of considerable trade. He alluded specially to boroughs circumstanced like those of Kinsale and Youghal. Anyone who had studied the visible condition of Ireland and the relations of that country to the sea, and who looked forward to the development of her fisheries, which ought to be one of the great resources of her national wealth, must see how, in the future, important questions would arise in connection with the development of the fisheries, in which it was exceedingly desirable that those boroughs and all the interests connected with them should be duly represented in that House. He trusted that the investigation of the Select Committee appointed last night, at the instance of his hon. Friend the Member for South Warwickshire (Sir Eardley Wilmot), would be the means of opening up a new field for the development of the resources of Ireland, and that hereafter there would be very large interests indeed called into existence in connection with the fisheries off the coast of Ireland, acknowledged, as they were, to be a mine of untold wealth, which had never yet been worked at all in the way in which the fisheries of America and of other countries were being worked at the present day. He hoped to see the examples which had been set followed up in Ireland, for it was notorious that there was an extraordinary amount of fish upon the coast, which required but a small exercise of the intelligence, science, and knowledge of the present day to supply the markets of this country. It could not be supposed that a rural population, and the Representatives of rural populations, having enormous difficulties to contend with, of which every man must be fully conscious, could by any possibility devote that attention to the sea interests of Ireland which would be devoted to those interests by the Repre- 770 sentative of a borough such as Kinsale or Youghal. He believed that some increase of political power should be given to the important districts included within the great county of Cork. While, therefore, he certainly would not consent to any diminution of the political power which it was proposed, by the present Bill, to give that great county, he desired to say that a more natural distribution of the power, so as to take in and include all the interests concerned—the interests of the sea, as well as those of the land, and the development of both, ought to progress pari passu, in equal steps, in order to secure the full development of the country. He did not see that there need be any great delay or any insuperable difficulties in adjusting a scheme by which the maritime boroughs around the coast of Ireland might be brought into a system of equal-handed justice all round, to every interest concerned, without sacrificing a particle of the political power it was proposed to distribute throughout the country generally. Without any such sacrifice he felt convinced that the representation of Ireland might be dealt with in a more equitable manner than it was now proposed to be dealt with under the present Bill. Looking forward, as he did, with the greatest hope and confidence to the development of the many interests connected with Ireland, he was bound to admit that he felt very strongly indeed that some effort should be made, even at a little additional sacrifice, to do justice to the boroughs which were situated on the sea coast. There was a great deal to be said for them, and for the advantage they were likely hereafter to confer upon the productive industry of Ireland. He wished to see some plan devised—and he believed that it was perfectly feasible—for giving adequate representation to the important districts in which these industries were centred—industries which must be developed in order to give to Ireland that general prosperity which she was fairly entitled to.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR
said, that he had been very much instructed by the manner in which the discussion had proceeded, not only in reference to the Amendment now before the Committee, but on previous Amendments. They had seen hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House rising to propose Amendment after Amendment calcu- 771 lated to increase or retain their interests in the representation of Ireland; but, judging from the manner in which the proposal for proportional representation was received by the Committee, and judging by the attitude taken up by the Government on the matter now before the Committee, he could not help thinking that these Gentlemen were like drowning men grasping at straws in the political sea. Those best acquainted with the circumstances of Ireland knew that the proposal now made for the grouping of Irish towns for Parliamentary purposes was a proposal which, in the present circumstances of Ireland, was utterly incapable of being carried out. Absence of proximity, in the first instance, would destroy the prospect of carrying out any feasible plan of grouping together the towns or seaports of Ireland. Take the case of Kinsale. It would be necessary to travel 50 miles along the coast before there could be found another community similar to Kinsale, with interests identical and feelings in common with those of Kinsale. Therefore it would be necessary to group Kinsale with other towns that would have no community of interest with it as a seaport town. The inhabitants of these seaport towns did not represent any mercantile or industrial interests; but they represented the people from whom they purchased the commodities they exported to other countries. Therefore the interests of the inhabitants of these towns was indestructibly bound up with the interests of the agricultural community, and those who fairly represented the agricultural interest of Ireland would represent also the interest of the towns. Of course, there might be a few towns in the North of Ireland where there were industrial interests; but he would ask whether a principle was to be destroyed in order to oblige those who would represent these few small towns? Was a further distribution of seats to be carried out in order to satisfy the demands of those who, as he had said, were grasping at straws in the political sea? They had heard from the hon. Member who had just spoken (Dr. Lyons) something about Kinsale and Youghal. Well, he (Mr. O'Connor) had a personal knowledge of those two towns; and he would say, without fear of contradiction, that those who were most interested in these 772 towns had no desire for the separate independent representation the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) was contending for. The best men of those localities were quite satisfied that they should be obliterated once for all, and identified with the common interest of the country—the agricultural interest. There was no desire whatever to preserve these boroughs as pet places to be represented by Gentlemen who would have no prospect of being returned by the majority of their fellow-countrymen. They had heard from the hon. Member who proposed the Amendment a good deal about the anomalous state of things the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, as now proposed, was likely to create. With all respect to the hon. Member, the anomaly had been in the past, and the present Bill was only designed for the purpose of destroying that anomaly. The anomaly that existed was the anomaly of seeing Gentlemen like the hon. Member himself returned to represent only a class, and having no interest in common with the people, and no sympathy with them, but, on the contrary, doing all in their power to mar the prospects and destroy the interests of the majority of their countrymen. That anomalous state of things was about to be ended. The hon. Member talked about a revolution that was about to take place in Ireland, and said that the people of Ireland had entrusted their welfare to those who promised them revolution; but he could hardly think it would be regretted—on the contrary, the result would be gladly accepted—if this Bill revolutionized that Party from off the face of the country. They had, in the past, been false to the best interests of Ireland; they had received notice to quit from the Irish people; and if they had now to depart, all he could say was, so be it; for their existence in the position they now occupied was a simple anachronism.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he had listened with attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland); and he must say that, if the principle of grouping were to be adopted, the hon. Member had laid before the Committee an absolutely unanswerable case for the adoption of that system in Ireland. There was no part of the United Kingdom in regard to 773 which a case for the grouping of small boroughs could be as strongly made out as in the North of Ireland; but he rejoiced, with all his heart, that the principle of grouping had been denounced by Her Majesty's Government, and that they had now, once and for ever, condemned the existence of that system. He extremely regretted that it was retained in any part of the Bill; but he was glad to find that his right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill had clearly conveyed to the mind of Parliament that the system of grouping boroughs was a system which was certainly not to be extended, and in the next Conservative or Liberal Reform Bill it would probably be abandoned altogether. He was extremely glad that such a declaration had been made. Hon. Gentlemen opposite did not appear to have recognized, or to have been grateful for what their Leaders had done for them. Their Leaders had consented to establish in the United Kingdom a system of electoral districts which was absolutely a new departure from the electoral system hitherto adopted in the United Kingdom. But upon the acceptance of the system of electoral districts the whole plan of grouping boroughs must, of necessity, be abandoned. It could not form part of it. It was an anachronism, and could not be maintained. He was glad that it was to be abandoned, because he had always regarded it as one of the greatest possible evils in their system of representation. One of his contentions had always been that agriculture was pre-eminently the concern of the urban population of the country; and he was, therefore, glad to find that Her Majesty's Government had now embarked in a system which accepted that doctrine, and which proposed to combine the urban and rural population in the representation of the country.
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, that, like other Ulster Members, he regretted the manner in which he and his hon. Friends had been deserted by their Leaders; but after what had taken place he did not think the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) was exactly the man who ought to taunt them with inconsistency, seeing that the hon. Member himself had split off from the Government he professed to support last night. He (Sir Hervey Bruce) was entirely at a loss to understand the prin- 774 ciples on which the Government had framed this Bill; and if they were to give weight to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), he thought they ought to have him with them on their side, instead of against them. One of the right hon. Gentleman's main arguments last night against the proposition of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) was that he did not wish to interrupt the proportion which now existed between the county and borough representation, but that he wished them to be as nearly equal as it was possible to make them. But the position in which the Bill left Ireland—if he (Sir Hervey Bruce) was right, and he thought he was—was that for the counties there was to be one Member for every 43,000 inhabitants, and for the boroughs, including the towns of 3,000 inhabitants, to which his hon. Friend the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) had referred, there would be one Member only for 86,000.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
explained that he had not counted the English boroughs in that sense; but he had only counted them as portions of Parliamentary counties. There were many boroughs and urban districts in England possessing a population of more than 40,000, which would simply form part of a county district.
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, he would give the right hon. Gentleman the advantage of that correction; but it would be found that in the Irish counties each Member would represent about 43,000 persons, whereas the borough Members, including all the towns and urban population, would represent one Member for something like 75,000 persons. [Colonel NOLAN: In Ireland?] Yes, in Ireland. He was not quite sure of the exact number, but it would be more than 75,000. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not like to interfere with the counties, or with the boundaries, nor would he consent to group the towns together, or take Members from the counties; but, nevertheless, what was it that they saw in England? In this country this much-abused system of grouping had in reality been increased, and Warwick was now to be joined with the town of Leamington.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
pointed out that Warwick was represented al- 775 ready, and it was only the creation of an extended constituency. The districts were conterminous.
§ SIR. HERVEY BRUCE
asked upon what grounds the right hon. Gentleman made that assertion? Was he acquainted with Warwick and Leamington?
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
asked if the right hon. Gentleman was intimately acquainted with, and knew the road between them?
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, that certainly, if the principle adopted in the case of Leamington and "Warwick was not to be regarded as grouping, he did not know what grouping meant. As a matter of fact, it was the grouping together of an existing borough and an unrepresented town, which had never been represented before; so that it was carrying the principle of grouping to an extent to which it had never been carried before. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the proposal on the ground that it would involve the taking away of some of the county Members. The Bill, however, did that already. It took away a Member from the county of Carlow, and in England it took away a Member from the county of England. If they were asking for anything that was not contained in the four corners of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman might say that they were unreasonable; but they were not asking for one single thing that was not contained in the provisions of the Bill. All that they asked was for justice to the urban population of Ireland, which was certainly deprived of justice by the provisions of the Bill now in charge of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not know a great deal about Ireland; but he had acquired his information from some source which he had not named. The right hon. Gentleman was continually saying, "I have heard so and so." That observation was frequently repeated in the discussion of the Amendment of the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton). Now, the Committee were not informed what that authority was; but, at any rate, the information was not acquired from the right hon. Gentleman's personal experience, but from some unknown informant. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the connection between the urban and rural 776 population of Ireland was so close and intimate that, as a matter of fact, they represented one interest. Certainly there was a connection, as there always must be, between a buyer and seller; but there was no real community of interest between the city and borough Representatives and the agricultural districts. All the objections taken by the right hon. Gentleman applied to proposals which would be found contained in the Bill itself; and, therefore, he thought they were fairly entitled to press this Amendment upon the Government. As to the arrangement which had been made between the Government and the Leaders of the Opposition, they were in ignorance of what it was. They had heard something about it; but if this Bill was the outcome of it, all he could say was that it was a most unfortunate arrangement for the county in which he lived. That was all he would say. Complaint was made by the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) last night that, at a mysterious conference which was said to have taken place, the Nationalist Party had not been represented. Well, he (Sir Hervey Bruce) did not know whether they were represented in the flesh or not; but there must have been some invisible good angel who watched over their interests. Certainly the Province of Leinster was abundantly taken care of. In that Province a Representative was proposed to be given for every 43,000 inhabitants, while Ulster would only have one for every 55,000 inhabitants. It would have been well for Ulster if a similar invisible angel had been present to watch over their interests in the same way as the interests of the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) and his friends had been served. One word as to the representation of the county to which he belonged. He regretted that it had not received more careful consideration from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Walker). What was the condition in which the Bill would leave the county of Londonderry? It would only have one Representative for every 64,000 inhabitants, while the neighbouring county of Donegal would have its representation increased, and would receive a Representative for every 57,000 inhabitants. Let them go a little further away. It was an extraordinary anomaly that the 777 Province of Leinster should have been so carefully looked after. He found that in the county of Louth there would be one Member for every 26,000 inhabitants. It was unnecessary to enter into the extraordinary discrepancy which these figures displayed—so extraordinary, that in one county there would be a Representative for every 64,000 inhabitants, while in another county there would be a Member for every 26,000 inhabitants. There were many other counties in the same position; but he would not weary the Committee by enumerating the figures. Tipperary was a case in question, although not such an extraordinary case as Louth; and the representation would also be in an anomalous position in King's County, Longford, Westmeath, and Wicklow. In each of those cases there would be an excessive representation over that of Londonderry. He did not know that he had much more to say after the very able and exhaustive speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland). His hon. Friend had clearly shown—and his noble Friend the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton) had also shown—that what they asked for was a simple act of justice to the urban constituencies of Ireland. It had also been clearly shown—and he defied any Member of Her Majesty's Government to gainsay it—that, in making this proposition, they were not departing from the four quarters of the Bill. Every anomaly, as the right hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill chose to call it, for which they asked was down in the Bill itself. Everything for which they made a demand, in the name of right and justice for the urban population of Ireland, was provided for in the Bill; and the changes which were introduced into the measure, to say the least of it, were of a somewhat extraordinary nature. He had great pleasure in joining with his hon. Friend in submitting this proposal to the Committee.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he thought the Committee would be of opinion that the hon. Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce) had scarcely justified the attack he had made at the commencement of his speech upon the hon. Member for Sal-ford (Mr. Arnold); because, although the hon. Member spoke of the Party having been abandoned by their Leaders 778 it must be borne in mind that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), who led the Conservative Party in that House, after having made a speech in favour of the Government, went into the Lobby without being followed by a single Member of the Tory Party. It should be borne in mind that the system proposed by the Bill of single-Member districts was a substitute for the system of grouping which the Government, after careful consideration, had condemned, although they were not prepared to do away with it altogether. It certainly was unpopular both in Scotland and Wales, and was a system which certainly ought not to be extended. He therefore hoped that the Committee would not adopt the Amendment. What was the main argument at the root of the proposal of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland)? It was that the small boroughs would be practically swamped by the rural districts. He did not agree with the hon. Member that that would really be the case. His own impression was that many of these boroughs, instead of being swamped by the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, would become the centres of county districts in which they would exercise a very important influence. Take the county of Louth. It possessed a population of 78,000 inhabitants, and it would be divided into two districts, in each of which there would be what was now a borough forming the centre—namely, Drogheda and Dundalk—one with 14,000 inhabitants and the other with 11,000. He was satisfied that in the future those two urban populations, being the centres of the new rural electoral districts, would exercise the most important influence in the selection of Members. He, therefore, could not agree that in future these small boroughs would be to any serious extent swamped. The hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) stated that the voters in the rural districts would be less intelligent than the voters in the small boroughs. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was disposed to question that assertion, and he very much doubted whether it was the case, especially in all parts in the rural districts of Ireland. From what he knew of the rural population of Ireland he would undertake to say that the small farmers in many parts of the country, possessing 779 farms of from 10 to 20 acres, were, as a rule, more intelligent than the labouring people in the small boroughs. On the whole, he thought the Committee would do well to reject the Amendment, and to stand by the proposals contained in the Bill.
§ MR. BERESFORD,
as one of the Members whose constituency was deeply affected by the Bill, desired to say a few words on behalf of the borough he had the honour to represent (Armagh). The President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), in his speech last night, alluded specially to the City of Armagh; but he seemed altogether to have derived a wrong impression of that part of the country. The right hon. Gentleman included it with other rural districts, and seemed to infer that although it was a manufacturing centre it was supported only by the farmers and the traders of that locality. Now, he begged to differ from the right hon. Gentleman altogether. The City of Armagh was a city containing more than 10,000 inhabitants, and it was one of the most remarkable cities in the North, or, indeed, in any other part of Ireland. He believed that its history went back beyond that of any other town of Ireland, not excepting Limerick, of which hon. Members below the Gangway had made so much. There seemed to be an impression on the part of the Committee that the city he had the honour to represent was only a small borough, with purely agricultural interests; but he could assure hon. Members that it was a most important manufacturing centre. After what the President of the Local Government Board had stated last night in regard to this city, he felt it his duty to assure the Committee that within a radius of less than a mile of the City of Armagh there were 14 mills at work, employing from 50 to 60, up to 200 to 300 persons in each. He did not think that a city in that position should be spoken of as a rural town, supported solely by farmers and traders who occupied the land there. Of course some few of the merchants had farms, as they had in other parts of the country. Many of them had small holdings—pleasure farms and such like, where they kept their cows; but beyond that they were principally, if not entirely, dependent on the manufacturing industry of 780 the city. The Bill now before the Committee preserved the proportion of representation between the urban and the county constituencies in Great Britain; but it ignored that principle altogether in the case of Ireland. He wanted to know whether that was so? Why should there not be the grouping of boroughs in the manufacturing towns of the North of Ireland, just the same as in Scotland, and as was proposed to be carried out in the special case of "Warwick and Leamington? Why should Warwick and Leamington be specially converted into a joint borough when the borough interests in the North of Ireland were entirely ignored and neglected? He could assure the Committee that the boroughs to which he alluded felt their position very acutely. They felt that they were being left in the lurch, and that their interests had not been considered by those who ought to have looked most particularly after them. The Bill, as it now stood, threw the whole representative power into the hands of the agricultural population, and entirely set aside the manufacturing population. Any man who had gone through Ireland and had seen the South, as compared with the North, would draw a very favourable comparison of the North as distinguished from the South. An hon. Member who spoke just now from below the Gangway seemed to take a Southern view altogether of the question; but hon. Members who knew Ireland well were well aware of the difference which existed between the two portions of the country. Indeed, it might almost be said there were two Irelands—the agricultural Ireland in the South, and the manufacturing Ireland in the North. He saw that almost every day of his life when he was engaged in travelling in Ireland. He very frequently went to the South, and what did he see? The South was a different country altogether, the houses were of a much poorer class, and there was not the same amount of cleanliness and thrift displayed as in the North. When he returned to Armagh he saw a totally different state of circumstances. In point of fact, throughout the North of Ireland, there was a vast improvement in the condition of the people; their homes and their social position were quite different from what they were in the South and West. Instead of dis- 781 franchising the manufacturing centres in the North of Ireland, he should have thought it would have been the duty of the Government, if possible, to enfranchise them more largely than had hitherto been the case. They fully deserved enfranchisement. It was there that capital was expended, and employment given, which was not the case in any part of the West or South of Ireland. No manufactures had held their ground out of the North. He would give an instance. He remembered some years ago, in the county of Leitrim, that an English Company came over and established smelting furnaces. The Company did well for some time; but one of the employés engaged in keeping up the furnaces allowed them to go down. He did not keep the heat up to its right pitch, and he was consequently reprimanded, and his wages stopped. By way of spiting the Company, he allowed the furnaces to go out altogether, and he was then summarily dismissed. Within a week afterwards the manager of the works—Mr. Cox—was shot at his own bedside, whereupon the Company gave up the works and left the country. To this day these smelting furnaces might be seen there, falling into a heap of ruins. The same thing occurred in the West of Ireland at Loughallan, in the county of Leitrim. Some tile-making works were established there, and did very well; but when the Home Rule agitation was set on foot, pressure was put upon the Company to pay money advances which had been made to them, and the only alternative left them was to give up the undertaking and abandon the works. Let them compare that state of things with the manufacturing industries in the North of Ireland at Lisburn, Lurgan, Portadown, and Armagh. In all those places thousands of men were employed in manufacturing processes, and were doing well. Then, was it wise to disfranchise such constituencies and reduce them to the same condition as the populations in the South and West of Ireland? Was that the object with which the Bill had been introduced? If the Amendment which his hon. Friend the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) had moved went to a division, he should have the greatest pleasure in voting for it. He firmly believed that their best policy was to promote the general interests of the 782 country, as well as to improve and develop those manufacturing industries in the North of Ireland, and not, as had too often been the case in regard to the South and West, to adopt a course of procedure which must result in getting rid of them altogether.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he could quite understand the gallant stand which was made by the Representatives of the small boroughs in the North of Ireland. Those boroughs were about to be disfranchised, and they naturally felt they should have their say. If in their criticisms of the Bill hon. Members had gone a little too far, or if their statistics had been a little highly coloured, the Committee would be sure to have some consideration for them. He had no doubt, however, that some of the hon. Gentlemen would find one of the larger constituencies framed by the Bill prepared to return them. But the peculiarity about this movement was, that it was almost exclusively confined to the Northern districts of Ireland; it was the Northern Members who advanced all the arguments in favour of taking away a certain number of seats from the counties to give them to boroughs. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Armagh (Mr. Beresford) drew a very deplorable picture of the representation there would be under the Bill of the manufacturing districts of Ireland. No doubt Armagh was a very fine district; but he (Colonel Nolan) really did not think its manufactures would suffer if instead of having one Member for 10,000 inhabitants, as; at present, the 10,000 shared representation with 30,000 or 40,000 of the rural population around the city. He had heard it said that the town of Sligo had greatly progressed since it was deprived of Parliamentary representation. There had been less fighting between the two factions, and that had had a very salutary effect. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Beresford) that if the six boroughs aimed at by the Amendment lost their Members they would very probably lose their manufactures. But the boroughs did not lose their representation; they only lost their extra portion of representation, because they would get under the Bill their average representation. They would be part of a population of 50,000 who would vote for one Member. He denied that the manufactures of the 783 North of Ireland would lose representation. Belfast, the great manufacturing town, had now only two Members; it was, however, to have four, a clear gain of two. The counties of Armagh and Antrim would return between them four Members, and in the return of those Representatives the manufacturing populations scattered up and down the counties must have a voice. It was well the Committee should examine the proposition of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Downpatrick Mr. Mulholland), and see if it was the outcome of any real grievance. The proposition of the hon. Gentleman was not that the boroughs should get a fair share of representation; it was not asked that boroughs in Ireland should be grouped together until the total population came up to 48,000 or 50,000; and that that population should be entitled to return one Member. If that were the proposition, there would be a good deal to be said in favour of it. But the supporters of this Amendment wanted to have a Member for every 15,000 or 20,000; it was not quite certain whether hon. Gentlemen would declare for 15,000 or 20,000 as the limit. It was pointed out last night that if they gave a seat to one place they would have to take it away from another. Why should the counties, such as Queen's County, King's County, and Westmeath, which had been divided into districts of 38,000 inhabitants each, lose a Member, in order that urban places in the North, with 15,000 or 20,000, should retain separate representation? He could not see that such a suggestion was at all fair. It had been often stated in the course of the debate that under the Bill towns would lose representation. As a matter of fact, he thought all the small country towns that had not got Members at present would be enormous gainers by the Bill. The small towns in his own part of the country, for instance, would be great gainers. At present there were only two Members for the county of Galway, and two for the county of Mayo; but under the Bill the two counties would return between them eight Members. The towns had great influence in the election of the Members at present; but when the number of the Representatives was doubled their influence would be enormously increased. There would not be more than one or two towns in each electoral division; but 784 those towns would become the centres of all electoral movements, and, being the centres, they would have great power in the formation of the opinions of the country voters. There was no jealousy between town and country; but the people of the rural districts were willing to submit to the guidance of the shopkeepers, and the people they met in the markets. He should say that the influence of the small towns in the West of Ireland—in Galway and in Mayo—would be vastly increased; for it would in future bear so much more directly on the constituencies, inasmuch as they would be political centres, instead of being one of six or eight towns, as they were in the present constituencies. Therefore, for any town which did not now possess separate representation, he considered the Bill would be very useful and valuable. One great objection to acceding to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) was that it was dangerous to make alterations in the Bill in face of the existence of the House of Lords. He was afraid that if the Commons made any great change in the Bill, and they sent it up to the House of Lords in June or July, when there might possibly be some great complication in the East, the House of Lords would send it back, containing other innovations; and then the House of Commons would either have to accept the Lords' innovations or sacrifice the whole work of the Session, and go back to the old constituencies. This was a Bill which had been agreed upon by the Leaders of the two great Parties in the House—by the Prime Minister, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote). Certainly, the Irish Members below the Gangway were not consulted in the settlement of the details; but they had been told by the hon. Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce) that there was an angel in the conference guarding their interests. They were, of course, much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the intimation; but, after all, they would have preferred to have been represented in the flesh. However, the House was in the very strong position that they had the Leaders of the two Parties pledged to the Bill; and, therefore, it was impossible to introduce in the measure any important innovation. If the Amend- 785 ment of the hon. Memher for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) were adopted, it was quite possible that the House of Lords would go further, and manipulate the Irish representation in such a way as would be positively injurious to the interests of the people. In what he had said he was supported by a very valuable precedent. Hon. Members knew that the House of Lords introduced in the last Reform Bill the principle of the three-cornered constituency; and they might attempt something of the kind on the present occasion if the House of Commons evinced any anxiety to disturb the settlement arrived at. If this proposition, however, was rejected, he did not think the House of Lords would make any great protest so far as Ireland was concerned. One argument was advanced by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons); and if he (Colonel Nolan) thought it was founded on fact it would have great weight with him. The hon. Gentleman (Dr. Lyons) said great injustice would be done if the representation of the fishery interest were extinguished; and he suggested the fishermen should be grouped together in a way that would preserve their representation. He (Colonel Nolan) thought it was important that the fishing community in Ireland should be represented; but that would not be secured by the adoption of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland)—indeed, he thought that Amendment would do injury to the interests of the fishermen. ["Oh, oh!"] He saw the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons) dissented; but let them take, as examples, the constituency of the hon. Gentleman, and the constituency which he (Colonel Nolan) had the honour to represent. They were very different constituencies; but they were both very large, and very typical in relation to the fishery question. There were many fishermen in the county of Dublin; but they were at Kingstown—they were in the rural parts, and not in the towns. There were none in the City of Dublin. In his (Colonel Nolan's) constituency there were many fishermen; indeed, he believed there were 3,000 registered fishermen in the county of Galway. These men, however, were scattered all over the county of Galway, and were not located 786 in large numbers in any given place. He should think that at least half of them would, under the new franchise, have votes; and, therefore, they would be able to wield some influence in the divisions to which they were assigned. He should think that in future the Member for Kinsale might be regarded as a direct Representative of the interests of the fishing community; and two or three of the Donegal Members would be very largely interested in fishery questions—that was to say, if they did not take up in the House a proper position on fishery questions, they would stand little chance if ever they appealed for a renewal of the confidence of the electors. Furthermore, two of the Members for Galway would necessarily be very largely interested in fishery matters. If they grouped these boroughs he did not know where they would find one borough, with the exception of Kinsale, which really represented the fishing interest. The real fact was that the fishermen of Ireland did not live in towns as the fishermen of England did; but they were scattered up and down the counties in little villages. In Galway they did not even live in villages, but on small detached farms, scattered over the whole coast. In the county of Down, also, it would be impossible to group the fishermen so that they would make up a good-sized constituency; but they were, nevertheless, numerous, and would have a very appreciable share in returning the Members for the county in the future. Wherever they went on the coast of Ireland they would find the same state of things—namely, that the fishermen lived outside the towns. He quite admitted that the case of Kin-sale was an exceptional one. Fishermen either lived in large towns, such as Belfast, Cork, and Galway, or in villages, or on detached farms along the coast. He did not think that the Bill would hurt the fishermen, but, on the contrary, be of immense advantage to them. In Galway, at present, he did not think there was on the Register one fisherman in 300 electors; and he had no doubt that the same would be found in other counties. In about 20 constituencies the fishing interest would, under the Bill, be very formidable indeed; and, therefore, any remodelling of the Bill in the direction of grouping boroughs together, so far from being favourable to the interests of fishermen, would, in his 787 opinion, be hurtful. The Committee ought to be very chary of Amendments such as the present, because if they were to set the example of introducing innovations there was no knowing what the House of Lords would do with the Bill. MR. EWART said, there was much force in the taunt of the. hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) that the Ulster Conservative Members were deserted by their Leaders. The best thing those Members could wish was that their Leaders would continue, to stay away that day, for if they were present at the division he had no doubt they would be found in the Lobby against the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland). If, in the conference which was held between the Heads of the two great Parties in the House, there was a good angel representing Ireland, he was sorry to say that that good angel had little regard for the welfare of the manufacturing districts of Ireland. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) made very little indeed of the manufacturing districts of Ireland; he spoke of the trading and manufacturing population as a mere nothing, and scarcely to be taken into account at all, contending that Ireland was solely an agricultural country. In the main, Ireland was an agricultural country; but it, nevertheless, had great trading and manufacturing interests. They had the well-known linen trade, in all its branches; they had cotton industries; shipbuilding; in fact, they had no end of trades prospering, some of them more or less, and others springing up. There was an adaptation in the North of Ireland for manufacturing which did not exist elsewhere; and his contention and that of his hon. Friends was, that the manufacturing interest was almost overruled by this Bill. There wore to be four Members for Belfast, who might very fairly enough represent the manufacturing interests; there were to be four Members for Dublin, who might very fairly be taken as Representatives of the professional and other classes and of the trading interests; and there were to be several borough Members, who, it might be said, would represent the trading interests. So far as he could see, the manufacturing interests would only be directly represented by the four Members for Belfast. He might in- 788 stance several manufacturing places which were altogether ignored by the Bill. There was Armagh, which they had heard from the hon. Member for that city (Mr. Beresford) contained within its district 14 mills; there was Ballymena, which was a very large centre of manufactures, containing something like 10,000 inhabitants; then there was Lisburn, one of the most ancient towns in Ireland connected with the linen trade, with 10,000 of a population; Lurgan, a town of 10,000 people, largely increasing and very prosperous; there was Portadown, than which no place was more prosperous; Coleraine was a large manufacturing place; there were Carrickfergus and Strabane. These were all manufacturing or trading places, not to speak of Omagh, Enniskillen, and Newry. He maintained that the Bill was doing a great injustice to those places. The interests of the manufacturing portions of Ireland had been sacrificed to the uniform rule of which the Committee had heard so much. The disfranchisement of all places with less than 15,000 people might be all very well for England; but it would work out extremely unfairly in Ireland. He completely sympathized with the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) in favour of the grouping of boroughs; and he was very sorry to hear the speech which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke), who had charge of the Bill, made on the subject. His (Mr. Ewart's)'opinion was that the grouping of boroughs would have met the difficulties of the case, and that it would have applied with equal fairness to the South as well as to the North of Ireland. He understood that at the conference between the Members of the two Front Benches the subject of grouping was one that was discussed, and that the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) put his foot down very strongly against the proposition to group boroughs in England. As he (Mr. Ewart) had said, the disfranchising provisions of the Bill might not work any injustice in England; but they certainly would work the grossest injustice in Ireland. He spoke without any hope of success on the present occasion; and he feared all that he and his hon. Friends could do was to protest against the disadvantages which the Bill would effect 789 with regard to the representation of the North of Ireland.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he was glad the Government had determined to reject the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Down-patrick (Mr. Mulholland). The acceptance of the Amendment would lead to endless complications, for it would cause the re-opening of the whole Irish portion of the Bill. Knowing something of the political history and life of Ulster for the last 25 years, he could only say that nothing could possibly have been more surprising than to see the Ulster Conservative Members that day turning their backs upon their old friends the farmers of the Province of Ulster. The hon. Member for Downpatrick spoke of the danger of enfranchising the agricultural population of Ireland, and said that the influence of that population ought to be counterbalanced by the keeping up of a number of the small boroughs in Ireland in which the artizan classes held sway. What were the charges made against the agricultural population? Why, that the agricultural community were inferior in intelligence and education to the people dwelling in towns. If the hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to read the statistics in the possession of the House he would see that in point of education and intelligence the people who resided in the counties of Ireland were quite equal to those who lived in the small boroughs. Anyone who knew Ireland must admit, if they were prepared to speak out their mind frankly, that the grouping of boroughs would not only be very unpopular, but unsuccessful in its results. Although the hon. Gentleman the Member for Downpatrick addressed the Committee for 40 minutes, he gave them no idea of how the grouping he proposed was to be carried out; he did not give the Committee a particle of information as to where the Members were to come from for the boroughs he proposed to group. But from hints which were thrown out last night it was evident that some Members of the Conservative Party had fixed their minds upon taking one Member from the county that he (Mr. Dickson) had the honour to represent. He supposed that that was the outcome of the negotiations which had been going on for the 790 past four or five days between the deputation from the North of Ireland and the Leaders of the Opposition. Tyrone was fairly entitled to four Representatives in Parliament; and it was impossible not to refer to the generosity of hon. Gentlemen, who, in order to enfranchise a small borough like Lisburn, would deprive Tyrone of one of its Members. Their generosity brought to one's recollection the couplet about an old Irish squire who—From out of his bounty, Built a bridge for himself at the expense of the county.He (Mr. Dickson) and certain other Ulster Members were determined that small boroughs in Ireland should not be enfranchised at the expense of the counties. His hon. Friend the Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons) referred to the advantages of grouping boroughs like Kinsale and Youghal. He (Mr. Dickson) considered that the interests of the fishing community of the borough of Kinsale were quite safe in the Kinsale division of the county of Cork. As a matter of fact, the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. John O'Connor) entirely disposed of the arguments put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Dublin. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Armagh (Mr. Beresford) pleaded that that city should be allowed to retain its separate representation. If the small boroughs were to be retained he (Mr. Dickson) could plead for another borough in Ireland, the borough of Dungannon, in which he had some interest, a borough whose voice was heard in the House with very considerable effect at a great crisis in the history of Ireland. But he believed that neither Dungannon nor the City of Armagh were afraid of committing their commercial interests to the division of the county of which they formed a part. He hoped they would hear less of interfering with the Irish portion of the Bill, and that the Government would stand firm and keep the Bill in the shape in which it had been framed.
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and who shared with him the representation of the county of Tyrone, was sometimes terribly afraid—he was the other day—of being mistaken for him (Mr. Macartney). Now, whatever dislike the 791 hon. Gentleman might have to that, he (Mr. Macartney) could assure the hon. Gentleman he would be equally annoyed if he were to be mistaken for him (Mr. Dickson). The other day hon. Members below the Gangway were referring to some remarks made by the hon. Member for Tyrone, when the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dickson) cried "the junior Member." The hon. Gentleman repeated the interruption about 20 times, at which he (Mr. Macartney) was very much surprised. He did not think anybody would fall into the mistake of supposing that a speech made by the hon. Member was made by him (Mr. Macartney), or that a speech made by him (Mr. Macartney) was made by the hon. Gentleman. At all events, their constituents would never make such a mistake. The hon. Member had said that he was rejoiced that the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke), who was conducting the Bill, had put his foot down resolutely against any alteration of the Bill. Now, when the hon. Member put his own foot down resolutely yesterday, and declared that he would not allow any Member to be taken from Tyrone, he (Mr. Macartney) presumed the hon. Gentleman possessed an intimate knowledge of the length, breadth, and weight of the right hon. Baronet's foot. He believed that the reason why the hon. Gentleman was quite ready to sink the borough of Dungannon in the county of Tyrone was that he knew full well that if an election were to take place upon the present constituencies he or any of his family would not be returned for that borough. He (Mr. Macartney) had the honour of representing Tyrone in conjunction with the hon. Gentleman, and he had always ridden upon one horse perfectly straight. [Mr. T. A. DICKSON: Oh, oh!] He defied the hon. Gentleman to prove that he had done otherwise; he had insinuated it, but he had never been able to prove it. But the hon. Member reminded him of a performer in a circus, who had one foot upon one horse and one foot upon another horse—the hon. Gentleman rested one foot upon the Radical electors of Tyrone, and the other upon the Nationalists in the same county; and he thought that by sometimes leaning gracefully one way and sometimes the other way he could conciliate both Parties. He was afraid that what happened sometimes to the circus-rider 792 would happen to the hon. Gentleman—that when he took a leap through one of the hoops he would find he had landed between the horses. He (Mr. Macartney) did not wish to allude to language used by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, because he did not care to bandy bad words with his fellow-countrymen—["Oh, oh!"]—he was quite aware hon. Gentlemen did not acknowledge him as a fellow-countrymen of theirs. But the hon. Member for Galway Borough (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), in concluding his speech, turned round and, looking fiercely in the direction in which he (Mr. Macartney) and his hon. Friends sat, accused the Ulster Conservative Members of being robbers—["Oh, oh!"]—robbers and robbery were the words used. He knew that strong language in the House had become so common of late that it was now almost impossible for the Chairman of Committees or for Mr. Speaker to stop it. Personally, he did not expect good taste always from the quarter whence the remark he had referred to came; but he consoled himself with the old proverb that "it is very difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." Passing from that topic, he wished to allude to what had been said by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold). The hon. Gentleman said that the Ulster Conservative Members did not seem to be penetrated by the situation which existed between the two Front Benches. They were penetrated to their very marrow by that situation. They understood it so well that they were disappointed and disgusted with it; but that was no reason why they should not, at least, put forward their title to consideration. They certainly did not expect much consideration from the Ministerial side of the House; but they thought that the champions of the Constitutional and Conservative cause would not forget those who had always stood by the Crown and Constitution of this country. They would not cease to do so; but, at the same time, they could not help expressing their deep disappointment and disgust at the compact that their Leaders had entered into with the Government. Now, as to the Amendment before the Committee, a good deal had been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) as to the unreasonableness of the demand involved 793 in that Amendment. It was supposed that the promoters of the proposition under consideration wanted to rob other parts of Ireland of their representation. They wanted to do no such thing. The hon. and gallant Member had acknowledged that the Province of Leinster was over-represented, as compared with the three other Provinces. Was he mistaken? [Colonel NOLAN: I did not say so.] The hon. and gallant Member said, the other day, that the Province of Ulster was not the only Province that suffered, or was under-represented, as compared with Leinster. That was their case. He (Mr. Macartney) and his hon. Friends maintained that Connaught and Munster were in the same position as Ulster; for whereas they had only one Member for every 55,000 people the Province of Leinster had one Member for every 43,000 people. They were puzzled to make out the reason for Leinster being treated in such an exceptionally favourable manner. They had been unable to get at the cause. They were told that there was no wish to disturb the Articles of the Union; but he showed last night that the 4th Article of the Union was violated by this Bill. That Article provided that the Irish boroughs, to the number of 31, should be represented in the House of Commons; but by this Bill the number of represented boroughs was to be cut down to 16. That argument, therefore, fell to the ground. What was the next? Why, "We must treat you exactly as we treat England, Scotland, and Wales." Did they do that? He denied it. What he and his hon. Friends asked for had been done in England, Scotland, and Wales. Scotland and Wales had already grouping of boroughs, and, therefore, they did not now ask for it; and even by the present Bill it was proposed to group the boroughs of Warwick and Leamington. It was true the Government had the audacity to assert that Warwick and Leamington were really one place. He never heard that asserted before. He had always thought that Warwick and Leamington were separate and distinct places. He always understood that Leamington was a place like Cheltenham—a villagette; but now it had been discovered that Warwick and Leamington were one place. If it was wrong, and a breach of the agreement, and not in consonance with the prin- 794 ciples of the Bill, that one place should be joined to another so as to make one large borough, he asserted that it had been done, or was projected to be done, with the Bill; and he did not see why it should not be done in Ireland as well as in England. A rather remarkable trail had been drawn across the path by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons), though it was not intentional on his part. Some years ago they used to hear a good deal of the "three F's"; now they only heard from the hon. Member of two—forests and fishermen. The hon. Gentleman seemed to have a great desire to re-afforest Ireland; and he also seemed to think that the only boroughs in Ireland were those where fishermen lived. He (Mr. Macartney) agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway County (Colonel Nolan), that, generally speaking, the fishermen of Ireland lived on the coast; that they were half farmers and half fishermen; that they spent most of their time ashore, but that they did not live in boroughs. He did not consider that, except in a place like Kinsale, they made up a large constituency. He thought they were a class who might very fairly be merged in county constituencies. He and his Friends were as anxious that fishermen should have their interests represented in Parliament as other Members were. It seemed to be suspected that they wanted to have Members for Ulster at the expense of other places. They wanted nothing of the kind. All they wanted was to have, with Connaught and Munster, as great a share of representation as was given to Leinster by the Bill. They maintained that Ulster, with a population which exceeded that of any other Province in Ireland, was entitled to representation equivalent to its population. Let Ulster have its fair share of representation by means of grouping boroughs. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway seemed to be alarmed at the Amendment, because, if it were adopted, it would give six seats to the Representatives of the robbing landlords. Those hon. Gentlemen imagined there were no loyal people in Ireland except landlords; but he could assure them that if it ever came to a stiff fight, they would meet in the field many others besides landlords. He said the other day that the Loyalists of Ulster 795 were not afraid, and his words were misinterpreted. He was reported to have said that the people of Ulster were not afraid of the increase which would take place in the representation of the Irish Nationalists. He never meant that. They were afraid of that, and they did not like it, because they considered they had been robbed of their rights. But as to being afraid of the Nationalists as a body of men, as to being afraid of being turned out of the country, they only said—"Come on and try us." He hoped that the arguments which had been used by those who had advocated this simple measure of justice to the inhabitants of the manufacturing and industrial boroughs of Ireland would weigh with hon. Members opposite. But he was afraid that, however much those arguments might weigh with hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Liberal Benches, the division would not be influenced. Perhaps, in conclusion, he might be allowed to relate a little story to show how independent the occupiers of the mud hovels were, and how intelligently they would vote. [Mr. KENNY: Is it a true story?] It happened to himself. In 1873 he was a candidate for the representation of Tyrone; and on one occasion, when he was proceeding from his residence to Five Mile Cross to address the electors of the county, he met half-way the Rev. Mr. M'Ilroy, parish priest. Mr. M'Ilroy was a man with whom he was on the best of terms, and the rev. gentleman said—"Where are you going?" He said—"I am going to make a speech at Five Mile Cross;" whereupon Mr. M'Ilroy said—"Take me with you." He (Mr. Macartney) was a little taken abaci by the request, because he was the candidate of the Orangemen of Tyrone; and he thought that if the parish priest were seen in his wagonette his chances of election would be completely damned. Mr. M'Ilroy said—"Don't you be afraid; PH do you no harm," and got in the conveyance. Several speeches were made to the meeting, and at last Mr. M'Ilroy rose to speak, and, to his (Mr. Macartney's) great astonishment, commenced his address by saying—"Protestants and Presbyterians." The rev. gentleman frequently addressed the people as "Protestants and Presbyterians," until he (Mr. Macartney), getting alarmed, pulled him by the sleeve, and said— 796 "Speak to your own people." He turned round, and said—"Leave me alone; I am all right." As a matter of fact, Mr. M'Ilroy made a capital speech in favour of his (Mr. Macartney's) candidature. At the conclusion of the address he (Mr. Macartney) asked—"Now, will you tell me what is the reason you would not speak to your own people?" and the reply he received was—"My dear friend, the other men have to be convinced; my people vote just as I tell them."
§ MR. SEXTON
said, that reference had been made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) to Warwick. If hon. Gentlemen thought that any process of grouping had gone on in reference to Warwick they were under a great delusion. Grouping meant the joining together of places which had an intervening space; but the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macartney) must find, if he took the trouble to ascertain the facts, that no such process had gone on in the case of Warwick. What had been done was simply to add to the existing Parliamentry area—partly urban and partly rural—another similar area which adjoined. There was certainly no question of grouping. Now, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macartney) need not be alarmed of being mixed up with his Colleague (Mr. Dickson) in the representation of Tyrone. No one would be so foolish as to take a speech delivered by the one as a speech made by the other; and there were few people who would mistake a speech made by either of them for a speech made by any third person. Now, the hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the Committee (Mr. Macartney) had taken upon himself a position for which he was not qualified by nature or training, and that was the position of censor in that House in the matter of good taste. The hon. Member had accused hon. Members sitting below the Gangway of being guilty of bad taste in the references they had made to other Members from Ireland; yet surely he himself was guilty of a most glaring piece of bad taste when he quoted the ancient aphorism about a silk purse and a sow's ear. If the hon. Gentleman doubted that the name was applicable to any Gentleman of his order, he would invite him to go into the Library and look at the Blue Books, and examine the proceedings of 797 the Irish Land Commission, He understood that when a man appropriated that which was the property of another the word "robber" might be applied to him; and, if that were so, then the Irish landlords had been robbers. He sympathized with what the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) had said in regard to the Tory Party—that the Leadership had fallen into commission. Last night the Irish Tory Members had indulged in the wild delight of rebellion, and that day they were learning that rebellion had its disadvantages and its risks. Some of them appeared to be unaware that a compact had been entered into; others had admitted its existence; but to what a condition of genteel comedy had the argument of the question been brought when they saw last night the Leader of the Conservative Party, followed by the whole rank and file of the English Conservative Members, go into the Lobby against them. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Beresford) either did not know what he wanted to prove, or he endeavoured to prove too much. He commenced by making a plea for Ulster; but his argument resolved itself into an argument that one Ulster county differed from another, because, if his speech meant anything at all, it meant that he was desirous of making a difference between the counties of Cavan and Armagh. It appeared to him that an argument of that sort did not rise to the height of national dimensions. The hon. Baronet the Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce) was not, as Michael Cassio was, a great arithmetician, and it was very dangerous to handle figures unless one was a skilful craftsman. The hon. Baronet said that each Member for County Louth would represent only 26,000 people; but he would advise him to go back to the Blue Book, and, if he did so, he would find that the towns of Drogheda and Dundalk had been added to the county of Louth. That would add to the county a population of 25,000, so that each Member for the county would represent 37,000. The hon. Baronet was as indifferent in his facts also as he was in his figures. He had soared into the realms of imagination, and talked about the good angel that guarded the Nationalist interests in the private conclave; but he (Mr. Sexton) might say that, so far as the general impression in Ireland went, whenever 798 the interests of the National Party were considered in a conclave of English Ministers, the supernatural influence presiding over it was altogether of another kind than that of angels. The hon. Gentleman who made this Motion (Mr. Mulholland) appeared to him to be very much too ingenious and a great deal too good for a place like this, where the sharper faculties of the human intellect were, perhaps, unduly developed. He appeared to possess a good deal of the character of the Vicar of Wakefield, and a good deal of the hopefulness of that distinguished clergyman, which arose, in a great degree, from an imperfect appreciation of facts. The hon. Gentleman asked the Government and the Committee to group Irish boroughs. Well, the Nationalist Members were as anxious for the grouping of Irish boroughs as he was, so long as the process was carried out with firmness. But the hon. Gentleman forgot that they were in Committee considering, not principles, but details; and he had not told them these two essential and indispensable facts—namely, what towns he intended to group, and what counties he intended should find the seats. The hon. Member seemed to think that the Committee had adopted a system common in judicial matters in Ireland, of finding the verdict first and considering the evidence afterwards. They had all heard of a certain compact, and all he could say was this—that if the Irish Tories listened any more to the voice of the charmer, the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton), as they did last night, and followed him into the Lobby, in opposition to the Conservative Leader and the right hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill (Sir Charles W. Dilke)—if they had any more of these idle Amendments and these fruitless and hopeless debates, the right hon. Baronet would have a perfect right to go to the Marquess of Salisbury, and say to him—"You entered into a compact, which you appear to have neither the political power nor the moral force to execute."
§ MR. KENNY
said, this Amendment seemed to him to be entirely unjustifiable. The hon. Member who moved it asked the Committee to take a leap in the dark. He wanted them to approve of a principle without putting any practicable scheme before them, and as soon 799 as he had concluded his speech his Colleagues had followed him, with a view of showing that the people of Ulster had been treated badly by the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill; but, on the contrary, he (Mr. Kenny) considered that the people of Ulster had been singularly well treated by that Bill. After that Bill had been passed into law Ulster would be represented by 33 Members; and he desired the Committee to compare those figures with those of Connaught. They would find that, whereas the 400,000 people of Ulster would have S3 Members, the 800,000 of Connaught would only have 15 Members. Therefore, the arguments of the hon. Members who had supported this Amendment were utterly worthless. At the present time, under this Bill, there would be something like four or five of the Ulster boroughs disfranchised. The hon. Member who moved this Motion represented one of those boroughs; and he presumed the hon. Member desired to have it grouped with some other boroughs. It only had a population of 3,000 people, which was a very small borough. There was no borough in Ireland which had so just a claim to consideration, in addition to Drogheda, as the borough of Lisburn; and he thought that those who were responsible for that which he would mention might almost be charged with an attempt to commit fraud. The population of the borough of Lisburn was last Census considerably under 15,000; but when he looked at Thorn's Directory he found that, whereas the population of other boroughs in Ireland was put down under the Census of 1881, the population of Lisburn was put down in 1883 at exactly the required number of 15,000. He should like to know who it was who had used his influence with the managers of Thom's Directory and induced them to alter these figures, in order to deceive the Government in regard to this Bill. It was absolutely impossible to group boroughs in Ireland. A scheme of grouping had been suggested in regard to Ireland in a Private Bill which an hon. Member had brought in, and in that measure it was proposed to connect with Limeriok the boroughs of Ennis and Carlow. Now, Ennis was about 40 miles from Limerick, and the two boroughs had not the slightest interests in common. He believed that if this 800 Amendment were adopted, it would be found that any proposal for grouping the hon. Member might make would be as absurd and senseless as that which had been made in the Private Bill he had referred to. He hoped the Committee would throw out the Amendment by an overwhelming majority.
§ MR. LEWIS
remarked that, after the speeches that had been made by several hon. Members on this subject, he did not think he would be justified in detaining the Committee for any length of time; but still he could not help referring to two points that had not so far been very much touched upon. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) and the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had proceeded rather upon the non possumus argument, and had said that the scheme that had been put forward that day entirely subverted the scheme of the Bill—namely, which was drawn upon the principle of anti-grouping. They knew that they had in Scotland one of the worst systems of grouping which existed in the entire Kingdom. What was the reason of it? He turned to the Papers, and he found that the Lord Advocate, representing the Government, intended to place all the existing groups of Scotch burghs in Schedule I.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he was sorry the Lord Advocate interrupted him. He found that the Ayr district was to be disenfranchised, that the Kilmarnock Burghs, that the Falkirk Burghs were to be disenfranchised, and the Elgin, Stirling, Montrose, Inverness, Wick, and Cromarty districts of burghs were to be treated in the same way. ["No, no!"] Perhaps hon. Members would not be quite so eager if they would only wait to see what followed. Nine district burghs were to go to Schedule I., and when be read that Amendment he said—"Surely the Government are going to be consistent; they have a strong objection to grouping in England and Wales, and they are going to abolish it in Scotland." But, on turning to another page of the Amendments, he found that nine district boroughs were to be created by the Government. This was the action of the 801 Government that found itself unable to consider the present proposal, because it was alleged that it would subvert one of the leading principles of the Bill, which was to do away, as far as they could, with district boroughs. These Amendments were on the Paper in the name of the Lord Advocate. This was the consistency of the Government. They destroyed the present system of grouping, and created an entirely new one, which they thought they could make defensible. Yet the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold), who was alternately kicking and patting the Government, congratulated them that they had once and for ever condemned the system of grouping, and said he hoped they would hear no more of it. The way they got rid of it was to disturb the present system of grouping in Scotland in nine cases, and to substitute another system which they hoped would be defensible. That was an illustration of the consistency of the Government. They objected to the principle of grouping; and, therefore, this Amendment, which was opposed by the President of the Local Government Board——
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member had three times stated that he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had opposed grouping on principle; what he did say was that they did not like grouping, and they would rather diminish than increase it, and that they thought its extension impracticable for reasons that were given.
§ MR. LEWIS
remarked, that if there had been as much pressure put upon the Government as had been put upon them by the Scotch Members the results would have been different. At any rate, the Postmaster General had said that the system of grouping was thoroughly bad. They had had a wonderful discussion with regard to Warwick, and it would be interesting to learn why a large town like Leamington was to be joined to a small and insignificant place like Warwick. He supposed they would hear something from the Government at some time or another. Anybody who knew what Warwick and Leamington were could not possibly argue that they were one and the same thing. He desired to answer the taunts which had been thrown out to the Ulster Members with regard to the so-called compact; and he ventured to make 802 one prophecy, which was, that there would never be another compact made, such as had been entered into between the two Front Benches with regard to this Bill. He did not suppose that either party to the compact would justify the consequence, which was a public evil, that the hands of Members on both sides of the House should be absolutely tied. What were they there for if they were not to discuss these matters? Why did they go through the farce of moving the Chairman in and out of the Chair if there was to be no real freedom of action? He denied that they were acting, in any ordinary sense of the word, in rebellion against the Leaders with whom they usually acted. At any rate, they hoped that their Leaders would not desert them in this division. It was true that the Ulster Members were a very small, and it might be a diminishing body; but they were there to defend their own interests, and he thought it was far too common a thing on both sides of the House to listen patiently to tirades from below the Gangway. He did not think this was the time to play into the hands of the Nationalist Members of the Irish Party, when the Press of that Party was teeming with disloyalty to the Crown and the Members of the Royal Family. Did hon. Members think that the Ulster Members should hide their diminished heads, while the Nationalists were doing everything they could to insult the Royal Family? He might tell them that there was one part of Ireland where Royalty would not only meet with loyal, but, if necessary, physical support. The Nemesis that would overtake the House in consequence of the increased power this Bill would place in the hands of the Nationalists would be innumerable fights, over and over again, on the floor of that House, for the repeal of the Union with all its consequences. The Irish landlords had already had to suffer in their individual persons the consequences of what was called a generous system of legislation for Ireland. The House was generous at their expense. It was a generosity that came out of the pockets of the Irish landlords. The measures they had taken were supposed to have been done for the good of the Empire, but without the slightest compensation having been given to the Irish landlords. Irish Members were constantly saying 803 that the Irish Protestants were the cause of all the mischief and trouble in Ire land. That was much the same as what they said when a collision occurred between the police and the people. It was always held in such cases that if there had been no police or military there would have been no rioting—that was to say, he supposed, that the mob should be allowed to carry out its de signs without interference. So it was in Ireland; and he ventured to say that if it had not been for the Protestant minority, every evil, every form of disloyalty—he would not say crime—would have been rampant. It was because the Protestants were always supporting all that was loyal and good in the country that hon. Members below the Gang way said—"Oh, if it was not for the Protestant minority there would have been no disturbance." Irish landlords had been allowed to be stigmatized as robbers, and that was thought to be within the privilege of Parliamentary speech; but to his mind it was disgusting that such a charge should be made against men who, in many cases, had had to sacrifice their absolute means of existence for what was called the public good. When they asked for compensation the Prime Minister came down there with smooth words——
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, it was impossible for Members of the Government to remain silent when an hon. Member attempted to turn the debate into a question between loyalty and disloyalty. He begged hon. Members to consider that this was not a question of loyalty of Parties in Ireland, but a question of the details of the Bill. The Government were determined that they would not treat Ireland differently from England and Scotland. Hon. Members opposite must have been present at the debate on going into Committee, when the Government were vindicating the Bill against the attacks of hon. Members below the Gangway, who stated that it 804 did injustice to the National Party; and in the same way the Government were now vindicating the Bill against hon. Members opposite, on the ground that it did no injustice to the great number in Ireland who were opposed to the National Party. He begged hon. Members who belonged to either of those Parties to consider that in the long run no good would come by attempting to give any Party in that House an unfair advantage in the Irish constituencies by arranging them in a manner which did not commend itself to the House on general grounds. By pursuing any such course of conduct they would give the Nationalist Party in Ireland a real grievance; and the great object of the Government and of the country ought to be to give Ireland no real grievance whatever. Now they were told that the voice of the disfranchised towns was no longer to be heard. The hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) said they were to be absolutely disfranchised. The principle of this Bill was that while by merging boroughs they might remove boroughs from the borough list, they would give them, perhaps, exceptional influence by making them the centres of larger districts. Indeed, they would in many eases have a much larger political influence than they possessed, when they remained boroughs. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) had taunted his right hon. Friends with having created a great number of Scotch groups, and he took exception to the statement that grouping was not a principle of the Bill. It must be recollected that in a Bill of this description they must look to its general tendency; and there could be no doubt whatever that the general tendency of the measure was adverse to grouping. His right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate had not created a single additional group. Not one single additional group had been created in Scotland; not one single town had been made into a borough which was not a borough before, and a very large number of towns had been merged into counties, and had ceased to be boroughs altogether. The only ground that hon. Members could have to make a statement that this Bill was a grouping Bill was afforded by the single case of Warwick; and he believed that hon. Members, if they inquired into the matter, would admit that that was not a group. The boroughs of 805 Warwick and Leamington had five miles of common frontier on which they touched, and the very essence of grouping was that the frontier should be separated. Hon. Members opposite had spoken with a certain amount of bitterness with which he had some degree of sympathy, although he did not agree with them. They complained that they had been felt in the lurch, and that their interests had been neglected, by those who ought to have looked after them. He thought that these sort of complaints ought to remind statesmen that they should be extremely careful in making promises. Hon. Members opposite had been thrown over by their Leader, not, however, by any action which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) took recently, but by the action which he took 18 months ago during his visit to Ulster, and which had been extremely regretted by the right hon. Gentleman since. The Leader of the Opposition had made a speech on Irish representation, which made the Government very cautious as to how they touched on Irish representation; for he told the assembled Conservatives that if justice were done according to the number of electors Ulster, instead of having 29 or 33 Members, he did not remember which, as at present, ought to have 44; and he also told them, in words that could only have this signification, that Connaught, with its enormous population, ought only to have 18 Members as against 12 for Belfast. The basis on which the right hon. Gentleman founded his argument was the number of present electors. People who listened to that sort of speech in excited Party meetings did not go into the argument by which such statements were supported; and he thought at the time it was very much to be regretted that hopes were held out to the Conservatives of Ulster which, in calmer moments, the right hon. Baronet knew could not be fulfilled. The right hon. Baronet was no doubt carried away by the circumstances of the moment; but now, sitting on the Front Bench, he was acting as a statesman, and he was obliged, when he came to review this question as a patriotic statesman, to come down very much from his previous promises and help in bringing forward and advocating before the House a scheme which, whatever might be said, he was convinced the more the House examined it the 806 more they would find it was drawn up without any reference to Party or creed in Ireland, and with the one intention of doing justice all round.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) should have reserved his reply to a speech delivered 18 months ago by his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to an occasion when he was unavoidably absent. Had he been present, he would, no doubt, have been able to give a full and sufficient answer to the long bottled up impeachment. He must go further, and say that if Her Majesty's Government were anxious that the Bill should proceed with the full support of the Front Opposition Bench, or even the general support of that part of the House, they must defer replying to speeches made by their political opponents 18 months ago to a more auspicious occasion. The Bill had not been delayed by speeches from that part of the Committee, but by the allies of the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway; and if, in addition to that sort of delay, they were to be driven upon occasions to reply to partizan speeches from Cabinet Ministers, he did not know when this Bill would pass through the House; and, for himself, he was disposed to agree with what was said by his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), that it was not likely that compacts of that sort would be repeated in future. No doubt, on the present occasion there was a compact; and when the right hon. Gentleman talked so glibly of fulfilling their share of the contract, he begged to say that the most important part of the compact, so far as the Conservative Party was concerned, was accomplished and fulfilled when the House of Lords passed the third reading of the Franchise Bill. That he took to be an undoubted fact. As to what the right hon. Gentleman had said as to the principle of the Bill, he could not understand why the Government regarded the formation of one or two groups in parts of Ireland or Scotland as necessarily hostile to the principle of the measure. One right hon. Gentleman said he looked with disfavour on the principle of grouping, while another right hon. Gentleman had said that if they looked at the whole construction of the measure, they would find that it was hostile to the 807 principle of grouping. But, for his part, he could not see, with regard to Scotland, that the Bill was altogether hostile to grouping. Now, in regard to Ireland, no doubt, there were practical difficulties in the way of forming any substantial system of grouping boroughs; but he did not understand that his hon. Friends who proposed this Amendment were in favour of any very large principle of grouping. But they thought that, in one or two cases, the system of grouping might be advantageously adopted. If it was true that Her Majesty's Government considered that the principle of grouping in Ireland, carried out to however small an extent, was in hostility to, and in derogation of, the compact or agreement which was entered into between the two Leaders of the Conservative Party, the moment that was stated, he, for one—and he spoke for nobody but himself—should feel bound by the declaration. He should, however, press upon Her Majesty's Government the further consideration of this question. If the Government said that they regarded the question of grouping in Ireland as opposed to the essence of this measure, and that they could not accept any proposal as to grouping, however limited in extent, ho, for one, should be bound to support Her Majesty's Government in opposing that Amendment; but he earnestly hoped, in the interests of peace and of the future progress of this measure, that they would receive from the Government an assurance that they were prepared to consider proposals of this moderate nature.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
remarked, that he had already addressed the Committee on this subject; but as the noble Lord had made a rather distinct appeal to the Government he would repeat what he had stated. He had told the Committee that day that it was impossible for the Government to accede to the proposal for grouping in Ireland; but last night he had said that if there was any general concurrence of opinion in favour of the views then supported, that one or two Irish boroughs should be increased by the addition of suburbs, that was a matter which he thought should not be shut out, but ought to be considered in Committee when they reached the Schedule, and that it was a matter which might very properly receive the attention of the House. He 808 thought it only courteous to the noble Lord to repeat that statement.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he thought the outburst of loyalty on the part of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), and the simulated passion with which it was delivered, would have been more in season, and would have come with greater force, if it had come from him on one of his platforms, and had it been addressed to that one of his standard-bearers, during his election campaign in Derry, who declared, on the same platform as the hon. Member, that he would kick the Queen's Crown into the Boyne. He opposed the Amendment for two reasons. In the first place, because the hon. Member who moved it (Mr. Mulholland) had not put on the Paper the names of the towns he proposed to group; and, secondly, because he was opposed to the principle it involved. The Postmaster General, in the course of his short speech on this subject, showed an utter and deplorable ignorance in regard to the effect which the Bill would have in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman, in arguing against the principle of grouping boroughs, stated, as a compensation, that they would exercise the preponderating influence in the counties in which they were merged. But what was the fact? There were two boroughs to be merged in the county which he represented—Dundalk and Drogheda. What would be the effect? They were at present represented by two thorough-going Whigs; but the county of Louth would never be disgraced by being represented by Whigs. They would only be represented by thorough-going Nationalists. He should be very sorry to see the borough of Portarlington impregnating with its corrupting influences Queen's County and King's County. He was glad to hear that it would never impregnate the county he represented with its corrupting influences. In like manner, he should be sorry to see Kerry corrupted by the Whiggery of Tralee. He desired to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, or the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke), that the limits of the borough of Drogheda had not been extended, seeing that they had extended Warwick to a 809 distance of five miles from the centre of the town. "Why, in regard to Drogheda, had they refused to extend the boundary, on the principle laid down by the Hexham Commission? Had the Government been guided in these matters by political exigencies or political jerry-mandering? On what principle could they allow the borough boundary of Warwick to be extended five miles, and refuse to allow the borough of Drogheda to be extended a quarter of a mile—particularly when the borough of Drogheda came to within 348 of the 15,000 limit, and Warwick wanted as many as 4,000, or, at all events, more than 3,000? If they enfranchised Warwick, they would commit a gross injustice if they did not, at the same time, and by the same Act, enfranchise Drogheda. He thought that, instead of having this subject constantly recurring, it would be well to give some explanation as to the causes of the enfranchisement of Warwick and the drawing of a hard-and-fast line in the case of Drogheda.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, it would be out of Order for him, at the present moment, to argue the case of Warwick in detail—it would be encouraging a discussion which would be entirely irregular. He had already answered questions with regard to Drogheda, and had stated that if the circumstances of that town were considered by themselves it would be a question whether this place ought not to be treated exceptionally. As it was, when they came to deal with the case, they would have to consider it very carefully. Applications had been made from various parts of England similar to those referred to by the hon. Member.
§ MR. HICKS
said, that before the question was put he wished, as an English Member, to be allowed to say a very few words on this Amendment. On a former occasion, hon. Gentlemen forming the Party below the Gangway had claimed the right to be heard after the House had been occupied by Eng- 810 lish and Scotch Members for some considerable time. Well, this debate had been carried on that day entirely by Irish Members, or Members connected with Ireland; and he, therefore, thought it but right that an English Member should be allowed to say a few words. Last night one of the most eloquent Members belonging to the Party below the Gangway had said that he hoped this question would be debated without Party feeling. He (Mr. Hicks) was sorry that that hope had not been realized that day. They had heard language in that House that ought not to have been uttered there—language which had been cheered by hon. Members below the Gangway; and he thought that the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) was only within his right when he protested against it. The question really before the Committee was the question of grouping. For his own part, he had felt for years that that was the one way of solving the difficulty. He thought that this grouping with regard to Ireland would be a fair and just proceeding. They had it from the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) that if the system of grouping was to be adopted at all, Gentlemen representing the North of Ireland had made out a very strong case for its application to that part of the United Kingdom. What he wanted to know was, and his only reason for rising was to ask the Government, whether they were or were not going to put their foot down on grouping, because in this Bill the Committee found, notwithstanding the chronic smile of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), that the Government were not only maintaining but extending the system, in spite of what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet. The Committee had to consider not only the question of Warwick, which had been so prominently brought forward, but they had also to consider the question of Pembroke. They found that under the Bill Pembroke was to be joined, not to the town running alongside of it, but to the town of Haverfordwest. They saw there two towns grouped together, apparently for the purpose of securing a seat to a very faithful follower, the present Member for Pembroke (Mr. W. Davies). If they were to have the principle of non-grouping let it be 811 stated clearly and distinctly; and let it be done generally, and not applied here and there. He said this—that if they were not to have a system of grouping in the future let them not have it now. Let them not have another of those points left over for future consideration—another point added to that of the Universities which the right hon. Baronet told them the other night was to be brought up again on the first opportunity. He should have liked to know whether this was another part of that great compact and agreement, the conditions of which were to be open for reconsideration and reversal on the first opportunity? If this was a point to be reconsidered as soon as ever the Government could get out of this unfortunate alliance with the Opposition, he should like to know how many other parts of the Bill were to be torn to pieces as soon as the measure became an Act?
§ MR. DEASY
said, he could not remain silent after the answer of the noble Lord (Lord John Manners). He had been under the impression that the compact that they had heard had been entered into between the Government and the Tories existed down to the present time. It appeared now, however, from what they had heard from the noble Lord, and from a statement which had been made on behalf of the Government, that that compact was virtually at an end. ["No, no!"] The right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) appeared to dissent from that view; but he (Mr. Deasy) believed the right hon. Baronet had approved of the words of the noble Lord when the noble Lord had said that the Conservatives were released from this treaty when the Franchise Bill had passed the House of Lords.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that what he had intended to convey was that the major part of the compact on the Conservative side was accomplished by the passing of the Franchise Act by the House of Lords—not that the compact was itself at an end.
§ MR. SEXTON
asked whether he was to understand from the noble Lord that the Conservatives, by allowing the Franchise Bill to pass, had carried out their part of the treaty? ["No, no!"]
§ MR. DEASY
said, he trusted that if the Government took into consideration the extension of the boundaries of some of the Northern towns with a view to their 812 enfranchisement, they would also consider the claims of Limerick and other Southern towns, and not enfranchise towns in the North at the expense of Southern constituencies. He did not think there was any reason for grouping such towns as Bandon, Kinsale, and Mallow. The two first were in the same district, with a joint population of 12,000 or 13,000, and there were several large villages near. There could be no doubt, therefore, that at an election the number of people who would vote in these places would have great influence in deciding who should sit for that division of the county of Cork. The same argument would apply to every other such constituency in Ireland. He trusted that Her Majesty's Government would not alter their Bill in this respect.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided.
§ As the Tellers came up to the Table to announce the numbers The O'GORMAN MAHON, interrupting them, addressed some words to Lord RICHARD GROSVENOR, one of the Government Tellers, on the floor of the House, and immediately afterwards proceeded to his place.
§ MR. SEXTON
I rise to a point of Order. I understand my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clare (The O'Gorman Mahon) did not hear the Question put in the last division, and therefore had remained in the right Lobby without voting. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether, that being so, the hon. and gallant Member is not entitled to have the Question put to him from the Chair, and, if necessary, to have his vote recorded?
The hon. and gallant Member would have been entitled so to do if he had made his complaint at the proper moment; but he allowed the opportunity to pass.
§ MR. KENNY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman, I understand, endeavoured, under misapprehension, to rectify his mistake by informing the Clerk at the Table of what had occurred before the 813 result of the division was declared; and I wish to know, Sir, inasmuch as he likewise appealed, to the senior Government Whip, whether he is not entitled to have his vote properly recorded?
It would have been open to the hon. and gallant Gentleman to have made his mistake known to the Tellers, and then it would have been corrected.
I am informed that the hon. and gallant Member communicated with the Clerk beside me, who informed the hon. and gallant Member that the course to pursue was to convey the information to the Tellers.
§ MR. SEXTON
Before the numbers were announced I saw the hon. and gallant Member make a statement to the noble Lord (Lord Richard Grosvenor); and I appeal to the noble Lord to state what the communication was which the hon. and gallant Member made to him?
§ LORD RICHARD GROSVENOR
The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke to me just before I read out the numbers.
I understand that the hon. and gallant Gentleman did communicate with the Tellers before the numbers were announced, and in that case I think the correction may be made.
stated the Question to the hon. and gallant Member, and asked: Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman wish to record his vote with the "Ayes" or the "Noes"?
Then the numbers must be corrected accordingly. The Ayes to the right were 93, and the Noes to the left 184.
The following is the entry in the Votes:—
The O'Gorman Mahon, Member for Clare came to the Table and informed the Chairman that, not having heard the Question put, he had remained in the right Lobby without voting, and that he had informed one of the Tellers for the Ayes of the circumstance before the Numbers were declared:—
Whereupon the Chairman stated the Question to the honourable Member, and he declared himself with the Noes, and the Chairman directed that his name should be added to the Noes:—Ayes 93, Noes 184.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, he wished to move an Amendment to the clause, to except from its operation—Such burghs in Scotland, forming part of existing groups of burghs, as shall be grouped with other burgh districts, or such burghs as shall be grouped with other towns not at present represented, for the purpose of forming burgh districts in Scotland.He made no apology for troubling the Committee with his Amendment. He considered that the subject was of great importance to Scotland, and that a question ought not only to be asked, but that they ought also to have a definite answer from the Government with regard to it. The Amendment was not inconsistent with what was proposed by the Lord Advocate on the part of the Government, but had a different object in view. Whatever fate it might meet with on the present occasion—whether it was ultimately withdrawn or negatived—he was quite aware it was in his power to raise the question again on the details of the Schedules; but, at the same time, he thought it would be a great convenience to the Committee that the question generally should be raised at this stage. He wanted to make clear the principle on which Amendments to the Schedules would be subsequently moved. The Amendment was in two parts, which were quite distinct; but they both had reference to the desirableness of continuing and developing the grouping system in Scotland. He wished, with regard to the first part of the Amendment, so to speak, to check the process of liberation in one case, because he proposed to deal with one burgh about to be liberated by having it transferred to another group; and as to the second part of the Amendment he wished to leave the door wide open for adding 815 to groups now existing other towns in the same counties. He wished to say a word as to the expression "liberation," with which they had become familiar. That expression always reminded him of the now famous expression about the evacuation by Egypt of the Soudan and its restoration to freedom. There was a notion of satisfaction—almost of exhilaration—about this "liberation;" but he maintained that, as in the one case so in the other, it was a contradiction in terms. Just as in the case of the Soudan it meant liberation to chaos and terror, so in the case of the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill it meant liberation to electoral discomfiture, liberation to aggravated anomalies, liberation to smothering and suffocation of country interests in counties under the great numerical superiority of the towns. He desired the fair consideration of the Committee, and especially of hon. Members from Scotland sitting opposite, to the case he was about to bring before them. He wished them to put him out of consideration altogether, and to consider the case itself. He should be content if they would dissociate all idea of any Tory taint in the Amendment as he moved it, and only consider the circumstances of the case. He did not mean to refer in the slightest degree to the political character of his object. He was very doubtful whether, supposing the Amendment were carried, the political effect would be great; but he thought an anomaly of the most aggravated description would be remedied, under which, as he maintained, the country part of counties would, in time to come, be practically unrepresented. What he proposed was consistent, and what the Government proposed was inconsistent, with the instructions given to the Boundary Commissioners, which were to the effect that in forming the divisions the population of several districts should be equalized as far as practicable, and that care should be taken, in all cases where there were populous localities of an urban character, to group them all in the same division, unless it were found that it could not be done without great inconvenience. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, in introducing the Bill to the House, or rather when he moved the second reading, distinctly pointed to an endeavour on the 816 part of the Government, when they dealt with the details of the question, to separate, as far as might be practicable, the urban and the rural elements. He was not an advocate of anything in the nature of equal electoral districts; nothing was more remote from his mind; but he concluded that when an extended franchise was given to the counties it was intended that the country parts of counties should have some weight in the electoral scale. Could it be said that in the Bill as it stood, or if the Amendment of the Lord Advocate should be adopted, there was any fair attempt to separate the urban and rural elements? He said that so far as the Bill stood, and the proposals of the Lord Advocate went, there was not a shadow of an attempt to fulfil those conditions which were shadowed out by the Prime Minister, and which were in the instructions to the Boundary Commissioners. A man said to him not very long ago, when speaking of this subject—"But are they not all men?" "Yes;" he replied, "they are all men, and they will all be voters; and if the whole notion that is in your head is what Mr. Carlyle called 'head counting by thousands,' I quite understand that you attach very little importance to redistribution; but if there is any idea of redistribution, if there is any sense of a fair proportion of representation between town and country, then, I say, there ought to be some addition to existing groups of boroughs, to relieve to some extent the great inequality that will prevail between town and country." He remembered that the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan), who was the pioneer in all these matters—although other men now interested themselves in them, and little was now said of the right hon. Gentleman's share in the movement—used to say, speaking in a somewhat rhetorical fashion, that it was shocking to think that if Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, were alive now, he would not have a vote. Well, he would not have had a vote now if it had not been for the service franchise; and, what was more, Hogg, if he did have the benefit of the service franchise, would, under the Bill as it now stood, have not the smallest conceivable say in the political condition of the country; because in various regions of the country it was perfectly obvious that, as the Bill stood, the urban 817 element would outweigh out of all sight the country element. It was worth mentioning how vast was the disproportion between the county and burgh representation of Scotland. The burghs returned one Member for every 39,000 odd of the population, and the counties one Member for 53,000 odd. These numbers, he believed, were not disputed. The Chancellor of the Duchy, speaking on the last Amendment, said that they would give much larger political influence in time to come to the towns that were to be liberated; and he had pointed out that the towns would be the places where the newspapers would be published, where the markets would be held, and so forth. Well, that was perfectly true; it was what he not only admitted, but asserted; and it was because the liberated towns would have a so much larger influence in time to come in the counties to which they belonged that he said that in some cases the disproportion between town and county ought to be more adjusted, and that in other cases existing groups of burghs ought to be increased by the addition of towns of considerable proportions in the same counties. They used to hear a good deal about anomalies in former times; and he was under the impression that one of the objects of this Bill was to prevent anomalies; but, as it stood, the Bill aggravated them to a great extent. They might not be the same anomalies; but, at all events, there would be created new ones of a very startling character. He would illustrate by a single instance what he meant. He took one county particularly as an illustration, because he was not connected with it in the remotest degree. He took the county of Stirling. It was proposed by an Amendment on the Paper to group together the burghs of Stirling and Falkirk, with a population of 29,000; and it was intended in the Bill that the county population to be represented by one Member should be 83,000 or 84,000; so that these interesting burghs of Stirling and Falkirk would enjoy in the time to come fully a third more representation than the county; and not only so, but in that county there was a great variety of populous places—he need not define "populous places," for there was no doubt as to what was meant—and the country parts of the county would, for good or for evil, be overruled and over- 818 ridden by the urban element in the county. So that there was not only the extraordinary anomaly of the burghs being represented by one Member on the one hand, and the county, with its very large population, being also represented by one Member, but that the country population would be large, out of all right, when compared with the burgh population represented. He could give other instances, but would not trouble the Committee with them now. He hoped that on the Schedules it might hereafter be possible to mention other cases of equal importance. If the President of the Local Government Board dealt fully, as he hoped he would, with this Amendment in reply, he must not only say that the Government never contemplated regrouping; that they never contemplated the enfranchisement of these new towns in connection with existing groups—it would not do to say that alone, because the Government must have fully foreseen the effect of the greatly extended franchise in the counties; and, as he had already said, by the Bill as it was introduced, and by the instructions to the Boundary Commissioners, it was distinctly contemplated that the urban and rural elements should be, as far as possible, kept apart. The right hon. Gentleman should, he thought, also justify the departure from that principle which was laid down so prominently in both those quarters. The right hon. Baronet must account for the abandonment of the proposal to have a fair division between the urban and rural elements such as he (Mr. Dalrymple) desired to see. As he had said, he had no intention of going in for the creation of electoral districts; but he was of opinion, in the spirit of the declaration of the Prime Minister, and of the directions to the Boundary Commissioners, that an attempt should be made to rectify the extraordinary electoral anomalies that the Bill would create between the burgh and the county constituencies. It was for that purpose that he had brought forward his Amendment; and he should listen with interest to what the right hon. Baronet would say in reply.
In page 1, line 13, after the word "Act," to insert the words "except such burghs in Scotland, forming part of existing groups of burghs, as shall be grouped with other burgh districts, or such burghs as shall be grouped with other
towns not at present represented, for the purpose of forming burgh districts in Scotland."—(Mr. Dalrymple.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he thought the hon. Member had made a very good defence of a case for which there was a good deal to be said. It was a case which, if they were to negative his Amendment on that occasion, they should not be able to avoid a discussion upon on a future occasion, because this was a matter which could be raised, undoubtedly, whether or not the words proposed by the hon. Member were here introduced. It was not a case that could be decided by the rejection or the acceptance of the Amendment on the present occasion, because there were two ways of doing what the hon. Member proposed. By the scheme of the Bill itself, if the Scottish groups were to be treated in the way the Lord Advocate had proposed to treat some of them, or treated as the groups in Welsh counties were treated, even if those words were negatived, it would be competent to the Committee on the Schedule to abolish certain existing Scottish groups, to re-group them, and to extend them by adding others to them. The matter, therefore, would not be finally concluded on that occasion; and he was afraid the result of the moving of the Amendment now would be that they would have two debates on the question. But, perhaps, that would be an advantage, because he thought it was deserving of very careful attention and consideration from the Committee. No one, he thought, was disposed to say that the present constitution of groups in Scotland was altogether satisfactory. He never heard of any Member of the House who took that view. Therefore, the door was open, by that general admission, to proposals that might be brought forward by the hon. Member. This was a matter as to which he should be glad to hear the opinion of Scotch Members when they came to the Schedules, and he had no doubt opinions would be very freely expressed. He had already had some means of forming an impression of the general opinion of Scotch Members; and certain proposals had been made by the Lord Advocate, which would come on in the Schedules, in which his right hon. 820 and learned Friend had tried to act on the opinions which appeared to be those of the majority, but with some doubt as to what was the exact opinion on details, which they could only discover satisfactorily when they came to discuss the Schedules. The hon. Member (Mr. Dalrymple) had told them that the urban element would outweigh the rural element in Scotland. The hon. Member had spoken in a very guarded way; but there could be no doubt that here and there there were counties in Scotland where the urban element would outweigh the rural element; but so there were in England; and he altogether took issue with the hon. Member if he made that statement a general statement. He did not think that such general statement could be seriously maintained by those who knew Scotland as well as the hon. Member did. The hon. Member said the Prime Minister, when he first gave a general sketch of the provisions of the Bill, attached great importance to the separation of the rural and urban elements. His right hon. Friend did so, and it had been the desire of the Government, as was shown in the instructions to the Boundary Commissioners, with regard to the formation of districts in counties, to act upon that principle, and, as far as possible, to separate these elements. It was undoubtedly the case, as he knew from the great number of remonstrances that had reached him from those who sat on his own side of the House, and representing those who were not in the House, that a great deal of dissatisfaction had been given to Members of the Liberal Party by a too strict adherence to those instructions. He knew that in one division of Lanarkshire, and in the case of the division of the county of Perth, great dissatisfaction had been expressed because the Commissioners had acted strictly on their instructions. It was his intention, however, on the part of the Government, to give the firmest support to these decisions. Although the hon. Member was quite within his rights in raising a discussion on this occasion, he could only point out that the insertion of his Amendment was not necessary from his own point of view. If the Committee negatived those words, they would be able, when the question cropped up on the Schedule, to extend the present grouping by add- 821 ing outside burghs, if they thought fit, and they would also be able to break up and reconstitute groups anywhere, if it seemed desirable to the Committee. Looking, therefore, to the difficulty of discussing this as an abstract question, and the desirability of discussing it with facts before them, he thought it would be more desirable if they discussed it on the Schedules of the Bill.
§ MR. ORR EWING
said, that after the observations of the right hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill (Sir Charles W. Dilke) it might appear unnecessary to continue the debate. The proposal of the Lord Advocate, concurred in by the Scotch Members at their meeting upstairs, was that no burgh or populous place should be added to any group of burghs, however unjust the redistribution of those burghs might be. That was a proposal he (Mr. Orr Ewing) condemned. It was true that the instructions given to the Boundary Commissioners in Scotland, England, and Ireland were, unfortunately, identical; but the circumstances of each country were different. In his opinion, the only way in which they could fairly separate the urban and rural populations was either by proportional representation or by grouping burghs; and he was very much surprised that the Leaders of the Conservative Party, in making arrangements with the Government, did not stipulate that any burghs which were being disfranchised and added to the counties should be grouped together, thus separating the urban from the rural population. But as this arrangement had been agreed to by the Leaders of both Parties, so far as England and Ireland was concerned, he would not now re-open the question. He would, however, point out to the Committee the peculiarities of Scotland, and that the same instructions were not suitable to Scotland as to England and Ireland. Wherever they had a system of grouping of burghs, as in Scotland, where they had 13—or nearly a quarter of the total number of Members—they must either continue the system or destroy grouping altogether. In order to show how inadequate was the proposition of the Government, he would give an illustration from the case of the county of Stirling. That county had a population of 112,000, and it had now one county Member and a portion of a burgh Mem- 822 ber in respect of the burgh of Stirling. The remaining burghs belonging to this group, called the Stirling Burghs, were out of the county altogether—namely, in Fifeshire and Linlithgowshire. The Lord Advocate, no doubt, recognized that anomaly, and proposed now to make one group in the county of Stirling, and leaving the county Member; but he gave to this group of burghs a population of only 29,000, whilst that of the county was 83,000; and this notwithstanding that there were in one part of the county of Stirling numerous boroughs and populous places—manufacturing towns—that could be added. He would call attention now to the extraordinary proposal of the Government as to Fifeshire and Ayrshire. The county of Fife had two burgh Members and one county Member, and the Government proposed to continue the burgh Members and give another Member to the county. The population of the burghs was 40,000 for Kirkcaldy, and 19,425 for St. Andrew's, and that of the whole county 170,000; by dividing the latter by four, it would be seen that there would be about 40,000 to each constituency. Ayrshire had a population of 220,000, and had hitherto nearly four Members—at all events 3½ or 3¼. The Government proposed to take away one Member; and he asked whether that was just or fair, especially considering the way in which Fifeshire was treated? For his own part, he considered it a manifestly unjust arrangement, and he trusted the Lord Advocate would reconsider the matter, and come to the conclusion that, by an amalgamation of the St. Andrew's and Kirkcaldy Burghs, the county of Fife might be satisfied with one Member. Then he wished to call attention to the county which he represented. The county of Dumbarton was one of the most prosperous and rapidly, increasing counties in the whole of Scotland. It had increased 28 per cent in the last decade, and was increasing to a greater extent at present. Looking to the enormous works that were being constructed all down the Clyde, he had no hesitation in saying that the population of the county would soon be over 100,000. It was said that they might look for some further drastic alterations in regard to the representation of the people when the new Parliament was brought together; but he thought, at 823 all events, they ought to look forward to a settlement of this question which would last for a long period, and that, therefore, they should be guided by principles of fair play rather than by Party politics. Instead of forming a Dumbarton group of burghs, the Lord Advocate proposed only to take the burgh of Dumbarton, with a population of 13,782, and group it with Renfrew, leaving the county of Dumbarton with a population of 73,000, although it contained several burghs and populous places which might minimize the influence of the rural voters. He thought they ought rather to make a Dumbarton group of burghs; and he hoped, at any rate, that the Lord Advocate would meet this matter in a fair spirit.
§ MR. C. S. PARKER
said, that, in common with the hon. Member who had just sat down, he had listened with great interest to the remarks made by the right hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple); and he entirely agreed with him when he said that, although the action of his hon. Friend in putting this Notice of Amendment on the Paper might cause them to have two debates on the subject, that might not be a loss, but a gain, because the Amendment raised the question of principle before proceeding to handle matters of detail. He thought that most of the Scotch Members were under the impression that, although the Government had made no formal declaration on the question of the grouping of burghs, yet, practically, they had determined that the Committee should not open it, except in regard to Parliamentary burghs already existing. But now they had a definite answer from the right hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill; not that the Government were prepared to agree to further grouping, but that they were prepared to admit the free discussion of that, among other proposals, for the re-arrangement of burghs. He thought Scotland had not in this Bill been considered with as much care as the more important and larger part of the United Kingdom. He thought that principles had been laid down chiefly with reference to England, and that these principles had been too hastily applied to Scotland. No attempt had been made in the Bill to mitigate the anomalies presented by 824 the old Scottish system of grouped burghs. Throughout Scotland, he believed, the impression had gone abroad that, in making any proposals for the amendment of the present inconvenient arrangement, it was necessary to confine themselves to such arrangements as would not include any burgh that was not already a Parliamentary burgh. But he now understood, from what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, that they were not so precluded. If that were so, he would suggest that, having now received an answer on the question of principle, they might postpone further debate until they reached the Schedules of the Bill. It would be to the benefit of Scotland that they should allow the country to consider the question. In his own county of Ayr they should be allowed to reconsider their position as to the grouping proposed in the Bill in the light of the new declaration from the Treasury Bench. Under the circumstances, he hoped the discussion on the question of principle would not be greatly prolonged.
§ MR. COCHRAN-PATRICK
said, he did not think that his hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) had quite followed the development of the question; because he had not alluded to the fact that the Lord Advocate, who proposed that the representation of Ayrshire should be curtailed, had very recently put on the Paper certain proposals which practically gave back to the county of Ayrshire the representation which it now had. He was inclined to be satisfied with that Amendment; but he wished to take the opportunity of saying that he had heard the remarks of the right hon. Baronet, and looked upon his statement with great satisfaction. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Parker) that the country should have an opportunity of considering the matter; and as they would have a certain opportunity of raising a great number of these points of detail when the Schedules were reached, he ventured to suggest that his hon. Friend should withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he was obliged to confess that he did not wholly agree with the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Parker). He had heard with surprise the statement of the right hon. Baronet 825 in charge of the Bill, because it appeared to him to be absolutely contradictory, not only of what had been said by Members of the Government on former occasions, but of what he himself had stated at an earlier period of the Sitting. He understood the right hon. Baronet to say, when discussing the Amendment of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland), that the Government thought the extension of grouping was generally undesirable, and that they should be more desirous of limiting than extending its principle. The results in Wales and Scotland, the right hon. Baronet went on to say, had not been so good as to make it desirable to extend the system in England and Ireland, and the Government had made up their minds to resist the extension of the system. What the right hon. Baronet said now appeared to him (Mr. Buchanan) somewhat different. The door was open, he said, to proposals for extension of the system of grouping, that might be brought forward by the hon. Member for Bute. The hon. Member for Perth was therefore perfectly justified in welcoming the present statement of the right hon. Baronet, because it gave him and the other Friends of the grouping system an opportunity of extending, or almost an invitation to extend that system in Scotland, by adding burghs having no Parliamentary representation to the existing groups.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that he had stated that if they negatived the Amendment it would be quite open to them to raise the question again on the Schedules of the Bill.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
It is in our power to move any Amendment we like when the Schedules are reached; but we want to know whether Amendments for the extension of grouping are, in the opinion of the Government, admissible Amendments or not?
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I have avoided discussing the question on its merits now, as anything we can do would not prevent its being re-discussed on the Schedules.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
I do not want to enter on any altercation; but I think the right hon. Baronet did discuss the question on its merits earlier in the day.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The earlier Amendment shut out all further discussion on the question of Irish bo- 826 roughs; but that is not the case with the Amendment before the Committee.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he was glad to have obtained some further explanation from the right hon. Baronet. It was evident that hon. Members had found considerable ambiguity in his remarks on the question of grouping burghs. His hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Parker) had said he hoped the statement of the right hon. Baronet would go down to Scotland and be duly considered; and the hon. Member for North Ayrshire (Mr. Cochran-Patrick), viewing the statement with satisfaction, said that a number of Amendments would be proposed on the Schedule in order to carry it out. He (Mr. Buchanan) should deprecate entirely any such step as the extension of the system of grouping in Scotland. He had always maintained that it was fallacious to treat a group of burghs as if it were a single burgh. The population standard should have been applied to the contributory burghs individually, not to the group collectively; and the same standard should have been applied, and in the same way, to all parts of the United Kingdom. That was the only logical method of dealing with the problem, and he regretted that it had not been adopted by the Government.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that one would have supposed that a Bill which gave an additional number of Members to Scotland would have provided some additional representation for the more populous parts of Scotland. But in the case of the county of Ayr, although 12 Members had been added for Scotland, this county, now represented by three Members, was in future to have only two. Again, with regard to the county of Stirling, he found that out of the 112,000 persons contained in the whole county, 90,000 lived in towns and 30,000 in the rural districts; and yet, by the proposal now before the Committee, there would be two Members given to the latter, and one only to the former. That surely could not be a fair arrangement, and as there were many towns in Scotland to which the same principle was applied in the Bill, he was glad that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to reconsider this matter; and he hoped that before the Bill left the House some arrangement would be made by which the burghs and towns of 827 Scotland which had burghal government, I and which were united under Act of Parliament as places self-governing, should be represented as hitherto.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
My right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) rather deprecated a discussion of the general question just now, inasmuch as, he said, the whole matter would be opened on the Schedules. But I think if any hon. Member interpreted what he said as implying any intention on the part of the Government to propose the addition of new towns to the existing groups of burghs, my right hon. Friend's meaning was misapprehended. There was no such intention conveyed. Had it been the view of Her Majesty's Government that it would be a fit and proper thing either to increase the number of groups or the number of units of existing groups, they would have placed upon the Paper Amendments to carry out that object. But there are no such Amendments on the Paper. My right hon. Friend indicated that the matter would be fully open for discussion when the Schedules are reached, and that if before that time there did appear to be a widely prevalent feeling on the part of the Scotch Members that such additions should be made, then that matter would be duly considered by the Government. I do not, however, think there is the least likelihood of a proposal of the kind emanating from Tier Majesty's Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Orr Ewing) asks whether the views I expressed on this question have been changed. I can inform my hon. Friend that my opinions have not changed. The general principle throughout the Three Kingdoms has been to distinguish between burgh and shire. It is an exceptional thing to have, as in Scotland, groups of burghs arising historically from somewhat exceptional causes, and the causes which led to these groups being formed are much less in operation now than in former days, because in the old times there was a sharper distinction between the old Royal burghs and the surrounding counties than now exists between town and county. From time to time these burghs have been increased by the addition of places that were not Royal burghs, but which were elevated 828 to the rank of Parliamentary burghs. But when the whole country is receiving an identical franchise, man}' of the reasons which led to these distinctions ceased to exist; and when we have the number of populous places largely increasing in this country, and are prepared to extend this system almost indefinitely, I say it would be impossible to increase the number in the manner indicated by my hon. Friend. It has been suggested that the only distinction should be between what have been termed agricultural and urban populations. But I must point out that agriculture, although a very great and primary industry, is by no means the sole industry pursued in the counties. There are practically industries in villages and towns of all grades; and unless you are to cut out of the counties all those places which really give many of them their character, you cannot perform the kind of operation which would leave agriculture cut off alone from all other kinds of industry. If you find a county in which there are numerous places historically important, as Royal burghs, the proper course would be to take the county as you find it. So that, without pursuing the discussion of this question, I think it right to say that while it is both technically and substantially open to consideration on the Schedules, the view I formerly expressed on this matter is not changed. I rather think that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire, in comparing Ayrshire with Fifeshire, had not adverted to the fact that a change has been made as far as Ayrshire is concerned.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
There was an intelligible reason in regard to Ayrshire, inasmuch as the original proposal involved the union of Argyllshire with the Island of Bute. But that proposal did not meet with approval to the requisite extent; and therefore what I may call a proposal to reinstate Kilmarnock in Ayrshire was made, with the result that, as far as Ayrshire is concerned, it will remain exactly as it was before. Now, my hon. Friend made some remarks, not strictly germane to the question, in regard to the manner in which particular counties had been treated. My hon. Friend complained that Ayrshire had not the re- 829 quisite number of Members as compared with other counties. Now, I must point out to him that, as far as regards the non-burghal part of Ayrshire, it has a population of something over 161,000, and for that it has two Members; while Fife-shire, with a population of 101,000, has only one Member. In the allocation of the new Members what has been done is strictly to follow the state of population, taking the largest first, and then coming downwards. If my hon. Friend had studied the statistics he would have seen that regard has been had to the subject of population. However, I will not pursue the argument on this matter now, because when the Schedules come to be considered any proposals made by the hon. Member will receive ample consideration; but the Government do not see that there is any necessity, either in the nature of the thing or in any prevalent or general desire in Scotland for the extension of this system, that would make it proper for them to propose such an extension.
§ MR. BOLTON
said, that the two hon. Members opposite appeared to speak of Stirlingshire as if with some knowledge. He claimed to have more knowledge of Stirlingshire than either of those hon. Gentlemen; and he said, without fear of contradiction, that the constituency or the electors in Stirlingshire were perfectly satisfied with the proposal of the Government, which was to leave Stirlingshire as it stood in the Bill. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) took a paternal interest in the affairs of Stirlingshire. [Mr. ORR EWING: I live there.] He was aware of that, and it was very natural that he should take that paternal interest. But the hon. Member would eliminate from Stirlingshire all the small populous places. [Mr. ORR EWING: I did not say that.] If he had not said so that day he had on many occasions previously and publicly. But he wanted not only to do that, for, by a re-arrangement of Stirlingshire, he proposed to relieve his own constituency of Dumbartonshire. [Mr. ORR EWING: I have not proposed that.] Now, he thought it was very desirable that the real object of hon. Gentlemen opposite, in proposing a re-arrangement or re-grouping of the burghs, should be well and thoroughly known. That object was nothing else than jerrymandering; and the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire 830 proposed, not on that occasion, but publicly and in the Committee Room of the House, to take from Stirlingshire, as a shire, all the small populous places in it, and re-group them with a few larger burghs. But, finding that the arrangement would not be entirely satisfactory, he also proposed to add to that group a populous place of his own district. And not that only, for it would not be sufficient to make the hon. Member secure; and accordingly he proposed to take out of Dumbartonshire many of the populous villages of that county, and add them to a new group of burghs. His hon. Friend had told the Committee that Dumbartonshire was one of the most rapidly-increasing counties in Scotland, so far as population was concerned, and in that statement his hon. Friend was not far from the truth. But the Dumbartonshire which he would leave was not that part of the county which was rapidly increasing in population. The part which was increasing in population was that composed of small villages, which the hon. Member would take out of the county altogether and group with the burghs. He had risen chiefly to say that the electors of Stirlingshire were perfectly satisfied with the present arrangement, and that nothing could be more unpopular, not only in Stirlingshire, but throughout Scotland, than the adoption of the principle which the hon. Member for Bute (Mr. Dalrymple) had proposed. He believed that if the Scotch Members were polled, they would, with one or two exceptions, vote against the proposal of the hon. Gentleman. He would also like to say that the announcement made that day by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles W. Dilke) that the door was still open for reconsideration of the question whether places or burghs, not now grouped in Scotland, should be added to existing groups would cause considerable consternation; and he could not but regret that a statement so distinctly made had not been as distinctly withdrawn. For the explanation, it appeared to him, left the question in such doubt that it would very much unsettle men's minds in Scotland with respect to this Bill.
§ MR. PRESTON BRUCE
said, with reference to what had been said about the over-representation of Fifeshire, he would content himself by saying that the constituencies in that county had 831 been treated on the same principles as had been applied to all the other constituencies in the country. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) should have used words capable of being construed into an invitation for proposals to create new Parliamentary burghs. Not only was that totally inconsistent with what were understood to be the views of the Government, but they had it on record that the Lord Advocate himself considered any proposals of the kind inadmissible. A letter, read, he had no doubt, by all Scotch Members, had been published in the newspapers addressed to some Association in Dumbartonshire, and written by the Secretary to the Lord Advocate and by his directions, stating that, in the Lord Advocate's belief, the creation of new burghs, either to form new groups or to be added to existing groups, was outside the scope of the measure. Therefore, this subject of grouping had been discussed in Scotland on that basis, and the assumption had been that new burghs would not be created; that declaration of the Lord Advocate being taken as conclusive, so far as this matter was concerned. He felt certain that the Government could not intend to throw over their own official, the Lord Advocate, and to raise a question of this kind, when it was far too late to consider properly what new Parliamentary burghs should be created, and the forming of which would entirely upset the present arrangement.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, that, after the discussion which had taken place, he was willing to withdraw his Amendment. He was not aware that at that time of day anyone proposed to produce fresh schemes of grouping in Scotland. He spoke for himself only when he said he was satisfied at the time with the answer obtained from the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), who had charge of the Bill, and he still remained satisfied, although they had had a somewhat different version of that answer from the Lord Advocate. He thought there was some satisfaction in hearing that the subject was still open for discussion on the Schedules; and he could only say it was not his intention 832 to introduce large schemes of re-grouping, such as had been anticipated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He repeated his satisfaction with the declaration made by the Government, and would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he gave the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) credit for perfect accuracy based upon the fullest knowledge in this matter; but he would ask him whether he was satisfied that the list in the second part of the first Schedule comprised all the counties of cities and towns in England?
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.