§ Clause 3 (Disfranchisement of certain boroughs for corruption).
§ MR. SLAGG moved, in page 2, line 3, to leave out the words "each of." The Committee would see that the object of the Amendment, taken in conjunction with an. Amendment in the Schedule of which he had given Notice, was to retain the borough of Macclesfield in the list of boroughs returning one Member to Parliament. He was sure the Committee would acquit him, in discharging what he considered to be a duty, of having the slightest sympathy with the corrupt practices which had led to the disfranchisement of Macclesfield. On the contrary, he entertained the greatest possible antipathy to such practices, and his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had no warmer admirer than himself (Mr. Slagg) for the efforts he had made, by legislation, to put an end in future to those illegal practices which had formerly prevailed at some elections. Nor was it his intention to rest his case in the slightest measure on a question of degrees of merit or demerit; but he would point out that there were several other towns which were reported by the Commissioners as having been guilty of precisely the same practices for which Macclesfield had incurred such a considerable penalty. His point was this—that, in starting afresh under the Bill, the Government might let bygones be bygones; and when they proposed to retain such cities as Chester, Gloucester, and Oxford, which had been convicted of precisely the same practices, they might extend the same 1090 spirit of forgiveness to the town of Macclesfield. He might point out that Oxford and Chester were remarkably happy in having friends at Court, and it would appear that the unfortunate town of Macclesfield had suffered because it was not similarly situated at the critical moment when the present Bill was drawn up. If she had possessed a friend at Court such a fate would never have befallen her. Although he did not for a moment pretend to say that the right hon. Gentlemen who had sat for those boroughs were in any way implicated in the corrupt practices of which the constituencies had been found guilty, yet he was sure that if Macclesfield had been so fortunate as to have had similar advocacy, it would not have been in its present position. But it had had no such friend, and, consequently, an exceptional fate had overtaken it. He made this claim not because Macclesfield was the best or the worst, as to corruption, but because, by the character of its population, the nature of its trade, and its growing importance, it had a right to a separate representation even more than Oxford, Gloucester, or Chester. The other boroughs he had just classed with Macclesfield, though of considerable importance, had not the large commercial importance possessed by Macclesfield. Now, in principle, he believed they had been accustomed in this country to base the representation, in a large degree, on commercial interests, and. Macclesfield certainly occupied an important position commercially. As hon. Members knew, it was the ancient seat of the silk trade of the country; in fact, he might say that, at the present moment, it was the only great centre of the silk trade. In times past it had made large sacrifices in the public and general interests by being placed in competition with France under the Commercial Treaty of 1860. But with great industry and enterprize, with wonderful perseverance and resource, her manufacturers had set themselves to work to improve their position, and now it was the stronghold of the silk trade, and one of the most important manufacturing centres in the country. It possessed a technical school, grammar school, a high school, a free library, together with other valuable educational institutions, and the means it pos- 1091 sessed for improving the condition of the people were highly efficient, and upon a very liberal scale. He, therefore, respectfully submitted to his right hon. Friend that all these matters should receive full weight before he determined to leave out this city from the list of fully represented towns, and extended his consideration to other and less important places. He regarded it as very hard that a thriving town of this sort was to be gibbetted for all coming generations in the way that was now proposed by the Government, and handed down to perpetual reprobation, owing to the fault of a certain number of voters in the past, who, in the natural course of events, would soon pass away. Since the schedule of voters was first made in the case of Macclesfield, he was told that no lees than 1,500 were dead, or had disappeared from the locality. In the course of time all the rest would disappear. Surely the Government had no wish in this Bill to punish the town. They might be satisfied with expressing their virtuous indignation, and disfranchising the persons who had been guilty of corrupt and illegal practices. He considered that it was wrong to make Macclesfield for ever a martyr, and to place it under a stigma, because a certain number of voters had committed themselves in the past. Of course, he would be told that all these matters had been fixed and settled; but although the two Front Benches had agreed to exterminate Macclesfield, he could assure hon. Members that the people of Macclesfield had not so agreed, and they were exceedingly indignant, and very justly so, at the manner in which they bad been disposed of under the Bill. This was not a Party question in the slightest degree, and he very earnestly begged hon. Members to understand that he did not urge this point on behalf of Macclesfield because it was likely to return a politician of either one complexion or the other. It was a very remarkable fact that the whole community on both sides of politics had come forward to press this proposition on the attention of the House and of the Government. He hoped that what he had said would induce his right hon. Friend to modify his virtuous indignation. He quite approved of the efforts of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General in 1092 trying in every quarter to obliterate corrupt and illegal practices; but he thought that in selecting Macclesfield as a scapegoat, and making her a terrible example, the Government were going a little too far. Hon. Members, he felt assured, would agree with him that there was no reason whatever why Macclesfield should be singled out for exceptional treatment, when other boroughs which had been found guilty of precisely the same practices were allowed to go free—to say nothing of other boroughs which were as bad, or worse, but in which the corrupt practices had not been found out. He made a strong appeal to his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) to be merciful while there was yet time, and to restore Macclesfield to the position her high general character, her great commercial importance, and the enterprize of her people certainly entitled her to. He begged to move the Amendment which appeared on the Paper in his name.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 3, to leave out the words "each of."—(Mr. Slagg.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he thought the Committee fully appreciated the tone of his hon. Friend, and the very temperate manner in which his hon. Friend had placed his views before the Committee entitled those views to the fullest consideration. The hon. Member inferred that favour had been shown to other constituencies—the cities of Oxford and Chester—on account of the connection of two of his right hon. Friends with those cities; but the hon. Member would remember that his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary was defeated at Oxford, was driven away from the representation, and was succeeded by a Conservative, and, therefore, it was not likely that he would have much affection for the city which had thus treated him. The case was almost similar at Chester, seeing that his right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Dodson), who formerly represented the city, had ceased to be its Member; and he could say most positively that in 1093 the course taken both in regard to Oxford and Chester no such interest as had been suggested had been brought to bear upon the matter, nor had any such considerations been allowed to influence the Government as to the boroughs which were to be punished. Other considerations altogether had been brought to bear. His hon. Friend talked of "gibbetting" a constituency for all time; but Parliament had not shrunk in former times from disfranchising boroughs for similar offences. He would remind his hon. Friend of the cases of Sudbury, St. Alban's, Totnes, Bridgwater, Beverley, and Lancaster, in each of which the right to return Representatives had been extinguished on the ground of corrupt practices. What were the Government now doing in the case of Macclesfield? Macclesfield retained its representation, and that representation was quite adequate. Under this Bill one of the divisions of Cheshire was to be the Macclesfield division, and instead of allowing it to remain a borough with a population of 37,000, all they had done was to add Congleton to Macclesfied, and the only result was that the Macclesfield division would now have a population of 54,000 instead of 37,000. Therefore, instead of punishing Macclesfield as they had punished other boroughs for offences far less than those committed by Macclesfield, the representation of the town was not extinguished at all, but the town itself was allowed to remain the seat of a largely increased constituency by simply adding the town of Congleton to it. All the punishment awarded to it was to retain it on the list of county divisions returning a Member, with an addition to the area of representation. He would not trouble the Committee with all the details of the corrupt practices which were proved to exist in Macclesfield, and which led to its disfranchisement after the last General Election, nor would he enter into any speculation as to the degree of corruption that was necessary to justify the disfranchisement of a constituency. He would simply point out what was found by the Commissioners in the case of Macclesfield. In the first place, it was found that every election which had taken place in the town of Macclesfield, as far as the facts were known, since 1832, had been corrupt. He believed the statement had 1094 been circulated that there was one pure election. No doubt, the Commissioners went back into the history of the borough until they found a pure election, and they ascertained that there was a pure election in 1859, which stopped their retrospective inquiry; but it was pure, simply because it was uncontested. This was what the Commissioners reported in regard to the election of 1865—Corrupt practices did extensively prevail in Macclesfield;and the Reports in reference to the General Elections of 1868, 1874, and 1880, were in precisely similar words. And as to the corruption itself, what was the Report of the Commissioners? 5,364 persons voted in 1880, and one of the witnesses who knew Macclesfield very well estimated that of that number more than 4,000 were corrupt. The Commissioners, who, of course, were unable to discover all the bribery that took place, actually did discover and schedule the names of 2,872 persons—out of the 5,364 who voted—as having either given or taken bribes. That represented 53 per cent, or more than one-half of those who voted, as having been absolutely bribed, and some of them, it appeared, were bribed on both sides. In addition, there were many minor cases of giving and receiving tickets which were in reality bribes given for the vote. With the exception of Sandwich, where 60 per cent of the persons who voted were reported to have been bribed, Macclesfield appeared to be the most corrupt constituency in England. Gloucester, no doubt, closely approached it, 45 per cent of the voters having been scheduled; and it must be remembered that in the first Bill introduced in reference to the corrupt boroughs, Gloucester was included. If, however, one offender had escaped, that could be no reason why another which richly deserved punishment should be passed over. He challenged his hon. Friend to find, in the case of Lancaster, Beverley, Bridgwater, or Totnes, which had ceased to return Members, any evidence of corruption worse than that of Macclesfield, which had been corrupt at every election. [An hon. MEMBER: Sandwich.] No doubt, Sandwich was a very bad case, and Sandwich would be disfranchised; but if they looked at the extent of the corruption, and the length 1095 of time over which it had been spread, there had been no case in England as bad as this. The corruption went on openly. It was not a matter of politics. Both the agents arranged it without the least secrecy. Five magistrates and 31 members of the Town Council had been scheduled, and several persons who were scheduled by the Commissioners had since been elected members of the Town Council. The bribery at Macclesfield was always so openly and extensively carried on that, as he had said, at one single election no less than five magistrates and 31 members of the Town Council were parties to it. Some of the witnesses complained that they only obtained 12s. a-day from one side, and 6s. from the other. The Commissioners said, in their Report—Your Commissioners were much struck by one feature of the corruption which prevailed at the last election—namely, the open, fearless, and confiding manner in which it was practised on both sides. No recourse was had to any of the ordinary contrivances by which elsewhere such practices are attempted to be hidden; the 'man in the moon,' and his methods of procedure, were alike unknown at Macclesfield. Not the slightest anxiety appears to have been evinced or precaution taken by either party to conceal its doings from the other, and the number of subordinate agents employed for the purpose of bribing was of surprising and quite exceptional magnitude, and everybody was deemed adequate to the work; neither position, age, character, nor discretion being held requisite. The fortunes of the candidates were without hesitation or misgiving, and without any guarantee of political fidelity, placed in the hands of hundreds of the poorest and most ignorant classes—in the hands of girls, and even of children; whilst the devolution of authority was clearly traceable from the highest official to the lowest subordinate, so that no difficulty could be experienced in fixing the candidate with liability for the acts of his many hundred agents.Such unblushing corruption could not be overlooked by the House; and he did hope that the Committee, while wishing to forget the past, would not shrink from inflicting fair and just punishment. They must also bear in mind that if they accepted this Amendment they would have to look about and see where a Member was to be found for Macclesfield; and it would he a strong course to adopt to take a Member from a town which by this Bill was entitled to representation and give it to such a town as Macclesfield.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, he did not agree with the hon. Member for 1096 Manchester (Mr. Slagg) that it would be desirable to restore the Member for Macclesfield. But as this was the first of the clauses where the question of continuing the disfranchisement of these boroughs arose, it would be interesting to give the history of the Commissions that had been held. In giving that history he would be as brief as possible; but he wished to show the Committee to what extent the Bill dealt with the disfranchised and scheduled voters.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
pointed out that this clause did not deal with the scheduled voters, and upon that point he should have a proposal to make to the Committee.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, that under those circumstances he would not proceed further with the case of scheduled voters; but he ventured to remind the Committee very briefly of the way in which the question stood. In 1866 Commissions were sent down to Lancaster, Totnes, Reigate, and Great Yarmouth. He was himself one of the Commissioners at Lancaster, and he was able to say that the corruption there was scarcely less extensive than it was subsequently proved to have been in Macclesfield. In 1867 the boroughs of Lancaster, Totnes, Reigate, and Great Yarmouth were all disfranchised The next step taken was to send down Commissioners to Beverley, Bridgwater, Cashel, and Sligo in 1870. Disfranchisement followed in the case of those four boroughs; and not only were the boroughs disfranchised, but certain persons were personally scheduled. In 1875 the same course was adopted of sending down Commissions to Boston and Norwich. The Writ for Norwich was suspended until the end of the Parliament, and Boston was disfranchised for seven years; so that those two boroughs had a less amount of punishment inflicted upon them than either of the other boroughs he had mentioned. In 1880 Commissions were sent down to Boston, Canterbury, Chester, Gloucester, Macclesfield, Oxford, and Sandwich; and in 1881 those places were so far disfranchised that the issue of new Writs was suspended until after the meeting of Parliament in 1882. By a Bill introduced in 1882 that suspension was renewed until 1883; in 1883 it 1097 was carried forward until 1884; and last year it was continued down to the present time. But the present Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill proposed to give a seat to each of those boroughs with the exception of Macclesfield. [An hon. MEMBER: And Sandwich.] As the population of Sandwich was below the number necessary to return a Member, there was nothing to be said in regard to it. Clause 27 of the Bill, which dealt with the voters who had been scheduled by the Bribery Commissioners, continued the disfranchisement of those voters, and also applied to them Section 39 of the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Act of 1883. The question raised by the Amendment had reference only to the borough of Macclesfield, and he agreed with what had fallen from the Attorney General that Macclesfield was no worse off now than it would be if the proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) were adopted. It was proposed to add to Macclesfield another town with a cognate industry—namely, Congleton, and a few adjoining parishes, and practically Macclesfield, with Congleton, would have its Member again. He had intended to avail himself of this opportunity for saying a word with regard to the disfranchised voters; but he acceded to the suggestion of the Attorney General that there was a distinction to be drawn tween the voters and the boroughs. He had, however, an Amendment on this very clause with regard to Macclesfield, and he would explain what the course was which he ventured to suggest, in the hope that his hon. and learned Friend might adopt it. He agreed with the hon. Member for Manchester (MR. Slagg) that it was not desirable to continue this gibbetting by name of the corrupt boroughs and voters. As they had already passed a new Franchise Act, and a new Act dealing with corrupt practices, and were to have a redistribution of seats, he thought, if they could, it would be as well to wipe out all previous legislation on this point. His proposal was to leave out Clause 3, and as the effect of this would be to leave Macclesfield and Sandwich as boroughs, he would suggest that they should place those boroughs, without saying why or wherefore, in the list of boroughs no longer to return a Member. They would then be in the Schedule with 1098 Beverley, Bridgwater, Sligo, and Cashel, and the whole of them would cease to be any longer entitled to return a Member. He ventured to suggest that course to the Attorney General as a medium course which they might follow. He thought that plan would be far better than to gibbet Macclesfield and Sandwich with the stigma of having been disfranchised for corrupt practices.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he did not at all agree with the suggestion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill), although he entirely concurred with him that when they reached the 27th clause it would be desirable to consider the propriety of continuing the disfranchisement of voters by name who had already been scheduled by past Commissions. He supported Her Majesty's Government in the course they proposed to take in regard to Macclesfield. He thought that Macclesfield had been very fairly dealt with. So far from being extinguished, the town would remain an important centre of representation in association with another important town, and it would form a very important section of the county of Chester. Under these circumstances, he did not think the people of Macclesfield had any right to complain, because, although they were not included as a borough, they would still return a Member and continue to have separate representation. He did not think that the town of Macclesfield was entitled to make any further demand, and, therefore, if his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) divided the Committee, he should certainly vote with the Government against the proposition of his hon. Friend.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
asked if the corrupt voters of Macclesfield, about whom so much virtuous indignation had been expressed, were to be whitewashed in order that they might form part of the voters of the new Macclesfield electoral division? He understood that Macclesfield was to receive, on losing its power of separate representation, the advantage of being created an electoral division in conjunction with another town. He wished to know whether the voters already disfranchised were to be restored to the regular list?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that would depend 1099 entirely upon the course the Committee would be prepared to take when they came to the consideration of a future clause.
§ MR. AGNEW
supported the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg). He thought that in this matter Macclesfield was being made a scapegoat. He saw no material difference in the case of Macclesfield and the state of things which was found to exist at the last Election at Oxford, Chester, Gloucester, and other towns. He was of opinion that Macclesfield had been sufficiently punished already. The Committee ought to know that the ratepayers of Macclesfield had been called upon to pay a sum of £5,000 or £6,000 as the cost of the election inquiry. They had also suffered a grievous disability in being unrepresented in the present Parliament. At the last Census the town of Macclesfield had a population of 37,000, and the trading population of so large a town was, he thought, fairly entitled at least, having regard to the circumstances of the case, to be represented by one Member. The Committee was doubtless aware that since 1832, up to the present time, Macclesfield had been entitled to return two Members, and it was not too much to ask that the large working-class population of so important a town should not be altogether disfranchised. He had not a word to say in extenuation of the evil deeds that might have attended the General Election; but he thought that it was a serious thing to disfranchise the population of such an important constituency—the centre, as his hon. Friend had pointed out, of a great and growing industry. It was an industry that was rapidly reviving. In the last decade the population of Macclesfield had increased by 2,000, while the rateable value of property in the town had increased to the extent of £16,000 or £17,000. Certainly, then, it was a hardship that a stigma should be imposed by this Bill upon a town, which, if at one time peccant, was now repentant. He knew from experience that Macclesfield had borne the disgrace which followed the election inquiry with great humility. His hon. Friend had referred to the fact that at least 1,500 of the scheduled voters were now non-resident at Macclesfield. Their places had been taken by others, and he had not under- 1100 stood the hon. and learned Attorney General to say that the whole constituency was corrupt. Surely a leaven of righteouness was left in it; and he would appeal to the Members for Cheshire, most of whom sat on the Benches opposite, to support his hon. Friend, if he carried his Amendment to a division. He was afraid that the disfranchisement of Macclesfield, as a Parliamentary borough, which would be the effect of the Bill, would go far to crush out the public life of the town. He very much disputed the assertion of the hon. and learned Member for West Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill) that Macclesfield would be better off in consequence of being joined to Congleton—a town 10 or 12 miles distant. At any rate, the people of Macclesfield did not think so, nor did they regard it as other than a poor solatium for disfranchisement that the name of Macclesfield was to be given to the new Parliamentary division of Cheshire. If his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) went to a division, he would certainly support him.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that his hon. Friend who had just addressed the Committee had urged, in favour of Macclesfield, that it was not worse than certain other boroughs; but surely that was rather a reason for including those other boroughs, than for excluding Macclesfield? The case against Macclesfield was a strong one, and ought only to be considered upon its own merits. It must be borne in mind that the representation of Macclesfield would not be got rid of altogether, but that hereafter it would, in conjunction with Congleton and an extended district, return one Member. That was a remedy which had already been applied in other cases—such as East Retford and Chippenham—where the districts had been enlarged, and the representation made to include other places; and he thought the result of Macclesfield ceasing to have a separate representation would be calculated rather to improve, than to injure, the public life of a town where no less than five magistrates and 31 members of the Town Council had been scheduled for bribery. It would become the centre of an industrial community, and would not be merged in an agricultural district. The new district proposed to be created was mainly an urban district, 1101 and Congleton would have reason to complain of being thrown into a rural district if the separate representation of Macclesfield were preserved. If they were to destroy the new county district of Macclesfield, and give to Macclesfield one of its two Members, they would then have to deprive Congleton and other manufacturing places of a representation which it would be very difficult indeed to provide by any other means. In any re-arrangement of the county representation, the difficulty, he thought, would be insuperable; and, in fact, it would become necessary to alter three divisions of the county of Chester if the Amendment were passed. In addition to which Congleton would be thrown into an agricultural district, and most likely the agricultural interests would be swamped by the addition. There was no county which had given the Commissioners more trouble than Cheshire, and he thought it had been very satisfactorily dealt with. It would be a great pity to throw into confusion the whole of the arrangements of the county, as the Amendment would do. If Macclesfield was retained as a borough, all the arrangements of the Boundary Commissioners would be upset; and he certainly did not think that his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) had made out a case for such a change.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he thought this proposal of the Government placed their conduct in a very peculiar light. It seemed to him that the whole proceedings of the Government, with respect to disfranchisement for corrupt practices, had been characterized by reckless inconsistency. Some time ago the Government proposed to disfranchise three boroughs—Sandwich, Macclesfield, and Gloucester; and it was a singular fact that the Government should have included Gloucester at one time, and excluded it from disfranchisement at another. He thought it would be necessary to ascertain the reason why Gloucester was to be spared. The Attorney General told them, or rather had inferred, that one way of arriving at the guilt of a borough was to take the percentage of voters who had been bribed. The hon. and learned Gentleman told them that 60 per cent of the voters of Sandwich, and 63 per cent of those of Macclesfield, had been scheduled for bribery; and it 1102 was further stated that the percentage in Gloucester amounted to 50 per cent. Those figures, however, were open to doubt, because they ought, to a certain extent, to look at the nature and degree of the bribery; and if they did so, he was inclined to think that a very large proportion of the bribery at Macclesfield was not of a very heavy character. It was a sort of one shilling and half-a-crown bribery, although, no doubt, it was carried on upon an extensive scale. It was not, however, to be compared with the enormous sums paid in bribes in the borough of Bridgwater. He had no desire to defend Macclesfield, but he was only anxious to show how little faith they could have in the consistency of the Government when they bore in mind their changed ideas in regard to the question whether Gloucester should be disfranchised or not. He did not for a moment say that Gloucester ought to have been disfranchised. He was glad that it was spared, if only for the sake of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Monk), who was such a constant attendant upon the deliberations of the House. He could not agree with the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Agnew) that any repentance on the part of Macclesfield was to be taken into consideration. The hon. Member confounded repentance with remorse. He recollected the case of a very distinguished man, who was found guilty of having received a bribe, and who went out at once and hanged himself. That was a very different kind of repentence from that displayed by Macclesfield, who, when she was found guilty of bribery, never dreamt of committing suicide.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES
said, that if they were to judge from the Election Commissions of 1880 and 1881, the measures which the House had adopted against bribery in the case of Totnes, Beverley, Bridgwater, and Great Yarmouth had not been altogether successful. It was perfectly certain that they would never do anything against bribery by punishing the small people, such as the poor voters and humble solicitors. What they wanted to get at was those who supplied the money. Until they did that, the existence of corrupt practices would not be got rid of.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, it was well to deal with relative cases of bribery and 1103 corruption as an element of the extent of punishment to be meted out. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) had referred to the cases of Oxford and Chester, and he (Mr. Lewis) thought it was desirable to remind the Committee of the extraordinary circumstances which attended those cases, and which certainly told against any exceptional treatment of Macclesfield. They were told, in the Report of the Macclesfield Commissioners, that the total amount of expenditure was some £5,000 or £6,000; but what was the case with regard to Oxford? He left out all consideration whatever of the bribery that was proved to have taken place at the General Election, and he would only deal with that which occurred at the bye-election in the month of May on the acceptance of Office by the Home Secretary. In that case, in an election which lasted only a week, the expenses amounted to no less than £9,000. At Macclesfield the occasion was the General Election, and the cost was £5,000 or £6,000 for a contest which extended for a month or five weeks, whereas at Oxford an election, which was spread over eight days at the outside, cost £9,000. The constituency of Oxford was within 100 or 200 of that of Macclesfield, being about 5,000 or 6,000 in each case. And what was the case with regard to Chester? In that contest he also found that £9,000 were reported to have been spent. It did appear to him then that, under such circumstances, it was somewhat inconsistent to complain of the town of Macclesfield, and to compel her to become part of a new county division, and to permit Oxford and Chester to retain their representation. As to the stigma cast upon a town by the names of persons being scheduled in an Act of Parliament, that course was not taken because the town was exceptionally guilty, but because the inquiry of a Commission showed that a large portion of the constituency had been bribed. He did not think it was necessary for the Attorney General to repel the suggestion of outside influence in the cases of Oxford and Chester; but when the hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Home Secretary had no reason for giving his benediction to the City of Oxford, seeing that he had been defeated, that was just what he did. After the right hon. and learned Gentleman had 1104 been defeated, he addressed the people from one of the hotel windows, and blessed them in the most unutterable way that a great orator, such as the right hon. and learned Gentleman, was quite able to do. This may have been the way in which his benediction and blessing had been carried out. Certainly, no preponderating case had been made out to justify the House in attaching a stigma to Macclesfield. The Attorney General had referred to the cases of Totnes, Bridgwater, and Beverley, and had spoken of those towns as having been treated with severity; but in Totnes and Bridgwater the bribery was not limited to 2s. 6d., but almost every trader in the town received as much as £10 or £20 for his vote at the election. To compare such places with Macclesfield, where a voter got a ticket which was the remnant of an old system of corruption, and where the expenditure only reached £6,000, was really absurd. It seemed to him that the Committee were placed in an exceptional difficulty in this case. If it had been merely a question of representation, he did not think that Macclesfield would have much to complain of. He recollected, however, the eagerness displayed in some parts of the House to put a whitewashing clause into the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill, which passed a year or two ago, and he recollected that such clause was put in to prevent an inquiry being made into any case that had occurred in times past. He thought, therefore, that that clause ought to operate by analogy in the case of Macclesfield. It was not necessary to say anything of the case of Sandwich, where the bribery was of a very different character from that committed in Macclesfield. He thought the balance of convenience and propriety would be to make an exception in this case; and if the Motion went to a division, he should vote in favour of the excision of Macclesfield from the Schedule. He should do so simply on the ground that it was rather a hard thing that the first time that a Petition had been prosecuted against Macclesfield, and having regard to the other offenders let off, that an odious exception should be made against her.
MR. THOROLD ROGERS
remarked, that, if it had not been for an observation 1105 that fell from the last speaker, he would not have troubled the Committee; but reference had been made to the amount of money spent at the Macclesfield Election and the cost of the Oxford Election. It was pretty well known by those who had inquired into the details of the case in connection with the Oxford Bribery Commission, that comparatively little money went into the hands of the electors. The Commissioners sat for a long time, and took evidence in the slovenly way in which such Commissioners generally did take evidence, giving every facility for the larger culprits to escape. The principal culprits were attorneys, and not the voters themselves; and one particular attorney in that town, who had received large sums of money in order to save himself, inveigled other persons into the net and succeeded in escaping. That individual came forward before the Commissioners and confessed to having received large sums of money about which he gave no account beyond the fact that he had burnt his papers. He got off as attorneys generally managed to get off, and he still remained a Clerk of the Peace for the Division, although; he certainly ought to have been disqualified from holding public appointments ever afterwards.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he thought that the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) had not chosen the most convenient way of bringing forward his Amendment. It would have been better to have dealt with the case of Macclesfield by itself when they came to the Schedules. He would ask the hon. Member not to press his Amendment on this occasion, but rather to take the opportunity, when they came to the Schedules, of seeing whether they could not deal with this particular borough. Macclesfield, in any case, would not have much to complain of, because in the position it was to occupy in the future it would be able to give full play to its elective force. By the addition of Congleton, the whole of the particular industry in which Macclesfield was engaged would be included in the representation. At the same time, he thought that more had been made of the electoral offences of Macclesfield than was necessary. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General told them that the bulk of the constituencies 1106 had been scheduled for corrupt practices. No doubt, that was so; but he agreed with the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) that the quality of the corruption, although the quantity was very considerable, had not been by any means of such a flagrant character as that which marked the delinquencies of other boroughs which had been the subject of inquiry by a Royal Commission. Therefore, there was a certain amount of unfairness apparent in treating small bribes, which were almost regarded by the voters as a slight honorarium for going to the poll, in the same way as the payment of bribes of £5 and upwards for voting in a particular way was punished. Macclesfield was rather harshly treated in being exposed to stigma in this peculiar way; and he should be disposed, when they came to the Schedules, to move the substitution of the name of Boston for that of Macclesfield. Boston was, in his humble opinion, far more deserving of stigma than Macclesfield; and he thought, when the proper time came, he should be able to make out a good case for putting Boston in the Schedule, and leaving Macclesfield out of it. He would, therefore, ask the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) not to press the Amendment on the present occasion, but to leave it open, so that the question might be raised on the Schedules, and dealt with in a more convenient and satisfactory manner.
§ MR. SLAGG
said, he very much regretted that his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had taken the line of instituting comparisons; for they were aware that comparisons were odious in nearly all cases, and he thought they were particularly so in this instance. The line of argument taken by the hon. and learned Gentleman was one he had very carefully avoided, as he had not sought to go into the general question of the relative corruption of different boroughs in which improper practices had been reported by the Commissioners as having extensively prevailed. Had he done so, he fully believed he could have made out quite as bad a case in some of the other boroughs as that of Macclesfield. But he could not leave this part of the question without pointing out that the bribery which had taken place in the borough of Oxford was enormous, and far trans- 1107 cending anything that had occurred at Macclesfield; and that all the hon. and learned Gentleman had gained by making the comparisons he had instituted was that he had shown that, whereas bribery was very extensive in some other boroughs, as far as the sums paid were concerned, in Macclesfield pretty nearly all that could be said as to the quality of the bribery was that it was open and above-board. He was very sorry his hon. and learned Friend would not accept his Amendment; but as he had taken that course, it seemed hopeless to press it upon the Committee. He should, therefore, ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, in order to raise it afterwards in another form.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WARTON moved to omit, in page 2, line 4, after the word "cease," the words "to be entitled." The clause now under consideration provided that the boroughs to which it referred should cease to be entitled to return any Member. He could not see what was the use of the words "to be entitled." It was quite enough to say "should cease to return any Member." He contended that the words he proposed to omit were mere surplusage, and ought to be struck out.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
pointed out that at the present moment Macclesfield did not return any Members; but, at the same time, it was entitled to do so.
§ MR. WARTON
said, Macclesfield did at the present moment, in a certain sense, return Members; but the Government had chosen, year after year, to suspend the issue of the Writs, and, therefore, in the sense in which he put it, Macclesfield might be said to return Members at the present time. Macclesfield was in the list of boroughs which returned Members to that House, and it was quite possible for any Member to move that Writs should be sent to Macclesfield by the Clerk of the Crown requiring the borough to proceed to an election. It so happened that by an Act of Parliament, passed last year, the Speaker was required not to issue his Writs during the Vacation; but the time bad expired at the meeting of the present Parliament, and the position in which Macclesfield now stood was that it had all its former right to return two 1108 Members—a right which it had acquired when Parliament re-assembled on the 19th of last month. Under these circumstances, he felt he ought to press his Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 4, after the word "cease," to leave out the words "to be entitled."—(Mr. War ton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ Amendment negatived.
MR. GILES moved to leave out the clause. He said his object in moving this Amendment was that a Member should be given to Macclesfield. He was afraid that the discussion that had taken place on the previous Amendment had very much taken the wind out of his sails; but, in asking the Committee to accept his Amendment, he contended that its adoption would not affect the general principle of the Bill. The only way in which the Bill would be affected by it would be that in future Macclesfield would be entitled to return one Member; and he could not see that any difficulty would be created if the Amendment were adopted. Macclesfield was a very important town, and the centre of a large industry, and it was proposed by this clause that it should be treated in a very harsh manner. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had stated that Macclesfield would be rather benefited than otherwise by the arrangement in the Bill; and he (Mr. Giles) would say that if that were the case, the stigma now attached to the town should be taken away, and the borough at once removed from the operation of the intended Penal Clause. He submitted that the principle embodied in this clause was a new departure from everything they had had before, and when they talked of corrupt practices, and of Macclesfield being worse than any other borough, he should like to ask hon. Members whether they were not perfectly well aware that in old times there were certain parties in almost every borough who looked to a General Election as a periodical harvest? They had votes which they wanted to sell, and somebody else had money and wanted to buy. All that, however, was at an end;
and when they talked of punishing the borough of Macclesfield they should remember that if they were to punish the 53 per cent of voters, who, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, were corrupt, they would also be punishing 47 per cent of innocent persons. He did not think that that was a fair principle to proceed upon. He held that it was no argument to say Macclesfield should be deprived of its representation because of its being once corrupt. The question was, would the Bill admit of Macclesfield having a Member? If it did, he contended that they should give it a representation, and let it start with a clean sheet. Let them condone the past, and say, "Let bygones be bygones," because in the future the community would be sufficiently protected by the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Act against corruption at General Elections. If hon. Members looked at Clauses 4, 5, 6, 10 and 21 of the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Act, they would see that the punishment for transgressions of the law were something frightful, varying from penalties of £100 to £200, from disqualification for seven years to disqualification for ever, and imprisonment of from one to two years, with hard labour. That, he thought, would be considered quite sufficient punishment for indulgence in corrupt practices; but there was one clause in the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Act—Clause 49—which, he thought, went a long way to show that Clause 3 of the present Bill ought not to be there. Clause 49 of that Act said—
Notwithstanding the provisions of the Act 15 & 16 Vict. c. 57, or any amendment thereof, in any case where, after the passing of this Act, any Commissioners have been appointed, in a joint Address of both Houses of Parliament, for the purpose of making inquiry into the existence of corrupt practices in any election, the said Commissioners shall not make inquiries concerning any election that shall have taken place prior to the passing of this Act, and no witness called before such Commissioners or at any election petition after the passing of this Act shall be asked or bound to answer any question for the purpose of proving the commission of any corrupt practice at or in relation to any election prior to the passing of this Act.
The Prime Minister had said the other night, in the discussion which took place on the question of University Representation, that this Bill might fairly be
said to exclude everything of the nature of disfranchisement. He should like to call the attention of the Attorney General to that statement, for, after quoting this opinion on the part of the Prime Minister, he submitted that he had proved his case. He hoped, therefore, the Committee would agree to accept his Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the Clause.—(Mr. Giles.)
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the clause had no disfranchising effect whatever, and no man would lose his vote by it.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, a certain number of persons gained by the clause, but no one lost his vote by it. It was not like the case of disfranchising a borough, where the electors lost their votes. Now, the people residing in the borough would go into the county and retain the same vote they had had before.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that was so; but there was no disfranchisement of the people implied. They would all keep their votes; but, instead of voting for the borough of Macclesfield, they would vote for the Macclesfield division of the county of Chester. With regard to what had been said about Sandwich, the population there was only 2,800—it was a mere village. The population of Deal and Walmer was larger. The question of the population of Macclesfield had been fully discussed, and he need not go further into it.
MR. STAYELEY HILL
suggested that it would be as well to wipe out the 3rd clause of the Bill and the 3rd part of the First Schedule, and insert the two words "Macclesfield" and "Sandwich" in the 1st part of the First Schedule.
§ MR. MORGAN LLOYD
said, he found the words "as boroughs" in the 2nd clause, while in the 3rd clause 1111 they were left out. He would suggest whether, as they were thought necessary in Clause 2, they were not also necessary in Clause 3? He thought that the safest course was to retain the words in Clause 2, and to insert them in Clause 3, as that would not only make the two enactments consistent, but would also prevent any doubt as to the meaning.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
pointed out that the number of inhabitants was not specified in the first part of the 1st Schedule as the reason for the disfranchisement of the boroughs named in it. He therefore thought it was unjust and invidious to single out two towns for penal disfranchisement, when they were really not worse than others which had smaller populations, and might have been included with the small boroughs in the first part of the Schedule.
said, he could not understand why the words "as boroughs" should be inserted in the previous clause.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he thought the hon. Member behind him (Mr. Morgan Lloyd) was, perhaps, right in the suggestion he had made, that the words "as boroughs" were not necessary.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, if his hon. Friend (MR. Giles) pressed his Amendment to a division, he should vote for it. He thought it would be most unfair to single out these two boroughs for exceptional punishment, when there were many others that were in a far worse position. They had been told that the voters of Macclesfield would not lose their votes, but that when the town ceased to be a Parliamentary borough the electors would be merged among the county voters in the Macclesfield division, and have the same rights as they now possessed; but he would ask why, if the Macclesfield voters were as corrupt as they were said to be, they should be restored to their position as electors in a county division? No doubt, there were certain parties who would be very glad to see the 30,000 or 40,000 inhabited-householders of Macclesfield merged in the county of Chester; but he thought the clause a very unfair one. In fact, the more he looked at the details and particulars of this Bill, the more he thought those on his side of the House had reason to complain of it. 1112 On a matter of this kind he cared very little about one Party or the other; but he did think that an important measure like this, which was intended to alter the entire representation of the country, ought to be fair and just, and that the infliction of the stigma and disgrace on the two particular boroughs that had been singled out from among a number of others that were admittedly quite as corrupt reflected no credit whatever on the framers of the Bill. He should certainly vote for the Amendment if a division were taken upon it.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he hoped the Government would stick to the clause. The two boroughs of Macclesfield and Sandwich were, perhaps, no worse than many others, but they had been found out and must pay the penalty. For his own part, he thought it quite right that the House of Commons should mark its sense of the misconduct of those boroughs in the manner proposed. As had already been stated, the electors belonging to the two boroughs would not thereby lose their status as voters, because they would become absorbed in the county divisions in which the boroughs were situated. If the clause were agreed to, the effect would, he thought, be that each of the boroughs affected by it would be very much in the same position as a vicious horse that was put along with three steady animals in a four-horse coach—it would be forced to go straight, whether it liked it or not—for there would not be so much inducement to go wrong when the two boroughs were merged in large constituencies as there had been before. He therefore thought it most desirable that the Committee should pass the clause. In his opinion, if even-handed justice were meted out to those boroughs, the electors would even be allowed the opportunity of voting for the county divisions into which they would be taken; but, regarding the proposal of the Government in the light of a compromise, he thought they were very liberally dealt with, and that they had no reason to raise any complaint against the clause.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he was inclined to agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Captain Aylmer) in regard to the point he had raised, and to think that, instead of inserting the words "as boroughs" in Clause 3, it would be better to strike them out of 1113 Clause 2 on the Report. He also agreed with the hon. and learned Member below him (Mr. Staveley Hill), that it would be far less invidious to put the names of the two boroughs under discussion into the 1st Schedule, because, although they all had their minds full of figures on this subject, there was no occasion to make any particular reference to them, and no reason why they should state in the Schedule why this or that borough ceased to return Members. It might be because a borough had too small a population, or it might be because it had sinned; but, whatever the ground, there was no reason why it should be stated in the Schedule. He hoped those who agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. Giles) would give him their support.
§ MR. H. TOLLEMACHE
said, he hoped the Government would accept the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for West Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill), and insert Macclesfield and Sandwich in the first part of the 1st Schedule. If they simply voted to leave out the 3rd clause, there would be this great difficulty, that the large populations outside the limits of the Parliamentary boroughs of Macclesfield and Sandwich would have to be absorbed in the neighbouring constituencies, and in the case of Macclesfield the number that would have to be thus provided for would be about 18,000. In the case of Sandwich the number of people thus absorbed would be no less than about 38,000. He should not feel justified in voting for the omission of the 3rd clause, unless the Committee had a statement from the Attorney General or some other Member of the Government, to the effect that they were willing to allow the two boroughs, Macclesfield and Sandwich, to appear in the first portion of the 1st Schedule.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 153; Noes 31: Majority 122.—(Div. List, No. 52.)
§ Clause 4 (Boroughs to have numbers of Members reduced).
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, he wished to move an Amendment, in page 2, line 6, to leave out the words "the City of London shall return two Members and no more, and." He would 1114 ask the indulgence of the Committee in moving this Amendment, for he felt how unworthy he was to fill a seat which in former days had been filled by most distinguished men—he felt how unworthy he was on the present occasion to discharge the painful duty of pleading for the Parliamentary life of that great constituency which had done him the honour of sending him to that House. It was proposed by the present scheme to do away with the privilege which the City of London had enjoyed for more than 550 years. He wished to put before the Committee reasons why he thought no case could be made out for doing away with the great privilege which this, the first City in the Empire, really the first City in the world, had so long enjoyed. He knew that the argument which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) would use would be the population of the City; but he (Mr. Fowler) wished to represent to the Committee that the number of electors was a much more important point in connection with a constituency than the number of people who slept within its limits. With regard to the City of London the registered number of electors was 26,636, of whom nearly 20,000 were ratepayers, and about 7,000 Liverymen. No doubt, they would hear complaints made against the right of the Liverymen to vote; but he would remind the Committee that the Livery of the City of London included many of the greatest men in this country. He saw opposite to him his hon. Colleague, and his hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. R. Biddulph Martin), who were his opponents at the last Election, and who had been supported by a great many distinguished men on the other side of the House. The First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. Gladstone) was, he believed, engaged in Mid Lothian at the time, but that right hon. Gentleman declared in favour of his hon. Friends, and, if he were not mistaken, three Members of the present Government had voted for the hon. Gentlemen. Probably, the right hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill (Sir Charles W. Dilke) also voted for them. He (Mr. Fowler) and his Colleagues at that Election had been supported by three Members of the then existing Cabinet. Therefore, he might say that the livery of the City of London comprised among 1115 its number many of the first men in the country—many men whose names were held in honour throughout the whole civilized world. Well, he proposed to compare the way in which the City of London was dealt with under this Bill with the manner in which other towns were treated. Newcastle was the largest of the two-Member constituencies, and it had 14,000 electors, while others had a much less number. Bath, for instance, had only 6,000, Devonport 4,500, Northampton 8,700. Then, let them look at the boroughs which it was proposed should return three Members; they would find among these Nottingham, with an electorate of 19,300, and Bristol, which, with its electorate of 26,700, was to return four Members. The result was, that while it was proposed in this Bill to give four Members to 26,700 electors in Bristol, it was proposed to take away two Members from the 26,636 of the City of London. He wished to ask whether a difference of only 364 voters, or they might say 500, was a sufficient reason for taking away two Members from the greatest commercial City in the world and giving two Members to a place of much less importance—namely, Bristol? He wished to speak with every admiration for the great City of Bristol, which, they all knew, was one of the foremost cities of the world, yet they must be also aware that it did not by any means hold the position which was held by the City of London. Nevertheless, in this Bill it was proposed to take away two Members from London and to confer two on Bristol, the difference between the two places being simply that Bristol contained 364, or they might say 500, more electors. Even if they deducted the Livery vote, it would be seen that the City of London was in a very superior position to many cities and boroughs which would have three Members. As he had said, he was perfectly aware the argument would be that the Bill was based upon population. The Bill was supposed to be based on that, and it would be stated that by the last Census the population of the City of London was only 50,526. But he maintained that that Census most inadequately represented the position which the City of London held. In the first place, he would take some exception to the circumstances under which the 1116 Census was taken. It was effected for what, no doubt, was a very good reason—namely, the general convenience of the public, and it was very probable that Sunday night was the best time at which to take a Census for the country at large; but still, as regarded the City of London, a Census taken at such a time must bear very unfavourably upon it, and could not be looked upon as very reliable. He had no doubt that if, for instance, the Census had been taken on a Monday night—at which time he himself resided in the City, and would have counted as a unit in the population—the population would have been found to be much greater. In his own case he had been returned under the Census as an inhabitant of Wiltshire, and there were very many people in a similar position. The fact was that owing to the accident that the Census was taken on a Sunday night, the population of London was made to appear much smaller than it really was. His argument was that a night population was a most inadequate test of the numbers that the City of London contained. Would Her Majesty's Government, supposing they wished to ascertain the number of Members in the House, consent to having a poll taken during the day? Certainly not, as the Business of the House was carried on at night. In the same way it was absurd to take a Census of the City of London in the night time, when its business was carried on during the day. The result of the day Census in London, 261,000 odd, did not include the casual, fleeting population such as cabmen, carmen, and police, though, of course, it did include those people who spent all day in the City and only left it to sleep. He wished to urge upon the Committee, in the strongest manner possible, that the day population of such a place as the City of London had a right to be taken into account. The fact was that property was so valuable in the City of London, that, although he might make an exception in the case of one or two wards, yet, generally, people found it too expensive to reside in it, and for their own convenience they went elsewhere. He recollected that, 30 or 40 years ago, Macaulay in an eloquent passage described the change that time had produced in the City of London in the matter of population. Macaulay 1117 showed that whereas in the time he was reviewing—namely, the time of Charles II. and the Commonwealth, many people lived in the City who now went to the West End or to the suburban districts; and the migration of the population from the City to the suburbs and to the country had largely increased even since Macaulay's time. Many persons lived outside and came into the City day by day to carry on their regular work within its walls. He maintained that it was much more reasonable to include in the Parliamentary Census of a City the people who spent their working lives within its limits than to confine themselves to the sleeping population; and he thought that a man ought to have a vote for the place in which he spent his working life, rather than for the place to which, having done a hard day's work in the City, he proceeded for the purpose of repose. This seemed to him a very strong point. They had, according to the day Census, 261,000 people spending their days in the City. The City Directory gave 50,000 names, and these were people who, for the most part, were employers. Many of these gentlemen kept a large number of clerks. He maintained that, as it was during the day that the most important transactions took place in the City, the electoral importance of the place should be tested during the day, and that if they took the day Census of 261,000, they would find that the City of London was more entitled to four Members than Bristol was, with its population of 206,000. They would find that the population of the City of London was only a little less than the population of Sheffield, which was to have five Members. It might be said that this 261,000 was not an exact figure, and he did not pledge himself to it; but he argued that where a man spent his life, or most of his time, day by day—all his working hours—that was the place to which he ought to be said to belong; but, admitting, for a moment, that the figure he had quoted was not exact, he could not believe that the 50,000 was a fair figure. He would propose, as a compromise, that they should take half the day Census and add it to the night Census, which would give them 180,500, or a larger population than any three-Member constituency. It must be borne in mind that the whole of this was an adult 1118 male population. He did not mean to say that there would not be included in this number some young clerks under 21 years of age; but they would all be old enough to take part in the affairs of life, and to be either bonâ fide engaged in commerce, or, at all events, getting their mercantile education in the City. With regard to the rating question, the rating qualification had been abandoned from the Bill; but if its rateable value were taken into consideration, the City of London would be entitled to seven Members. He did not know that he ought to press this argument; but, at the same time, he would like it to be borne in mind, as it very much strengthened the force of the City claims on other grounds. With regard to the Livery vote, it was a statutory vote, and had been recognized in previous Reform Bills. As the Committee were aware, prior to 1832 the Livery were the sole electors for the City of London. Those privileges were continued in that year, and they were extended in the Act of 1867. The Committee would recollect that in 1867 London was represented, he believed, by his hon. Colleague whom he saw opposite, and also by an hon. Gentleman whom they all very much respected and whom most of them remembered—Mr. Crawford; and when he referred to this Gentleman's name he might declare that a more admirable commercial Member never sat in the House. He very much regretted the absence on this occasion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (MR. Goschen). That right hon. Gentleman had promised to support his Motion, and if he had not been compelled to go out of town, he unquestionably would have cordially endorsed what he (Mr. Fowler) was saying. Mr. Crawford had introduced a clause into the Act of 1867 which extended the distance in regard to which the voters of the City of London could vote from seven miles to 21 miles. The Gentleman who introduced that was, as he had said, a very admirable Member for the City—one whom everybody considered most worthily represented the City; but he was also a very much respected Member of the Party opposite. He was a man of unimpeachable Liberal principles; therefore, if he (Mr. Fowler) mentioned the fact that this clause was introduced by Mr. Crawford, hon. Gentlemen opposite would admit that it was 1119 a provision made by a good authority, and came to them with a tolerable recommendation. When Parliament, on the two occasions he had referred to, sanctioned the Livery vote, it must have been, he thought, because they felt that the Liverymen of the City of London were a body of men thoroughly entitled to share in the responsibility of sending Members to Parliament. The Committee had recently had a very interesting debate upon the subject of the representation of the Universities. Some hon. Members below the Gangway opposite had endeavoured to do away with the University representation; but the Committee, by a very large majority, had maintained the principle that Universities ought to continue to send Members to Parliament. Of course, the constituency of the City of London was, in some respects, similar to a University constituency. A University constituency was composed of men of learning and men of literary attainments, and of scientific men. London was somewhat different in these respects; but it comprised among its voters the first commercial men in the world, and he urged as strongly as he could the advantage of having such a class represented. It was urged, the other night, with great force, that it was desirable that the Universities should be represented, because they were able to send intellectual men to the House; and, in the same way, he would maintain that it was desirable that the City of London should be well represented, because the City of London contained a great community whose trading and commercial interests were the greatest in the world. No doubt, it would be said that it was all very well to urge this, but that the Bill gave a very large increase to the representation of the Metropolis. No doubt, the number of Metropolitan Representatives had been very largely increased, and that though two Members would be taken away from the City, yet there would be an increase elsewhere within the Metropolitan radius; but, to his mind, that was not satisfactory. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Magniac), as they knew, represented a borough; but he saw from the papers that he proposed to represent a county constituency in the next Parliament. He was afraid that eminent merchants, like his hon. Friend, would not be so anxious to seek City 1120 representation in future, as they would be to put up for county constituencies. The place with which a man was most connected was the place where he carried on his daily life, and not necessarily where he slept. For instance, although his hon. Friend (Mr. Long)—a young man who gave promise of a great future in that House, who bore a Parliamentary name of six centuries, and who was the only man who filled the seat in that House which was held by his ancestors in the days of Henry III.—who represented his own county was an admirable county Member, and was well acquainted with all agricultural questions, yet he was hardly the sort of man he, as a banker, would send to represent him in the House of Commons; and there were a number of similar cases which would apply elsewhere. He thought they would find that the class of men who would be elected for the City of London were not the same class of men who would be returned for Metropolitan constituencies as a rule. By taking away two Members from the City of London, they were practically taking away two mercantile men from that House. He dared say there would be an increase of force along the banks of the Thames, which would have the effect of bringing more shipping men into the House; but he ventured to say that it was likely that, in taking away these two Members, they were taking away two authorities on commercial matters, and replacing them with Members who, however good, had not the same qualification. He thanked the Committee for listening to him, and contended that no case had been made out for the alteration proposed by the Bill, which would distinctly lower the character of the House, and urged the Committee to support the Amendment which he had the honour to propose.
In page 2, line 6, to leave out the words "The City of London shall return two Members and no more, and."—(Mr. R. N. Fowler.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member for the City of London had made a very excellent speech in favour of his Amendment, had put his case in a very moderate way, and had stated very clearly the grounds he re- 1121 lied upon in support of it. He had certainly made the most of his case; but he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) would have to state to the Committee the reasons which had weighed with those who had had to consider this matter against the proposal the hon. Member made. The hon. Member said that this was a very similar question to that of University representation which they were considering a few days ago. On that occasion he had frankly admitted to the Committee that he was hostile to University representation, and he had been blamed for his frankness; but he could not help thinking that what he said on that occasion was right. On this occasion he found himself in a different position, and was in entire sympathy with the Bill. This matter of the representation of the City of London was considered at the same time as that of the representation of Universities when the Bill was being drafted, and after full consideration it had been decided in the way in which it now appeared in the Bill. His hon. Friend had told the Committee that the City of London was the first City in the world. No doubt, in one sense of the word, London was the first City in the world. But that meant London as the Metropolis, as known to foreign countries and the inhabitants of the country generally. London in this sense extended very far beyond the limits of the City; but surely his hon. Friend would not contend that the City of London in the limited sense—in the Parliamentary sense—of the word was the first City in the world. [Mr. R. N. FOWLER: Commercially.] He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) contended that the commerce of London extended far beyond the limits of the City. Even some of the most important commercial ports were outside the boundaries of the City. The docks and shipping extended far beyond the City; and again in the City of Westminster very large commercial interests were involved. To the City of London in the wider sense of the word—namely, as meaning the Metropolis—the Bill gave a very large increase of representation. The area of the new Metropolis for Parliamentary purposes would be the local government area, which was only slightly larger than the present Parliamentary Metropolis. At the present time they had 22 Members representing the Metropolis; but they 1122 now proposed to give 59, although the area was very much the same in both cases. The hon. Member had spoken of there being a very large number of electors in the City; but he had forgotten to speak of the peculiar franchise which existed in the City of London—the franchise which had been described in strong terms as being scandalous, and as amounting virtually to the sale of the franchise for money. He would not speak strongly of it; but he would describe it as an altogether peculiar franchise, which had been condemned by the majority of a very weighty Royal Commission. Then, again, the condition of residence, which in other constituencies was restricted to seven miles, was in the case of the City extended to 25 miles. Therefore, a very large proportion of the electors of the City of London was accounted for by the peculiar treatment of the City. The proposal of this Bill, it was true, had been based on population; but the City of London had been made an exception. In consideration of its ancient history and position it had been allowed double representation; and whereas all the other Metropolitan boroughs would be single-Member constituencies, the City of London would retain its present boundaries, and would return two Members. For this he had expected the gratitude of the hon. Alderman. If the City of London had been treated altogether on the basis of population, as they had treated other districts in accordance with the Metropolitan scheme, it would only have been entitled to one Member; but instead of that they had given it two. Each Metropolitan Member would, according to the Bill, represent on an average 65,000 persons, while the City of London had considerably under 60,000 by the night Census; so that it was getting more, according to population, than twice—between twice and three times—the ordinary representation to which its population was entitled. His hon. Friend had spoken of the extraordinary manner in which the Census in the City was taken; but it was a remarkable thing that there was hardly any portion of the United Kingdom which did not complain of the same thing. In the case of many fishing towns it seemed as if the whole male population were catching herrings on the day that the Census was taken. The 1123 hon. Member had not been quite fair in the comparisons he made of London and other cities. He drew a comparison with the City of Bristol. It was true that there were 18,000 odd persons possessing the occupation franchise in London, and it was true that there were only 23,000 in the present City of Bristol. But the City of Bristol had been largely extended, and the number of electors largely increased by the Bill. The hon. Member had rather ignored the tender manner in which this Bill and the Franchise Act dealt with all the ancient franchises of the City. He had said that people ought to be returned where they carried on their business; but they did not touch the franchise in the City of London by this Bill, and therefore persons who carried on their business in London would continue to have a vote there. The real question in this case was, whether they should take Members from other districts of the Metropolis in order to give more than double or treble its proper representation to the City. Upon the point as to where the two additional Members asked for on behalf of the City were to come from the hon. Member had been silent. He had thrown out no suggestion whatever as to the quarter whence they should be drawn. Were he dealing with a less august body than the City of London, he should say it was idle and futile to make proposals for increasing the total number of seats without saying where they were to come from. At the present moment the great bulk of the constituencies were short of their proper proportion of Representatives. Tenderness to existing interests had done much to diminish the fund of Members available to supply constituencies that were properly entitled to more Representatives. Owing to this tenderness, the whole of the great boroughs of the country were less represented than they ought to be, and some were making strong objections at present; and if more Members were to be taken away from them they would be still further unrepresented. The hon. Member had founded his argument, that the Census was unfair, on the smallness of the night population of the City. That was no doubt so, but it was nearly as unfair to the several districts created by the Bill, which contained great commercial houses and offices, and which had been sepa- 1124 rated into distinct constituencies. There was Mid-Birmingham, Central Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, and Glasgow. In all those cases the Boundary Commissioners had so divided the great cities as to make a nucleus of their commercial centres. The test of the Census population was no doubt unfair to all those places; but it must be remembered that all the gentlemen having offices there had their houses in other parts, and voted in more than one place. London was specially favoured in this respect, for the radius of residence was three times as great as in other constituencies. The hon. Member had contended that mercantile interests deserved special representation in that House, and everybody would agree with him; in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government mercantile interests were likely to be more largely represented under this Bill than they had been in the past. They believed that the single-Member system was likely to lead to more distinct representation of the great mercantile centres than had ever been the case before. Looking at all these considerations, he must ask the Committee whether the hon. Member had not failed to make out a case for increasing the very liberal representation which the City of London, in consequence of its ancient privileges, was accorded by the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the right hon. Gentleman had commenced his remarks with a most extraordinary proposition. He had cast a doubt on the fact that London was the greatest commercial City in the world, and stated that that description rather applied to the whole of London than to the City proper; and in illustration of his argument he had mentioned that ships did not come into the City, but into docks lower down the river. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that all transactions in regard to those ships were carried on in the City itself. It was not only these shipping interests, however, that were involved, for all the commercial interests which it was possible to conceive centred themselves in the City proper. He might say, in fact, that London was the mercantile centre, not only of the whole country, but almost of the world. Therefore, he thought that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler) in saying that Lon- 1125 don was the chief City in the world, was saying that which everybody who knew anything about the City would say was perfectly correct. They were not now proposing to give the City something more than it had hitherto enjoyed; had they been doing so, it would have been a very different matter. They were not proposing to increase the Members for the City; but they were opposing the taking away of two Members from it. They were lowering the position and power of the City and diminishing its prestige by taking away from it two Members, which it had enjoyed the right of sending to Parliament for 550 years. They admitted that for nearly six centuries the City of London had enjoyed exceptional privileges as the chief commercial centre of the country, and no reason had been shown by the Government for taking them away. The only reason that could be seen was that the City of London now contained a considerable Conservative majority; but they, on that side of the House at least, did not see that that was a reason for reducing its representation. His hon. Friend the Member for the City had spoken of the enormous rateable value of the City, and the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had spoken of the great antiquity of the City and its institutions, and he thought those matters ought to be taken into account before they ruthlessly took away part of its representation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), speaking some years ago, said that the people of London were identified with the City; that the great majority, although they did not live there, had occupied premises all their lives there, and spent a large portion of their lives in the City. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to repeat that statement. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had taken his hon. Friend to task for having compared the number of electors in the City with the number of electors in Bristol. Now, suppose they deducted the 7,000 freemen, who were enjoying what the right hon. Gentleman had called "this peculiar franchise," it still left the number of electors in the City at 20,000. He would ask the right Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) to compare the position which he proposed to give to the City of Lon- 1126 don with the position of Belfast under this Bill. He took it that there were 21,000 electors in Belfast, which was to return four Members. Well, if they struck out the 7,000 gentlemen who possessed the peculiar franchise which the right hon. Gentleman objected to, they would have the City, with 20,000 electors, having only two Members, compared with Belfast, with 1,000 more electors and two more Members. But if they went to a town in Ireland they saw a still more remarkable difference; and he would like the right hon. Baronet to give his attention to him upon this point, as he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had made some comments upon it. Take Dublin, there the electors were only 13,785, and they returned four Members; and yet the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take away from 20,000 bonâ fide electors of the City two Members, leaving them only two.
§ MR. RITCHIE
No doubt there will be some difference in the number of electors in Dublin under the new franchise.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
And there will be considerable difference in Belfast by the extension of its boundaries.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Does the right hon. Baronet mean to say that the new franchise will give 50 per cent more voters to Dublin?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he did not think the new franchise would increase the number of electors in Dublin so much as the right hon. Gentleman expected; at any rate it would not make up the difference between the number of voters in Dublin and those in the City of London. Then, if they took the question of population, the attitude of the Government would not bear critical examination. His contention was that the City should be, and always had been, treated in an exceptional manner. The City had a population of 50,526 at night. Now, let them see how the City would be represented in comparison with some of the smaller towns which were 1127 to have one Member. He had in his hand a list of four of the small boroughs which, together, had a population of 61,000; and that population of 61,000 in these small boroughs were to return four Members. They were to have four petty boroughs possessing this great representation; and yet the City of London, with upwards of 50,000 of night population, and 260,000 of a day population, was to return only two Members. He contended that the City of London had good ground to complain of the manner in which the Government proposed to treat it. Considering its commercial importance, its ancient history, he thought the City of London ought to have continued to receive the special consideration which it had enjoyed for the past 500 years. He again said, in conclusion, that if it were a question of giving new additional privileges to London, the question might be different; but that was not the question. The question was not the giving new Members, but the taking away seats which existed, and he maintained the Government had made out no case to justify this action.
§ MR. ALDERMAN COTTON
said, he rose with some reluctance to make some remarks on the Amendment now before the Committee, and he did so because they were told that a compact had been entered into by three Gentlemen representing one side of the House, and two Gentlemen representing the other—because they were told that they were to be bound by the opinion or the contract entered into by those five Gentlemen when they met to arrange matters in secret. Up to the present time the Committee had had no particulars of this secret compact. It was only as time went on, and one scheme after another developed itself, that the Committee saw what it meant. It was plain that night that the compact meant, amongst other things, that the City of London was to lose two of its Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister ought to cast his mind back upon the traditions of the City of London. The City of London had always been Liberal in its policy and in its polities until 1874, with very few exceptions, which exceptions were only in the interests of some particularly favourite Member whom the citizens desired to honour. It was entirely the right hon. 1128 Gentleman's own fault that the electorate in the City had been turned into a Conservative body instead of a Liberal one. But what had been done once might be done again; the City might not always be Conservative; and he, therefore, sincerely hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would see fit to leave the City its present number of Members. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke), in speaking of the Livery of the City of London, had been a little at fault with regard to the number of the Livery. Assuming the electorate were 20,000 without the Livery, they must bear in mind that very large numbers of the Livery had a vote for occupation. They were entitled to vote for occupying if they did not vote as Liverymen; and very many men voted as occupiers instead of as Liverymen. But with regard to the Livery, he was bound to say that, with all the fault-finding about their voting for Members for the City of London, he did not think there was any more responsible, or more respectable, or any more modest, body of voters than the Liverymen of the City of London. It appeared to be the present disposition of the Government in this Parliament to set aside everything that was respectable, and to push forward everything that was Democratic and trivial. He disputed the right of the Government to define population as "sleeping population" in any city whatever. Surely a day population of a city or borough was entitled to its share of the representation in Parliament. When they considered that the day population was over 260,000, and that amongst them were a very large number of employers, and that it was only the employés who slept within the City, they would see how large a number of people were entitled to the consideration of the Committee. The City, in his judgment, was one of the most important, one of the grandest, and one of the wealthiest cities in the world. He did not know anything that did not exist within its one mile of area. That mile was the most valuable mile of land in the world; and within it, as the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (MR. Ritchie) had told them, they had shipping, merchants, ship-brokers, the Bank of England, 84 or 86 other banking interests—so that, so far as the banking interests were concerned, they were 1129 amply represented—and it was really the wheel that moved the whole of the finance of the world. The Bank of England, which was within the City, was the source that the Government looked to when it had any great financial project in view or to bring about. Then, again, the Press, which was so mighty in its power, was most largely represented in the City. There was scarcely a Metropolitan daily paper whose office was not within the walls of the City; and most of the weekly papers were also published within its limits. Take the literature of the day. Was it not represented in Paternoster Row, or the large publishing firms which carried on business there; did not these firms push into every house, and bring home to every family circle literature that was wise, and good, and elevating? Travel on further, they found that nearly all the railway stations, the centres of the trading of the country, were within the City walls. The termini of the Great Western, and some others, were not within it, it was true; but these lines were brought within it by the instrumentality of the Inner Circle Railway. Men of all classes and of all positions threw themselves into the City of London, in order to seek employment to obtain a livelihood. There were more distinguished foreign merchants within the City of London, who had emigrated over here and become wealthy and great, than were to be found in any other city of the Kingdom. He could not call to mind any industry that was not represented, in some way or other, in some one of the offices of the City of London. He had himself tried in vain to find out why the Government had endeavoured to take away two of the City Members. He could only put it down to the matter of pique, he could not have put it down to any other feeling whatever. The City represented great intelligence, particularly financial intelligence, and all the interests of the Kingdom. Manchester sent its goods to the City, also Birmingham, Sheffield, and other great towns, in order that the proper markets of the world might be supplied. Under all these circumstances, that the City was entitled to four Members there could hardly be a doubt. The Petition of the City was to the effect that the City of London claimed to be placed on an equality with the Universities in its re- 1130 presentation, and that it ought not to lose any of its Members. It stated that the population was large; and if his argument were accepted, that in reckoning that population they should consider not only the sleeping inhabitants, but the day population as well, then a very strong argument indeed had been made out in favour of retaining the present number of Members. The right hon. Baronet had spoken of double votes; but he (Mr. Alderman Cotton) supposed there was scarcely a Member in that House who did not give a double vote in some way or other; and if, simply owing to the value of land in the City, householders chose to let the-upper part of their houses and lived in the country, it was unjust to tell them they should lose half the vote which they had hitherto enjoyed. Nearly all other large cities were similarly situated, a great many of their inhabitants residing outside the City limits. All the merchants of Liverpool did not live in the city; but they crossed over the Mersey, or resided somewhere in the suburbs or in the country. He had no doubt the Prime Minister now and then retired into the country to recoup that strength which he had exhausted in the House, and might be possessed of a double vote. Therefore, a double vote was not peculiar to persons in the City of London. The assertion of the right hon. Baronet that the loss of two Members was but a Corporation feeling was not correct. The Corporation, of course, were anxious to retain the four Members for the City; but there was not a citizen in London with whom he had conversed who did not view with extreme ill favour the proposal to take away these two Members. It was a citizen's question; it was a question which concerned everyone. Even the Chamber of Commerce, presided over by a Liberal Member of that House, had expressed its disapprobation of the proposal; and he sincerely hoped that when this dissussion concluded and the arguments which could be used in favour of the retention of the present number of Members had been pressed upon the attention of the Prime Minister, that he would see his way to leave the City its four votes. The right hon. Baronet had asked him (Mr. Alderman Cotton) to tell the Government from what constituency they should take the two votes which they were asking 1131 to have restored to them. To put that responsibility upon the City Representatives was rather hard, seeing that it was the Government themselves who were taking the Members away and giving them to other places. Let the right hon. Baronet determine from what constituencies he would take these two Members. There were very many small constituencies which had never enjoyed a vote before who were to be enfranchised from which these two could be taken; and he had no doubt that as the Bill progressed the opportunity of obtaining Members for the purpose of restoring to the City of London her proper quota would be found easily enough. He was at a loss to account for the altered tone of the Government with regard to the City of London, for he remembered when this scheme was first foreshadowed, and public opinion was to be tested, one of the morning papers indulged the world with a statement with regard to the measure, and one of the points in that statement was that the City was to have its four Members. It was not until the famous interview took place between the Leaders of the two Parties that the City of London learnt, with dismay and astonishment, that it was to lose two of its seats. Though that compact had been entered into, he hoped that Members on both sides of the Committee would not allow it to weigh with them in carrying out all the suggestions of the Government. It was one of the most dangerous interviews that ever took place as against the privileges of that House. If the 658 Members of the House were to be guided and governed by a conclave of five—upon which it must be remembered the Government were 50 per cent to the good, the Prime Minister, Earl Granville, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board being on their side, and the Marquess of Salisbury and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on the other—they ought to know it at once, so as to know how to submit to the inevitable. But he hoped such a compact as that would never be entered into again. He was sure that hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House, who felt a strong desire for the liberty of the subject, would never tolerate such a thing being done again. It was only because they were so near the 1132 eve of the General Election that the Liberal Members allowed it on the present occasion. Generally there was no desire to go to the country for the next six or nine months. All that he had said was merely in the interest of the retention of the four Members for the City of London; and he asked the Prime Minister not to take this representation away from the City, but to leave to them their old traditions in that truly liberal spirit which the Liberal Party had always experienced on the part of the City of London in their dealings with it up to the year 1874. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual foresight, would see that in the time to come, in all probability when another wave of change occurred, the City might, perhaps, be Liberal again. He (Mr. Alderman Cotton) had great pleasure in supporting the Amendment moved by his hon. Friend (Mr. E. N. Fowler).
said, they were told when the Bill was brought in that it was not a disfranchising measure. That was clearly a misnomer so far as the City of London was concerned. He approved of the Bill generally, but did think that the City of London had been hardly dealt with. In the first place, the Census had been taken as the basis of population, and for deciding the different constituencies to remain under the Bill. Well, the Census of the City of London taken on a Sunday night could not be, under any circumstances, an adequate representation of what the City really was. In every large town the Sunday night population must be considerably less, or very much less, than what it would be on other nights; but in London that would be especially the case. He did not believe that any man who could possibly get away from London on Saturday afternoon, or Saturday evening, and would otherwise sleep in the City, would neglect the opportunity. A great many of the ordinary dwellers in the City left it on the Saturday or Sunday if they could get away. Still, with all that, London was found to contain 50,000 people. If the Census had been taken on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, he had no doubt it would have been found to contain double that number. It was a question worth the consideration of the Government whether the day population was not, after all, a better representation of the con- 1133 stituency than a night population. The time at which man's brains were most active, and at which man was most useful to his fellow man and to himself, was during those 10 or 12 hours of work in which the citizens of London were engaged during the day. Those people who remained in London all night were, for the most part, care-takers and others employed by those who used the houses for business purposes and who themselves went miles away. It must be evident to everyone who thought about the matter that the day population alone could represent the absolute feelings of the people of the City. But there were many other reasons why the City should be specially dealt with. Its rateable Value, for example, which had been referred to by the hon. Alderman who had just sat down (Mr. Alderman Cotton), was, for its area, larger than that of any other place in the world. The people who frequented London, and who up to the present time had had the honour of filling these four seats, represented larger interests than any other people in the world of the same class; and it seemed the most extraordinary thing to find the Government taking away representation from them and giving it to other parts of the country, which they chose to call London, such as Mile End, Kensington, and so on. That to him seemed like giving to the fingers and toes and taking away from the heart. The commerce and the finance of the whole world centred in London; and the population during the day ran up to five times what it was during the night. These 260,000 people who were in London, day by day, as he had said, did not confine their connection or their business to London alone, or to the Metropolis, but extended it to India, to America, to Africa, and to all Continental countries; they were the agents of, and did the business of, people living all over the world. How could even such towns as Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester compare with London? There was one other point which was worthy of consideration. London had for over 500 years returned her four Members; it had always been specially represented in that House; and when they knew that they were taking away Members from small towns, and when Liverpool would be represented by nine Members, Manchester by 9 or 10, surely it was not too much 1134 to ask that London should remain specially represented as it was at present. Manchester might represent cotton, Liverpool shipping, and Birmingham the metal trade. These were all special trades; no doubt important ones, but still individual trades. Well, the whole of those were represented in London. All the trades of the other towns had their representatives in London, and outside itself London represented an enormous connection. It represented, he might say, almost the whole world. That being so, it seemed to him that there was a very fair case made out against the proposal of the Government; and he certainly believed that if the Prime Minister and the right hon. Baronet the Head of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote) in that House could be got to sit down together for a few minutes to consider the question quietly and calmly they would be inclined to accede to the appeal of the City. Even if the question were withdrawn now from the vote of the Committee and allowed to come on again on Report, he believed that these right hon. Gentlemen, having heard the debate that had taken place that night, would consent to drop the proposal in the Bill. He was well aware of the difficulty the hon. Member for the City (Mr. R. N. Fowler) had to face in bringing this question to a vote at the present moment. The hon. Member had against him not only the Government and its present supporters, who seemed to forget that the highest honour they could have in the House was the position of an independent Member, but he had also against him his own Leader, and those who sat with the right hon. Gentleman and were pledged to act with him. He did think that if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who had been induced to go into this unholy alliance, could be induced to confer with the Government upon the point at issue, they would find it easy to propose that the question of restoration in the Bill of four Members to London would be considered before the Report.
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
said, he was rather l0th to rise in his place for the purpose of continuing this discussion, because he should have liked very much to have heard some Member from the other side of the Committee in answer to the arguments which bad come from hon. Members interested in the City. 1135 As, however, no one had risen to answer those arguments, he would endeavour to offer the Committee a few observations which had occurred to him in reference to this Bill, and the particular portion which proposed to deprive London of half of its representation. Now, the first part of the Bill was what might be termed a disfranchising portion. They had already passed Section 1, putting into the Schedule those places which were not for the future to return any Members. They had included certain cities and counties in the same category. They had disfranchised the small boroughs found guilty of corrupt practices, and now this last disfranchisement section, Section 4, came before them, proposing at the commencement to disfranchise the City of London, and then taking from other boroughs, which were in another Schedule, one Member each. When the Bill was introduced, or rather before it was introduced, when the Prime Minister shadowed out to the House in consequence of some accident which had occurred by which the general process and course on the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill was made known to the country, and when a certain occasion was taken in "another place" with regard to the Act for giving to the counties household suffrage, the Prime Minister announced to the House his views relative to the distribution of seats which had become necessary in consequence of the Franchise Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, after enumerating certain particulars, had stated that the City of London had a considerable claim, and a special claim to be recognized on account of its ancient character, and on account of the position it enjoyed, not only in this country, but in the world at large. The right hon. Gentleman stated at the commencement of his observations, with reference to the principle on which the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill would be passed, that he took the Census as a rough and ready mode, though not the very best mode, of determining the allocation of Members. But there were certain exceptions, and that if exceptions were to be made at all the City of London was fairly, and fully, and specially entitled to have the benefit of them. "What was the Census to begin with. If they took the general application of the word a Census was a 1136 mere enumeration of the families living in a certain place at a certain period. The enumeration was effected all over the area in which it was desired to ascertain the numbers at a certain time, so that it could be done as correctly as possible; and they endeavoured to extend that Census to a variety of other subjects beyond mere enumeration—beyond the mere calculation of numbers—namely, the proportions of so many males, so many females, so many children, so many residents in towns, their avocations, their callings, how they were engaged in the day, how they were classified with regard to servants, with regard to agricultural employment, and with regard to trade and manufacture. Returns giving these details were required for special purposes. They wanted them to guide their views as legislators with reference to the administration of the revenues and taxation of the country, and with reference to the general government of it, and by merely taking in that case numbers without any consideration as to the other points on which Censuses were directed they did not arrive at much valuable information. If they looked at the origin of the Census they would find that it was not a mere compilation of numbers, but that it referred to the various duties that the old Roman Censor had to perform, and embraced the physical and general arrangements of the community. The old principle of Census taking had been adopted in nearly all European States during the Middle Ages, and in later times as one of the means of ascertaining how taxation could be fairly imposed upon the community. In the Census of 1881 in this country they had gone further, and had endeavoured to take a religious Census. That had been objected to by the House, and no such attempt had been made since. The Census imposed by Parliament, and which was required to be taken throughout the United Kingdom, had had for its object other purposes than the mere enumeration of the people separately, the classification of professions and occupations, and the amount of property that they were possessed of—it had other objects than the mere counting of heads in order that it might be said how many millions of people there were at such a time in such an area. In the case he was now dealing with, the position of 1137 the City of London, the amount of wealth for which its citizens were responsible, to a certain extent, justified them in coming to the House of Commons when a Redistribution of Seats Bill was being discussed, to see that its wealth and its trading interests were adequately represented. It was necessary that the City of London should have good representation in that House, so that her interests might be carefully attended to in connection with subjects which were coming before the House almost every day, with reference to the wealth of this country and their dealings with foreigners, in reference to the shipping interest especially. That was one of the matters that the Representatives of the City were specially interested in, and it was a matter which had occupied the time of the House during the last two or three Sessions in an especial manner. It was necessary that the City should have power in that House in order that foreign countries would know that in the all-important Court of Parliament in England the interests of traders and business men were fully represented. Let them look at what the position of London was as one of the great trading communities of the world. Not only geographically, but commercially, London was the centre of everything connected with Europe and with the trade of the East. It had almost exclusively the trade with China and the East; it had an enormous amount of Atlantic trade notwithstanding the position of Liverpool, and the amount of tonnage of vessels during the last year had exceeded 10,000,000. The trade carried on by those vessels amounted to no less than £200,000,000. Well, did they wish it to go forth to the world that a great City like this, which had received the confidence of all nations, was to be deprived of half of its representation? He looked upon it as a most monstrous proposition to deprive a community of 261,000 people of half their representation in the House of Commons for the simple reason that they only left caretakers on their premises at night. The Encyclopedia Britannica said that in London there was a sleeping population in 1871 of 70,000, but it had diminished in 1881 to 50,000 odd; but, at the same time, that the actual number of occupiers of the City, as ascertained by a careful enumeration—by a careful sta- 1138 tistical calculation taken by papers sent round to the different residences—amounted to 261,000 odd, and included men of the highest commercial character, of great wealth and integrity and business habits.
§ SIR GABRIEL G0LDNEY
said, that in order to be quite accurate he was quoting from a new edition of The Encyclopœdia Britannica, an edition published in 1882.
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
said, that what he was quoting from was accepted as an authority. He could refer to a variety of private statistics; but he thought it to be more satisfactory to the Committee to give figures from such an authority as that. The Encyclopœdia Britannica was published in 1882, and could have had no possible connection with the present Bill. The Return was obtained before the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill was thought of, and, indeed, before the extension of the franchise was brought to anything like a practical issue. The day Census, according to The Encyclopœdia Britannica was 261,061; although in 1871 the night Census was only 74,897, and in 1881 50,536. Now, the rough and ready basis the Prime Minister took in announcing to the House the scheme on which the redistribution of seats would be arranged was most objectionable. The right hon. Gentleman had said that taking the boroughs and counties together it would give, as near as possible, a ratio of 54,200 per Member, but that London, from its position, should be exceptionally considered, not only with regard to numbers, but also as to the surrounding circumstances which were likely to affect its general claim to legislation. If it was to be exceptionally considered and to have all its surroundings taken into view, this day population must be borne in mind. If the population of the City were taken at this real figure of 261,000, its number of Members would not be four, but five or six. He did not ask for an increase, but he protested against a decrease, and maintained that 1139 if persisted in it would be a great slur upon the first City of the world It was not only prejudicial to the citizens of London, who were composed of all classes, of all politics, but a disparagement to the whole nation. The citizens of London wished to have their ancient status retained; and it would be a disparagement, even with regard to their financial and banking arrangements, to have their representation reduced one-half, when there was no decline, but the reverse, in all the important interests which were involved in its business transactions. The citizens of London considered that it would be a slur not only upon their City, but upon them and their financial and commercial arrangements, to have their representation, which they had enjoyed for 500 years, reduced by one-half. The commercial population of London had, so far as their dwelling were concerned, emigrated to the suburbs and the country, so as to give greater facilities for the carrying on of their commercial arrangements at their places of business in the City. By living outside they allowed greater room and scope for their businesses, and it was for doing that that the Government proposed to reduce their Parliamentary representation. It was said that the Metropolis itself was to have its number of Members largely increased, and that therefore, the City should not complain; but he objected to the case of the City being considered on the basis of population. Although the rest of the Metropolis might be justly entitled to their increased representation, the case of the City of London should be considered upon different grounds. Had not the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister himself said that they could not in the case of a place like London apply hard and strict mathematical rules, but that they must give weight to various considerations, some of them, no doubt, conflicting, which would come before them when they were fixing and allocating the large number of Members who would fall to them from the different small boroughs which were to be disfranchised? The places disfranchised had probably shown that they had made no progress, had probably retrograded in numbers and position, and had ceased to be entitled to Parliamentary representation. All these things had to be considered. He (Sir Gabriel Goldney) represented a com- 1140 paratively small borough (Chippenham), and he was quite content that it should be merged into a county, and that a larger district should be formed more fitted to return a Member to the House than the present constituency; but his contention was that the population of London materially exceeded the basis upon which they had founded their scheme of representation. As he had said, he did not ask for an increase to the representation of London; but he demanded, and thought he was entitled to demand, from the hands of the Committee and Parliament that London should remain in the same position that it had been in for so long—for one reason, because the City of London had increased enormously in its wealth and importance. The merchants of the City had heavy responsibilities to fulfil to the trade of the whole country, to the customers who came to their ports; in fact, to the trade of the whole world, which centred in their City. Their shipping had increased and the produce of their ships. It would be well for Parliament to take into consideration the important position of the City. They had France bidding against them, and very successfully in a great number of matters, both in regard to commercial arrangements, but more especially in regard to banking arrangements. It was necessary, therefore, that no slur should be cast upon their City. How could they show to their customers and the world that they were maintaining their position for integrity, and that the City of London stood as high or higher, if possible, now than it had ever done before, and in as high a position as any other capital in the world, when foreigners would see their own Parliament reducing the Parliamentary importance of the place? Most of the great financial arrangements of the Empire were carried on, not in the various parts of the Empire generally, but by the large number of traders and merchants who congregated every day in the City—by gentlemen whose foreign relations enabled them to undertake the largest transactions. Their feeling was that they deserved their present representation, not merely on account of their numbers or on account of the heavy taxes they paid, but because of their being citizens of London; and they desired that representation without reference to the sleep- 1141 ing numbers within the walls of the City. He did not know that he could say more. If it were said—"We do not care for your numbers in the day time, what we want is your sleeping population," it amounted simply to this—that so long as people were in their beds they might be represented in the House of Commons. That was the only logical conclusion. How could that sleeping argument be put to the world? Supposing this partial disfranchisement of the City of London were carried out, and he went, say, to a German, and discussed the question, what would the foreigner say to him? Why, naturally he would say—"The position of your great City seems to be disparaged very much in the eyes of other nations; what is the matter? Have any of your great bankers failed? Have any of your mercantile community brought discredit upon you? Is the commercial morality of the City as high as it was?" Foreigners regarded the City as a place to whose men of business they could intrust their money and their commissions in dependence on their character for integrity; and those gentlemen would not be able to understand the Parliamentary representation of a place, which was the centre of the world's commerce, being reduced by one-half, because the machinery of election was being revised. When was the City alive? In the day time. Foreigners did not come in the dead of the night to transact business, especially on a Sunday night; they came in the daytime, and it was therefore by her character as she stood during the day that she was to be judged. He felt this matter very strongly as a citizen of London and as an Englishman, who had endeavoured to uphold the greatness of the City, and he maintained that a slur and disparagement of the kind he was denouncing would be difficult to explain away to their foreign customers. The Blur would travel much more quickly than hon. Gentlemen might believe. It would be said that London had been shorn of half its political power and was injured for centuries, and it would take a very able man to account for what had taken place. He hoped, therefore, that the Prime Minister would look on the matter from a much wider point of view than the question of the mere machinery of numbers, and that for the ad- 1142 vantage of the City of London and the country generally he would show that confidence in the City that Parliament had been wont to repose in her.
MR. R. BIDDULPHMARTIN
desired the indulgence of the Committee while he made a few observations in favour of the existing representation of the City of London. Admitting, for the moment, that the Bill was founded entirely and absolutely on a numerical basis, and that in future numbers were to be the foundation of their Constitution, there were, and must be, in the Constitution a certain number of anomalies. The City of London could make out a good case for being one of the anomalies. Except on the mere bald statement of numbers, the City of London had an absolute right, so far as right could be insisted upon by any body, or any number of people, or any constituency, to return more than its ordinary share of Members. It was well he should call the attention of the Committee to the day Census of the City. The Report of that Census, which could be taken as a very authoritative statement, disclosed some remarkable facts. There were in the City, for instance, 57,000 employers of labour, and 162,000 persons employed. There were 500 bankers save one, and of dining-room and restaurant keepers there were 593, and there were brewers and distillers in large numbers. A more anomalous state of things in a city it would be difficult to imagine. Certainly, the same state of things could not prevail in any other city of England—Liverpool, Glasgow, and the other large cities included. He mentioned these figures to show that it was hardly just to apply the principle of the numerical basis to the City of London. At the end of the Report it was shown that as many as 78,000 persons entered the City every day by one gate, and 66,000 by another gate. The City was in an altogether anomalous position, and it was for the very reason that the City had grown to be so important and the land so valuable that people could not afford to make their homes whore their avocations took them, and where their business centred. He had a home in the City which he inhabited; but everybody was not so fortunate in that respect. City people, as a rule, had to go miles away to find a proper home, and, therefore, he did not think the 1143 mere fact of numbers ought to be pressed in this instance. He hoped the Government might be able to see their way to reconsider the question. There was one other fact—he did not know whether attention had been called to it previously—which ought to be borne in mind; and that was, that if they looked at the City of London not simply as the City of London, but as an integral and the most important part of the Metropolis, the number of Representatives it had hitherto had was not in excess of the number to which it was entitled. He trusted that if the City was now deprived of two Members, it would be competent for Parliament, when it came to deal with the Bill for the redistribution of the local political power and local self-government of London, to give back to the City its two Members. He did not think there was anything at all, unreasonable in asking the Committee to reconsider the question, and to allow the City, which was the heart of the whole Metropolis, to retain the right of sending four Members to the House of Commons. He did not think it was necessary to go into the mere sentiment of the subject. What they had to consider was, what was fair and just and right; and, in his opinion, the justice of the case would permit of the anomaly. It was perfectly true, as had been stated over and over again, that the people who had votes in the City had also votes in the suburban districts in which they resided. But the interests of the people were really in London; their interests in the place where they resided were nothing as compared with their interests in the City. There were Members of the present Government who were not ashamed to be seen occasionally in the City when they were not in Office; it was surely not too much to expect that they had a little sympathy with the City. Of course, he admitted that if they only took the sleeping population of the City there might possibly be no claim to four Representatives; but there were anomalies, and there always would be anomalies. Hard-and-fast lines very often created greater injustices than those they were supposed to cure. The whole of the day Census was full of interest, and it showed how necessary it was to be careful in arriving at the facts figures taught. He thought if the Government would consider the 1144 value of the figures, they would find an anomaly of a nature to be received with every consideration—a claim that might fairly be allowed. A great many Members had a greater right to speak on the details of the subject than he had, and who, no doubt, would give the Committee the benefit of their experience. He, speaking with the knowledge he had, feeling and thinking simply from a Liberal point of view, believed this was a case where an exception might be made by the Government to their hard-and-fast "resident" line.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, perhaps the Committee would forgive him for saying a few words, both as a citizen of London, an honour of which he was extremely proud, and also as one who had paid considerable attention to the details of redistribution of seats. So far as the debate had gone, all the argument had been in favour of maintaining the old number of the City Representatives. Neither from the occupants of the Treasury Bench, or from the great guns opposite them who had betrayed the City to the enemy, had he heard one argument in favour of reducing the number of Members from four to two. It was true, four Members had represented the City of London so long as Parliament had existed; it was also certain the Bill proposed to give to Edinburgh four Representatives; and while reducing London from four to two, the Capital of Ireland, with other favours shown to Ireland by the Bill, had its representation increased. Those arrangements were consequent upon the unfortunate compact by which an enormous increase of representation was given to Ireland and Wales, while that of England and Scotland was reduced below the number to which they were fairly entitled. It was quite well known that if 103 Members were given to Ireland there ought to be 770 for the whole House. Even with 658 Members the Representatives of England were six below the number to which the country was entitled, and of these two should go to the City of London. The fact of the Census being taken on a Sunday night fully accounted for there being so many persons absent from the City on that occasion; but the time at which votes would be given was surely the time at which it was natural a Census should be taken in regard to the electorate. He 1145 had had the honour of recording his vote at Guildhall occasionally for his right hon. Friends; and he would venture to say that no City in the world was so densely populated as the City of London at the time of an election, 26,000 recording their votes in a population of 270,000 of the most orderly character in a City whose business was quadruple that of any town in the world. By the arrangements now pending it was proposed—he supposed because the City returned three Conservative Members—to reduce the number of Members by two; and he had not heard one single argument in favour of the proposal offered by the hon. Gentlemen who silently advocated the Bill, or the absentees who had deserted the Front Opposition Bench. Something should be said at least to support the intention to deprive the Capital of England of two Members, while, at the same time, two were added to the Radical City of Edinburgh, and two to the City of Dublin. It was quite impossible by any argument to justify such a change. In fair arithmetical proportion five Members should be allotted to the City; but that did not seem to enter into the calculations of those who framed the Bill. He was glad to see his right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) had not deserted the discussion, and should be glad to hear what his right hon. Friend had to say on the subject—why should the Capital of England have its Members reduced, while the Capitals of Scotland and Ireland received additions. In the proposition he recognized one of the great evils that resulted from an agreement delivering them over bound hand and foot into the hands of the enemy. It must be quite obvious to those who recognized how Parliamentary affairs were conducted that this great misfortune to the Metropolis of the world would not have occurred if his right hon. Friend and those who acted with him had stood their ground firmly. He felt strongly that a grave injustice was threatened which the Committee ought at once to remedy.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he spoke as a City elector with a certain amount of difficulty. He had been anxious—and that was the reason why he had been waiting—to hear the whole of his four Representatives uphold their cause. The second worthy Alderman who represented 1146 him as a City elector said that the City that night was pleading for its life, and no doubt, to a certain extent, that was so. To those who had had the advantage of so large a representation as had City electors it was somewhat of a "Self-denying Ordinance" to ask to have that representation reduced by half; but after giving it the best consideration he could, just as the other night he voted to take away a vote from his University, so that night he proposed to vote with Her Majesty's Government to reduce his representation in the City. There were points certainly that might be urged that had not been urged yet in favour of the retention of four Members. The time would come, and that before long, when the Metropolis would claim and probably receive its adequate quota of Members. The borough for which he at present had the honour to be a Member (Chelsea) would have five Members; it had a population of 423,000, being an average of 80,000 odd to each proposed Member. It was idle to pretend or suggest that they were going to be content with that share; they would accept this Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill to-day, but they would contest it tomorrow; by to-morrow he meant the morrow of the day on which it passed; and when the time came for London to have its fair share of Members, if the City were left with four there would be three seats on the shelf for the rest of the Metropolis; but if the City Members were reduced to two there would be only one on the shelf. Again, it was possible that City Aldermen would lose the last refuge for that interesting class of the community; he did not think that any other borough would do itself the honour of returning them. He had his share of three, and if half were taken away he found it difficult to conclude which half he would be more sorry to lose. He would not enter upon their many virtues, but the Committee would credit him with an adequate amount of regret at the prospect. He interrupted his hon. Friend (Sir Gabriel Goldney) in speaking of the population of the City because his hon. Friend quoted The Encyclopœdia Britannica, while he (Mr. Firth) founded his information on a much higher authority—he went back from the treatise to the original authority. He always found difficulty with City figures in settling their reliability; 1147 and, therefore, he went o the original Report as drawn up and presented by the City authorities, and that showed that those who stated there were 261,000 occupiers stated something that the City did not contend for in its own Report. But first one word on the Census of population, for, as he understood it, the basis of the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill was population. Hon. Members on the other side suggested that the day and not the night population should be taken; but taking the night population as 50,276, of that number more than 41,000 were women and children, therefore the first point to which he drew the attention of the Committee was this—that when the day came—and he apprehended it would come before long—when it would be the ease of "one man" and "one vote" there would not probably be 5,000 electors in the City, very likely not 2,000, because of the balance of 9,000 who were men most of them not being in a position that at present conferred the vote. Statements had been made that in a history of 550 years the City had always returned four Members; but that was not absolutely correct, there was a period when the City actually returned two Members. But to go back for 300 years, when Queen Elizabeth promulgated an Ordinance against the building of houses lest there should be too many people to serve God and honour the Queen, there were then three times the number of men who had votes for the City and had votes for no other place; now the men had votes for other places, and those who would preserve the same number of City Members must justify the duality of representation. The great depopulation had taken place almost entirely in the present century, and had arisen from two main causes—natural and artificial. The natural cause was the great increase in the value of City land, the much larger profit that accrued from the building of offices, and the consequent extradition or exilation of the inhabitant population. The other cause was artificial—first, the action taken by the Corporation in driving out the poorer population, which had had an enormous effect upon the poor rate in certain districts, and a serious effect upon 50,000 people to whom time was money; and, secondly, the cause was referred to in the City Census itself, the incidence of the In- 1148 habited House Duty. The Corporation of the City itself—he would be corrected if he was wrong, but he generally took care to be correct in what he said about the Corporation—the Corporation, he believed, inserted clauses in their leases that houses should not be inhabited, and in consequence there were 5,000 houses within the City of London wherein, if the Inhabited House Duty did not exist, there would be a population of some 30,000, for many of them were extremely large buildings, in which hundreds of people were found during the day, and which had plenty of accommodation on the top floors, not lived in because of the incidence of the House Duty. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer were present this might be commended to his notice. It was a fact well known in the City, and to which the Report alluded, saying large sums would have to be paid on account of these buildings if they were inhabited. This had tended to reduce the population to 50,276; but the gentlemen who took part in the carrying out of this policy he now found pleading the facts brought about by their own action. But he was about to refer to the Census. It was proposed that the Census in the City should be taken under exceptional conditions, that it should be surrounded by all the authority that attached to a Census taken by order of the House, but that the Corporation should carry it out. But that the House would not agree to, and the only authoritative Census was the night Census giving the figures 50,276. For many reasons the day Census taken was unreliable. As an instance, he was in one Census himself counted four times. True, he had, as a City elector, four Representatives in the House; but that was no reason why he should be counted four times. That occurred not in the figures 261,000, but in the larger table setting out the number of those frequenting the City. He had apartments in the Temple, and it so happened that on the day in question he went in and out four times, and on the fourth occasion he noticed as he passed a man making an entry in a book. Then it occurred to him this man was assisting in compiling the figures for the Census, and speaking to the man the latter admitted he must have counted him four times. That was in respect to the figures bringing up 1149 the 800,000 total, and which set out more cabs and vehicles than ever frequented the City of London in a day. Another figure was supposed to set out the number of occupiers, something over 261,000; but that was really not the number of occupiers. He should be very sorry to say anything of that kind unless he could support it with an authority the City would respect. He had their own Census, the very Return itself printed by the Corporation, among whom he had many valued friends, and who supplied him with such documents. According to the Return the figures 261,000 included reporters, compositors, printers, agents, messengers, porters, clerks, shopmen, cabmen, servants, errand boys, police, and shoe-blacks. It included shoe-blacks, these and police being set down at 3,348. The point he made was this—that though 261,000 was put forward as the figure representing occupiers, there were 44,000 adults and their families, and 21,000 children under 15 years of age. Now, another set of figures had reference to how many of these were employers of labour. One statement the City had sent round to Members—but which, as was the case with other statements, they did not think fit to send to him, though any unjust criticism or comment he might make upon it would recoil upon himself—in that statement it was set out that 51,000 were employers of labour—the number was rather over that as they made it out, but they admitted they made an average, as the actual number could not be ascertained; but even that was unreliable. To take an illustration from a community of which he had some considerable knowledge, there were set down as employers of labour 2,116 barristers. Now, there were not 600 sets of chambers in the City at all, and of the gentlemen of the Bar many a half-dozen had a boy between them Those figures in the Return were unreliable. There was as much justification in reckoning clerks, porters, and others who frequented the City as inhabitants, as there would be in counting the mill hands and others who went in from Salford and other places to Manchester every day among the Manchester population. If the principle were applied to the City it was equally applicable to other places. Then to turn to an entirely different argument. It had 1150 been stated that London had an exceptional number of electors—the number had never been actually stated, but sufficiently near—that this exceptional number ought to be taken into account. Well, he had endeavoured to point out that when the time came for the "one man, one vote" principle, the number of electors would be found extremely small, certainly under 5,000, probably under 2,000. Take the case of anyone who had a vote in the City for the four Representatives for whom he had adequate respect, for one of whom he had special respect—take anyone who had a vote for an office or chambers—he would leave his office each day for some other part of London or the suburbs, where he probably owned his house, was it to be expected that he would not vote in the district where he lived? His larger interest would be outside the City. In his own case, he (Mr. Firth) paid a considerable rent for chambers; but he had a much larger interest in his own house in which he lived, and that, he supposed, was the case with other people. He gave this as an illustration of what he apprehended would be the ultimate result. If plurality of voting were abolished the number of voters for the City would be small indeed. A third of the City electors, some 8,000, were members of City Livery Companies, and of those the vast majority did not come into the City at all except for one purpose, to dine. They had the turtle qualification. These Livery votes must sooner or later be abolished; a Commission had recommended it, and the recommendation would ultimately become law. He did not put it upon that ground, but because the system was inherently contrary to the spirit of the age in which they lived. Those votes were purchased. He had had himself the membership of eight City Companies offered to him for money, and any reasonably respectable man could purchase membership of a City Company—that was to say, purchase votes for the City of London, because the one followed the other; and if that were so, it was not a franchise that would long survive the advent of a Democratic Parliament. Now the proposition was that the City should be dealt with in a different manner from other constituencies because of its ancient history, its wealth, and because of its advantages 1151 in many other respects; but he apprehended the proposition the Government had made was one that, however some might regret it, as regarded the loss of Members, would commend itself to the sense and judgment of the House of Commons. Indeed, personally, he should have preferred that the representation of the City should have been reduced to one, and that would have been a very equitable allowance on the basis of the Bill; but because he thought the proposal in the Bill was a fair and just compromise he supported it. It would gradually let the friends of the City down to what would ultimately be their level, while it recognized in full all that prestige of which the City supporters had made quite sufficient.
said, he was, like the hon. and learned Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth), an humble City elector; but he represented rather the working class element, for he had a vote for the chambers where he endeavoured to earn an humble livelihood for himself and family. He did not belong, like his hon. and learned Friend, to the wealthy class—the great Merchant Princes associated with ideas of the City. Like his hon. and learned Friend he viewed these great ones at a respectful distance, his admiration for their grandeur being not altogether unmixed with a feeling of that envy of which the hon. and learned Member was the admitted exponent in the House. As far as he was going to trouble the Committee with a few remarks, he stood upon the bare central principle of justice—that the City of London should be treated in the same way as any other constituency having its exceptional character ought to be treated. He supposed that the hon. Member would admit that the City was entitled to some representation, the only difference of opinion being as to how many Members it was entitled to. Everybody knew that to look upon those who slept in the City as its population was absurd. If they adopted that artificial method of calculating the population of the City it was only entitled to one Member; but everybody knew that to call the population of the City of London 50,000 was an absurdity. It was true that only that number actually slept in the City; but they ought to take into consideration all the people who exercised their call- 1152 ing there and were there all day long. He had watched the conspiracy which had been going on in some quarters of the House against the population of the City ever since the beginning of the present Parliament. He remembered the arrangements made for the Census of 1881, and the strong Party feeling shown by hon. Members opposite, and especially by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), in their desire to secure a Census which would reduce the Census Return of the City to a minimum. He remembered the Corporation coming down with a most modest proposal—namely, that there should be taken by the Census authorities of the United Kingdom a day Census of the City of London, according to the principles that they might approve, and that all the expenses of this Return, which would have been most interesting, should be borne to the last shilling by the Corporation. But that proposal was scornfully rejected by that House, and he admired the effrontery of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Firth) and his associates when they now came down to the House and abused the Census that was taken because it was not quite as reliable as it might be. It was not as reliable as it might be because the President of the Local Government Government Board, the hon. Professor, and many others who wanted to reduce the Return as far as they could, gave the matter a factious opposition.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he was sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman; but, as a matter of personal explanation, he desired to say that he regretted he was not in the House at the time the division was taken on the question referred to, and he did not take part in it. Therefore he could not have offered a factious opposition.
said, if the hon. and learned Gentleman was not there in the flesh he certainly was in the spirit. Whose fault was it that the Return was not so reliable as it might have been? It was the fault of those who prevented the arrangement which he had mentioned. The City of London was the most remarkable example at present in the country of a movement which was going on in every great town, and which the Legislature of the future would find 1153 itself compelled to ratify. That was that in great towns people were ceasing to sleep and have their families and their domestic homes in the place where they carried on their business. And the City of London, although the most remarkable instance of this, was by no means the only one. In Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds the practice was also beginning to be adopted, and the centres of those towns were inhabited at night by an exceedingly sparse population, which by no means represented the people who had their business there during the day. 80 it was in the City. Could it possibly be contended that the Gentlemen elected by the people who slept in the City would adequately represent the commercial interests of the City? If they wanted the first City in the world to be adequately represented they must allow the vote to those who carried on their business there, and who worked there throughout the day. He would tell his hon. and learned Friend who did not know the number of electors in the City that there were 26,636; and, according to all the principles of the Bill, 26,636 were entitled to more than two Members. The City of Bristol, which, under this Bill, was allowed four Representatives, had almost identically the same number of electors. This was not a case of giving additional representation to the City. The City was not asking for additional Members, which the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think, but was simply asking to retain the same number of Members they had had for the last 550 years. The City of London was only asking to be treated in the same manner as other large constituencies, but with the additional argument in its case that the number of electors it had entitled it to the number of Members it at present enjoyed. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chelsea had stated that, when duality of voting was done away with, the electors of the City would be only 2,000. He thought that was rather begging the question. Speaking for himself, he thought he should be inclined to exercise his franchise if he only had the right of voting once, not in the place where he had his house, where he had practically but few public interests, but in the place where his business was conducted; and where, although he had no domestic home 1154 there, all his public, all his mercantile, all his commercial interests were situated. The hon. and learned Member had expressed an opinion in regard to the City, and it might be true that the hon. and learned Member was right in anticipating the decadence of the City; but when that decadence took place it would be time enough to take away its representation. He did not know whether the Government made this a question of the existence of the Bill. He had made up his mind generally to vote in favour of all points in the Bill which were vital, on the ground that his Leaders had entered into a sort of arrangement with Her Majesty's Government, and he, for one, was prepared to do his best to carry out the arrangement; but if he was at liberty to give a vote for his hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler), his sense of justice would compel him to go into the Lobby, and say that, according to all the principles of this Bill, the number of registered electors in the City of London was entitled to at least four Representatives.
In regard to the appeal which the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down has made to me, I can so far answer it as to say that, undoubtedly, this arrangement, we think, is one by which a very considerable indulgence has been given to the City of London. That is our opinion; and it was, undoubtedly, one of the points which formed the subject of communication before this Bill was introduced to the House that this community of 51,000 persons, according to the Census, should return two Members to this House. I need not go further than to say that it was so considered, and so disposed of, in order to give the hon. and learned Gentleman an indication as to the direction in which he should vote. It has been said that we have been actuated by pique in this matter. I can very well excuse the hon. Alderman who moved this Amendment, and those like him, who have been closely associated with the City for many years, and have held high office in it, for certain statements which they may make. But it is not so easy to excuse the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay), who has not been in the habit, I think, during his Parliamentary career, of becoming connected with great communities, but who, I believe, has rather been 1155 remarkable for his wanderings among small ones. It is said by these hon. Gentlemen to be pique that has influenced us in this matter. In the first place, if it be pique that has led the Government to be parties to this arrangement, I think it cannot be pique that has led those with whom, however, that arrangement has been made to concur in it. I would also point out that if we were to be influenced adversely to the City of London by the fact that it returns a majority of two Members opposed to the Liberal Party, a thing which it has hardly ever done, except in the last few years, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman might well ask himself why pique did not lead us to a similar course in the case of the Universities, where we have never had a majority, where out of nine seats seven are held to be perfectly secured to the Conservative Party, and no Liberal seat can be regarded at best but as precarious, and where the whole mass of University Members may be considered as nearly forming an unbroken phalanx from generation to generation opposed to the principles of the Liberal Party. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman must see that the same motives of pique must have entered here. Our Bill rests on the basis of certain principles, and we should have had an easier argument against the present Amendment if we had applied those principles to the City of London with unflinching rigour. It is because we have deviated from those principles in favour of the City of London that we are now challenged by our opponents in this debate. If we have been actuated by pique, I suppose that it has been to bring some benefit to ourselves that we have made this reduction in the number of Representatives to be allotted to the City of London. But this change will not be beneficial to us. The balance of votes, supposing the balance of opinion to remain as it is now, will remain unchanged. At present the City returns three Tory Members against one Liberal Member, and, taking one from three, leaves a balance of two Members against the Liberal Party. Let us suppose that this Bill becomes an Act, and that the City returns two Members, there is little doubt that each voter being allowed two votes, two Tory Members will be returned, and a balance of two against the Liberal Party will remain undimi- 1156 nished. I must say I have been much struck with the course of this debate. If I understood the argument that has been used on the other side of the Committee, a great deal of it rests upon this principle—that the basis of this Bill is a bad basis, and that the Bill ought to be mainly constructed, not with a view to the representation of persons, but to the representation of property. That, indeed, appears to be the desire of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). He says there are 26,000 electors in the City of London, and complains that we only propose to give them two Members. But how came there to be 26,000 electors? The speech of the hon. and learned Member was a direct challenge to extreme politicians on this side of the House never to rest until they have established the principle of population, pure and simple. How came there to be 26,000 electors in the City of London? On account of the astonishing indulgence with which the City is treated in respect of the Livery votes. Is a constituency so made up entitled to be considered man for man as the constituency of other towns? The hon. and learned Member says we shall not find elsewhere a constituency of 26,000 voters with only two Members. But he is mistaken in this. Newcastle has 27,000 voters, all of whom, with the exception of a very limited number, are real men of flesh and blood, who live in Newcastle and nowhere else. It is a genuine representation of men who have a single vote each, and where the persons having a double vote form a perfectly insignificant proportion of the constituency. But in the City of London the persons having a double vote, and, in some cases, a treble and quadruple vote, are the general rule of the constituency; and when we are told that they ought to be considered as voters for the City of London rather than as voters elsewhere, that is an argument directly against the principle of the Bill, because it amounts to this—that commercial interests and property are the first things to be represented, and men are a secondary consideration. The hon. and learned Member complained of the night Census; but the night Census is the universal principle of the Bill, and the universal principle of the Bill is, forsooth, to be overturned because it operates unfavourably to the City of London. But it does 1157 not, because those who form the day population of the City of London have their vote elsewhere. ["No, no!"] What does the hon. Gentleman say? [Mr. BARING: I say no! Sir.] Well, I would suggest to the hon. Gentleman that it may lead to inconvenience if all of us express conflicting opinions at the same moment. Let us bear in mind the manner in which the principles of this Bill are applied to London and to other places. London is given this extraordinary advantage—first of all, it is favoured with a radius of 25 miles, instead of a radius of seven miles, as in all other great towns; and, secondly, it is allowed to form ad libitum a large proportion of its constituency of close and irresponsible Corporations. I must observe also that the Amendment is one that would involve a further increase in the numbers of this House. None of the hon. Gentlemen who have supported the Amendment have indicated where the additional Members are to be obtained from if London is to continue to have four Members. One hon. Gentleman said that Wales was over-represented. Are we to take Members from Wales, or from Ireland? These hon. Gentlemen have not considered that if the 12 counties of Wales, the national existence of which has not been recognized for the purposes of legislation for the advantage of Wales until within the last year or two, are now to be recognized for the purpose of inflicting a penalty on Wales, the Principality is not the district of the country with which they will have to begin. If Wales is to be deprived, because it is, as alleged, somewhat too highly represented—I do not now wish to enter into the case of Ireland—hon. Gentlemen opposite will have to begin with the South Western counties of England, which are more highly represented than Wales; and when they look about for additional Members to be given to the City of London, they will have, I am afraid, to be obtained by withdrawing some of those Members which, according to this Bill, are intended to be allotted to that portion of England. I will for a moment compare the City of London with the City of Liverpool. Some hon. Gentlemen appear to have rather a mean idea of Liverpool. I would observe that the City of Liverpool has been quite as remarkable a supporter of Conservative principles as the City 1158 of London. But hon. Gentlemen speak of Liverpool and other towns as if you only required to go a very short distance and you are out in the country. Hon. Gentlemen do not know the town. I am conversant with a district which is five miles from the Liverpool Exchange, and that district was exclusively held by villas until within the last six or ten years—so exclusively that I remember well in the ecclesiastical district the clergyman had not the means of distributing his alms, and he had to send them elsewhere in order to find people to receive them. That district is now being broken up for a dock population, and the former inhabitants are, of course, going out to greater distances. It is a great mistake to suppose that a radius of seven miles includes the whole population of Liverpool who transact their business in that place. No very small number of persons belonging to Liverpool actually live in Chester and the neighbourhood, and there is a continual tendency to further dispersion. I am sure that a much larger radius than that which has been mentioned will be required to include the whole of that population. But to that population we give no benefit whatever. We apply to it with the utmost rigour the principles of the Bill. Whereas in London a population of 51,000, by the Census, is to have two Representatives, in Liverpool, in the Exchange Division, a population of 72,000 persons, exactly analogous in its constant pursuits, is to have one Representative, the only difference being that in the Exchange Ward of Liverpool there are no Liverymen, and there is no advantage to be drawn from their living within a radius of 25 miles. To dwell on this figure of 51,000 is quite idle, because it is well known that the radius has an enormous effect in London in the multiple or double vote. We have done our best to maintain that double vote; but the pressure that is now made for so extreme a case as to allot four Members for the City of London makes it extremely difficult to expect that if such a demand is granted the double or property vote could for any length of time be maintained. If we grant this claim it is plain, in my opinion, that the granting of it would raise discontent in other large towns to a point such as would disturb the general structure of the Bill. I do not think 1159 that the 72,000 in the Exchange Ward of Liverpool are particularly well satisfied now by having no regard paid to the situation of that population. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen cheer, and I take that as virtually an expression of assent to my proposition that like demands would be advanced on behalf of populations in an analogous situation in other great towns. But, as I have said before, principles have been inverted for the convenience of argument. Another instance occurs to me. What is one of the arguments for this Amendment? It is that London, as a whole, is under-represented; and because London, as a whole, is under-represented, according to the provisions of this Bill, therefore the City of London is to be largely over-represented relatively to it numbers. If London is under-represented the proper remedy is to give more Members to London at large, and not more to the City of London, if the arrangement is to be a just and equitable one. Therefore, when I say this Motion is a Motion for the further increase of the number of Members of this House, I say it not only because there are two seats to be found which you will have great difficulty in finding, but also because I am satisfied that those other great communities would not rest satisfied with the arrangements of the Bill were we to recognize in the case of the City of London certain considerations, and then deny entirely to those other communities the benefit of such considerations. And it must be remembered that, great and extraordinary as has been the increase of London, the increase of some of these other communities has been more rapid still. In my boyhood the population of the town of Liverpool was certainly not more than one-twelfth part of the population of London. I am not sure that it was so many. But if the population of Liverpool were now to be counted in the Liverpool district on both sides of the river, in the same way as the Metropolitan district is counted, the population of Liverpool would be more than one-sixth part of that of London—and perhaps very considerably more. All these things must be taken into view. We have desired to recognize the primacy of London. We have done so by a deviation from the general principle of the Bill, in which, on the whole, I 1160 trust the Committee will be disposed to acquiesce. But we cannot afford to give that excessive recognition to the old arrangements of the City which might lead to a disturbance of the general provisions of the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) complained that we were inconsistent in refusing to give four Members to the City of London, while boroughs of small population were retaining their separate representation. I suppose he referred principally to boroughs of 15,000 and upwards. [Mr. GORST: Boroughs having two Members.] But why is that done? It has been done because in those cases where towns have constituted historical communities, with a distinct local and municipal life transmitted through many centuries, it has been thought wise to sanction that principle, and to allow that element of common life, as well as the element of population, to enter into the consideration. But I am sorry to say there is no case in which the element of common life is so little applicable as the case of the City of London; because, although you have a Municipality in the City of London, that Municipality is perfectly distinct and separate from all the greatest interests of the City of London. The great powers that are concentrated in the City of London, the vast knowledge, the vast command of commerce, the eminent men who have grown up in connection with its commerce, have constituted a class distinct and apart from the Municipality. The Municipality has had ample honours of its own; it has established a high and honourable place in the history of the country. Still, that is a character that does not in the slightest degree admit of its being compared with the other great communities, so far as regards union between the municipal institutions and the leading classes of the community such as you will find in Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, or elsewhere. If the hon. and learned Member will urge the argument that the City of London ought to have four Members, rather than that any town of under 50,000 inhabitants should have one, or that any town of upwards of 50,000 should have two, I can only say that if he applies that he will find it go very far—so far as to alter essentially the provisions of the 1161 Bill. He will find that that principle will be ruthlessly applied in the case of the City to the double vote, and to the influence given by that double vote to property, and that the final result of the operation would be not that the City would benefit, but would fare worse than under the moderate arrangements of this Bill.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I have heard several times in the course of the discussion observations made by some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House as to the position in which we, who were parties to the arrangement before the Bill was introduced, now stand in reference to the question before us. I have heard several references to myself, which I cannot consider as very complimentary. At the same time I feel very well assured that if my hon. Friends will take the trouble to consider the arrangement, as a whole, they will form a somewhat more favourable opinion as to the merits of that which we agreed to with the Government. The speech of the Prime Minister has been one of so exhaustive a character, that it hardly leaves me much to say in the way of fresh argument. But I wish strongly to impress on my hon. Friends how very important it is to us to preserve many of those things in our Constitutional system which are preserved under this Bill, and which we are not at all sure would have been preserved in the face of a strong Radical majority, if it had not been for the agreement to which we came. I will take the point referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), and he put the point as clearly and powerfully as anyone I have heard speak. I observed that he and others said—"We consider the position of the electors of the City, and we find that those electors are many of them men who are deeply interested in the commercial and mercantile welfare of the country. They do not spend their nights in the City; they spend their nights elsewhere; but they spend their days in the City, and their principal interest is not in the house in which they sleep, but in the house in which their business is conducted. Would you rather, under all the circumstances, give your vote in the constituency in which you happen to live, or in the constituency where you have your principal business to do?" Well, 1162 my answer is, I should like to give my vote in both, and under this Bill you will have the power to do so. Every man who has a vote for the City of London at the present time will continue to have a vote for the City of London; and if he has a vote elsewhere—in Surrey, or Brighton, or anywhere else in the country—and if he combines with his interest as a mercantile man some share in landed property, he will preserve the right to those votes, which, if you had simply the "one-man one-vote" system, he would lose. It seems to me that in that respect we have made an arrangement under which we have secured the retention of this important franchise—a right of voting which gives us so large a Conservative element, and of which, but for the agreement, we should have been deprived. The Prime Minister has used another argument which also occurred to me—that this is really not a question of a Party character, because what you may expect to do under the Bill is exactly what you do at present. At present you have got three Members on one side, and one on the other. There are now three Conservative Members, and I hope that will always be the balance of opinion in the City. But whether the majority be Conservative or Liberal, you would generally find, if the existing state of things were to continue, that there would be three on one side, and one on the other; and, as the one Member must be told off to balance one on the other side, the result would be that the majority would have an efficient balance of two. You will have exactly that now. Under this Bill, if the Conservatives are in a majority in the City they can secure both seats; but if you introduce four Members you raise the question of the minority vote—a system which will be applied to that constituency, and to no other. That of itself would be an inconvenience we ought not to subject ourselves to without some good reason. A point which has been strongly urged tonight, and which was urged upon us when we were considering this question before the Bill was prepared, was the position in which other great centres of commerce and industry would be placed. In none of them is there made this distinction which is made in the case of the City of London. Neither in Liverpool nor Birmingham, nor in any of the 1163 seven constituencies that were enumerated by the President of the Local Government Board do you find any distinction made between the central district which answers to the position of the City of London and the other parts of those towns. You find that Liverpool, Birmingham, and the other places are divided into single-Member districts; and upon no other grounds than respect for the greatness and historical position of the City of London and its undoubted importance is an exception made in its case, which exception is in exactly the same proportion as the representation of the City of London now bears to the representation of some other large cities—that is, it has twice the number. It will still continue to have twice the number, and it will have that representation on account of the desire to preserve its primacy. Under these circumstances, it seems to me we should be acting unwisely if we were to jeopardize and break up the whole machinery of the Bill—unless you are dissatisfied with the machinery as a whole. [Ironical cheering from the Conservative Benches.] Some of my hon. Friends cheer that; but if you are dissatisfied with the machinery, the issue before us will be somewhat different. Undoubtedly, the effect of passing this particular proposition would be to make the retention of single-Member constituencies more difficult. It would make the whole scheme of the Bill unworkable, unless it were recast, and you were to find the seats you propose to add to the City. Remember, again, the great importance which has been given to the Metropolitan representation by the large increase in Metropolitan Members. The Metropolitan Representatives are raised from 22 to, I think, 59—not very far short of three times the present number. That is a large increase, and no doubt many of the new Members will represent the mercantile and business interests which you desire to see the City of London represent. It is no use attempting to add to what has been so well said by the Prime Minister. It does appear to me that his argument on the subject is a strong argument in itself, irrespective of considerations having reference to the arrangement that has been entered into. I should be quite prepared to support the Bill founded on those lines, and including this provision, even if I had not 1164 been concerned in any previous arrangement. When I take the whole arrangements of the Bill together, and see how one part hangs to another, it seems to me that we are making an exceedingly good arrangement.
SIR, THOMAS CHAMBERS
said, it was a remarkable thing that the proposal of the Bill to reduce the representation of the City of London by one-half was supported by the argument that what was left of its representation was still much more than was in accordance with the principles on which the Bill was framed. He did not mean to go into the general position of the City of London, in comparison with other towns, though he thought the speech of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister rather implied that there ought to be some other alteration besides the one sought to be made by the Amendment. The one point to which he would invite the attention of the Committee was this—that the night Census arrangements were made purely for the convenience of enumeration, and did not touch any principle. The fundamental principle of the Bill was population; but it was no part of that principle that the population should be enumerated at midnight. Wherever in any town in England the mere question of the apparatus or machinery for taking the numbers interfered with the substantial principle of the Bill it ought to be discarded. There were a few towns and cities in England besides London where the night population was a most inadequate representation of the real population of the place. What was the argument to be derived from that fact? After the machinery of the Bill, wherever the question of machinery came in to interfere with the principle of the Bill and defeat its very object, which should give way? Was the substantial principle of the Bill to give way? Were they not to represent numbers because they took it into their heads that, for the convenience of counting, it was easier to count sleeping people than waking people? He thought the better plan was to save the principle of the Bill by sacrificing in individual instances the machinery for estimating the population. In every case where the mode they had chosen for the convenience of counting the population was a mode which defeated the object of the Bill, 1165 they should vary it. In this particular instance they should allow another mode of enumeration. By that they would not interfere with the principle of the Bill; but, on the contrary, would more successfully carry it out, and secure a more truthful representation. What magic was there in counting people when they were asleep, especially if they were the nobodies in the district in which they slept? In Liverpool and other great towns, in proportion as they progressed and became more successful, the more would the people sleeping there be nobodies. Yet it was argued that the representation of those great cities, instead of being increased, ought to be diminished, because they had adopted a rule of enumeration which did not apply to all cases. He should have no fear of the result of this division if it were an open question. When, following the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition argued in favour of a Bill about which they were both agreed, and about which both the great Parties were agreed, he and those who advocated this Amendment stood in a very disadvantageous position. But he would simply ask the Committee to consider this question—would they let a subordinate rule as to machinery upset and defeat the very principle which was the foundation of this Bill?
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
observed, that if the ideal intelligent foreigner so constantly appealed to were asked to put his finger on the most surprising feature of this Bill, he would assuredly place it on that clause which cut down to one-half the representation of the City of London. He might imagine they had reached the period which Macaulay prophesied when the New Zealander should stand on London Bridge and survey the ruins of the City of London; and he might suppose that, out of pure pity for its antecedent greatness, the Government of the day had condescended to give it an appearance of representation. But when he came to understand that the result was the result of a principle avowed and acted on through the whole of this Bill he would be more astonished. The principle of the Bill was based on population and a particular scheme of enumerating numbers. That principle was one which lay at the foundation of incipient society. 1166 It was the only rule which could be followed among uncivilized peoples. If a Zulu Chief were to call a meeting of his people, he would say—So many spearmen shall send so many Representatives. If the Mahdi were to convene a Parliament in Khartoum, he might require every 10,000 spearmen to send one Deputy. But in civilized countries they had long since passed over the idea that population was everything. Population was not everything. What, till the last year or two, had been the condition of their representation? It had depended, not on the growth of population, but on the growth of wealth and science. If it were to be said that the growth of wealth was a vulgar ingredient to introduce into such a subject, he should answer that wealth was what constituted the safety of this country. It was nothing but the wealth of this Country that the country could rely on in all emergencies when it had to fight for its rights and liberties. In the City of London, beyond any other city in the world, these variety of interests were to be seen. Not only was the City of London the great centre of the trade and manufacture of the whole world, but it was the centre of the trade of their extensive Colonies. Beyond that even, it was the centre of all financial operations; and that was the pivot upon which, more or less, all the commerce of the world was practically transacted from one end of the year to the other. Then, again, he asked, independently of the interests which had to be represented, what were the duties of the Representatives of the City? They were not simple, and they were multifarious. They had not only to give their advice and assistance to the Government, but they were especially charged with the cares and interests of the constituency which sent them there, and it was their duty to see that the interests of the fund-holders were not affected by an adventurous Chancellor of the Exchequer. In a great crisis like the present, moreover, they were bound to act not only in reference to the interests of their immediate constituents, but with regard to the interests of the whole country. The Prime Minister and the President of the Local Government Board had both remarked upon one feature of the case, with regard to the electors of the City of London, that, as now consti- 1167 tuted, they had double votes. But that I was no compensation for reducing the number of their Representatives. If they had a dozen votes each that would not increase the number of Representatives in the City, and that was a grievance with regard to the diminution of the representation, not as to the treatment of the voters themselves. It was quite true that they might have special privileges as voters for places other than the City; but that did not affect the number of Members they were entitled to return for the City. Having regard to the importance of the City of London, not only population, but taxation also, ought to be taken into consideration. If they took the question of taxation they would come to this important result—that of the whole sum upon which Income Tax was paid under Schedule D, amounting to over £240,000,000 for the whole country, the City represented £38,000,000—that was to say, about one-sixth, or 16 per cent of the whole Income Tax levied. If property were to have its due weight in the representation of the country, the City, instead of four, would have 100 Representatives. They did not ask for quite so many as that; but they did ask that they might keep their own; and that, he maintained, was a perfectly reasonable demand. It was not the sleeping population that formed the real population of the City, but the waking and the working population. This was a question which touched not only the City of London, but it touched the whole world. All the world was interested in the City of London as the seat of commerce and the centre of finance. In the face of all England, in the face of all Europe, in the face of all the world, it was the greatest indignity they could offer, to lower the representation of the City from four to two Members. He regretted the words which had been used by his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote); and, speaking at a time when he could have no interest in the matter except the interests of the country and the City itself, he maintained that the mischief and the insult inflicted upon them, if this proposal was carried, could not be compensated for by any clauses which the Bill contained. He would rather that the whole Bill went overboard than that it should be 1168 carried with this clause in it. He would close his remarks with the expression of his most intense grief at the position in which they had been placed by the arrangement entered into between the two Front Benches, and with the hope that hon. Members would be sufficiently independent to act in this matter quite apart from any instructions which they might have received, and that they would vote in accordance with what they believed to be best for the interests of the country at large.
MR. ALDERMAN LAWRENCE
said, it appeared to him that the Committee had been placed in a very extraordinary position. He had thought that they were now considering the clauses of that Bill, and that it was really open to them to discuss them. He had had no idea that by any provisional arrangement between the Leaders on both sides of the House the House of Commons was to be manacled and fettered, and its deliberations turned into a kind of solemn farce. When it was first rumoured in the City that the number of its Representatives in that House was to be reduced from four to two the report was not believed. Even when it appeared in the Bill it was never for a moment supposed until they had just heard it from the Prime Minister and from the Leader of the Opposition, that by this agreement, covenant, or treaty, come to between the Leaders of the two great Parties, they were to endeavour to solve any difficulty in which they might find themselves involved in connection with that measure by taking away from the City of London one-half of its present representation. The supporters of the Amendment had been asked whether they had any scheme to propose by which the two other seats they sought to retain for the City could be provided; but he said that if, as he contended, injustice would be done by the Bill it was not their business, as the responsibility of devising the means of correcting this monstrous injustice devolved entirely upon the Government. The interests of the citizens certainly ought not to be sacrificed in consequence, or in fulfilment of an arrangement to which they were no parties. Many Reform Bills had been brought in before this one, but in none of them had it ever been suggested that the number of Members for the City should be reduced from four to 1169 two; and if no agreement in this case had been arrived at between the Leaders of both Parties he believed that no such proposal as that contained in this Bill would ever have been made by the Government on their own responsibility, as they knew full well that hon. Gentlemen opposite would have strongly opposed the proposition, and that there would have been no probability of its becoming law. They had had a great many reasons advanced as to why this reduction in the representation of the City was to be made; but he desired to offer some arguments on the other side. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had that night exhibited a surprising want of knowledge when he had spoken of the City of London, which he had said was confined to certain limits. He had admitted that the City had an immense amount of trade; but he said the ships were down the river. The right hon. Gentleman did not appear to know that the Thames itself, from the Nore to Staines, was actually under the control of a Body the greater portion of whom were appointed by the Municipality of London, combined with certain other authorities. The River Thames was really under the control of the City of London. There was no city in the Empire, and there was no city in the world, that could be compared to the City of London. The hon. and learned Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth), who had an imagination which never lost an opportunity of displaying itself, told them that the City of London was losing its population, and implied that it was diminishing in importance, the fact being that whilst the sleeping population wag less the active working day population was rapidly increasing. The City of London was not only the centre of the commerce and finance of the United Kingdom and its Colonies, but it was also that of the whole world, and contained within its boundaries numerous Markets, as the Money Market, the Stock Exchange, the Royal Exchange, the Bank of England, the great Import Market in Mincing Lane, the Corn Market, the Coal Exchange, the Book and Newspaper Markets, the Wool and Dry Goods Markets, and the immense Provision Markets, most of the Insurance Offices, all the London Joint Stock Banks and Branches or Agencies of every Bank and Banker 1170 throughout the United Kingdom. There was no combination of varied interests such as was found in the City in any other place in the world. It was, in fact, the combination of these varied interests which gave the City its peculiar character. Liverpool had a large amount of shipping, but London had gone ahead and far exceeded it; and he believed this was mainly owing to the changed current of commerce caused by the completion of the Suez Canal. London was the centre, and held the control and direction of nearly all the shipping of the world. He was not finding fault with cities elsewhere; all he said was, that the City of London had no rival. It was true it had been decreasing in regard to its sleeping population; but he could explain the reason of that. For instance, there was a Bill before Parliament to provide sites for the enlargement of the Post Office and the Post Office Savings Bank. The people who were living and sleeping in the houses would be dispersed in order to make way for these extensions. There were 18 or 19 Railway Stations in the City of London. Was there any other city in the Kingdom where there was such a large number? In order to obtain sites for the Railway Stations houses bad to be removed, and those who slept in them had to sleep outside the City. Then, again, in connection with the completion of the Inner Circle Railway, and the consequent improvement of the streets, a large number of houses had been removed, and the population cleared away. As a matter of fact, the houses of the City of London during late years had been raised to such a height that be believed the present City was equivalent to three or four of the old cities piled one on top of the other. He was surprised at the argument which had been used by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. It seemed to him that the bargain between the Party Leaders had been made in reference only to the nature of the votes. It was a case of agreeing to divide the votes like in olden times, when there were a number of Election Petitions presented at the commencement of a new Parliament. The two Party Whips threw a Petition against a Petition across the Table to each other, until there were only four or five left, and then they would fight those out. In this case it was no 1171 question of having a majority of two votes on either side of the House, or simply two on one side and none on the other; for, as he had already pointed out, what they wanted was such a number of Members as would adequately represent the varied interests which were involved in the City of London. There was no question at all as to whether the City Members were Tory or Liberal; for, to whatever Party they belonged, they felt themselves bound to do their duty to their constituents in furthering their commercial interests in every shape and form. Hon. Members who represented counties knew nothing whatever in regard to the duties of a Member of Parliament for the City of London. The Representatives of the City of London from 1832 downwards had been merchants, bankers, and members of the commercial classes. They had never found that the City of London had selected a Lord. [An hon. MEMBER: Lord John Russell.] Except in the case of Lord John Russell, when he was Prime Minister. The City had never elected a Colonel, an Admiral, or a Lawyer, and, least of all, it had never elected a Professor. The City of London wanted men who understood its commercial interests. It would be to the citizens a matter of deep regret that the two Parties had found it necessary, in order to carry out their arrangement, to sacrifice them. It was a singular thing that throughout this debate there was only one Member on that—the Government—side of the House found to support this proposal, and that was the hon. and learned Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth). That hon. and learned Member had stated that this was a generous arrangement, because, according to the sleeping population on a Sunday night, the City was only entitled to one Member; but why had not the Government limited the representation of the City to one Member, as that would have been logically correct according to their theory of population? Because they found themselves landed in a reductio ad absurdum. They had taken away two Members, and now they wanted to be considered generous for not taking away three. The electors of the City wished to know where they could find their Representatives in the City, and it had rarely been the case that, during the last 50 years, they had been unable to find them 1172 in the City when they were wanted. Apart from these considerations, and viewing the question as a whole, it having been admitted that the City was placed in an exceptional position and ought to be treated in an exceptional manner, the subject of the sleeping population ought not to have entered into the question. He considered that this was simply a discussion upon an Amendment from which no result could be obtained, because the whole matter had been settled behind their back some time ago by the Government and the Opposition.
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
expressed his profound regret that he was unable to take any real part in this debate. He had put an Amendment on the Paper to the same effect as that of the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler); but he desired to explain that he had done so in complete ignorance that it was part of the bargain which the Prime Minister had confirmed that evening, and that it would be inconsistent with the preservation of that bargain that the Members of the Front Opposition Bench, at all events, should vote for the Amendment. Therefore, he could take no part in this discussion; and he wished to say distinctly that he considered a bargain ought to be kept in its spirit as well as in its letter. He wished to explain this, because his name appeared on the Paper to a similar Amendment to that at present before the Committee; but it was put there in complete ignorance of the spirit of the bargain. He, at all events, hoped to keep any bargain made on his behalf in the spirit as well as in the letter.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 162; Noes 117: Majority 45.—(Div. List, No. 53.)
who had given Notice that he would move to insert the words "and University" after the word "borough," in page 2, line 8, explained that the object aimed at had been to put all the Universities in Great Britain and Ireland on the same footing, but that as it might be possible to deal separately in another Bill with this subject, and as the subject was so thoroughly discussed a few nights ago, he had no desire to re-open it, and therefore he should not propose his Amendment.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 5 (Boroughs to have additional Members).
§ Clause 6 (New boroughs).
§ Clause 7 (Boroughs with their boundaries altered).
MR. ARNOLD MORLEY moved the omission of the 2nd sub-section from page 2, line 29, which dealt with the four boroughs—Bristol, Exeter, Norwich, and Nottingham—which formed counties of themselves, and the freeholders in which were entitled to vote, as such, for the borough, with the view of inserting the following sub-section in its place:—
(2.) From and after this present Parliament the several divisions of counties named in the first column of the Schedule to this Act shall respectively include, for the purpose of Parliamentary Elections, the several boroughs or parts of boroughs respectively named in conjunction therewith in the second column of the said Schedule, and freeholders, as such, shall cease to vote for the Election of Members for the said boroughs.
The hon. Gentleman said his Amendment referred to four boroughs which were counties in themselves. Before the passage of the Reform Act of 1832 there were 19 boroughs in the same position; but by that Act 13 of those 19 boroughs were merged in the surrounding counties, for the purposes of Parliamentary election. He had tried to discover why only 13 of the 19 were so treated in the Reform Act of 1832; but he had failed to find in the Parliamentary debates of the time any reason for it. At all events, 13 were merged in the counties, and it was provided that from that time the freeholders of these 13 boroughs should vote in the counties. The present Bill as it now stood dealt with two of the remaining six boroughs, and treated those two in the same way that the Act of 1832 treated the 13 that were merged in the counties; and the object of the Amendment which he now proposed was to treat the remaining four boroughs in the same manner. He could best explain the position of the freeholders in these four boroughs—Bristol, Exeter, Norwich, and Nottingham—by comparing the position of affairs in two such boroughs, say, as Nottingham and Derby. If a manufacturer or other resident in Derby was the owner of freehold property and also
resided in the borough, he was entitled to vote for the borough on a residential qualification, and he also had a vote for the county through his property qualification. But in Nottingham a man situated in the same position did not get a vote for the county. His (MR. Morley's) proposal was to assimilate the practice of the four towns he had mentioned to the practice which prevailed in every other town throughout the United Kingdom. The first ground for this proposition was that an anomaly of this kind, affecting only four boroughs in the United Kingdom, should be removed; but he admitted that the opinion of the inhabitants of the four boroughs themselves was entitled to very considerable weight, and so far as he was aware there was no strong feeling in these four boroughs for the change he proposed. But he thought there was another reason of greater weight which deserved considerable attention at the hands of the Government, and that was that the Bill as it now stood had a disfranchising effect. The Committee were probably aware that in the two cases of Nottingham and Bristol a considerable area was included in the Parliamentary borough from what, up to the present time, had been within the county, and in which the freeholder had had a right to vote for the county. The effect of including that area within the Parliamentary borough for the future would be, to a certain extent, to disfranchise certain freehold voters who up to the present time, had had a vote for the county. It might be said that they could vote for the borough instead of for the county; but the right of a freeholder to vote for the borough was limited by restriction of residence within seven miles, so there would, to a certain extent, be some measure of disfranchisement, though no doubt it would not be large. The Amendment which he had the honour to move was in no sense one hostile to the principle of the Bill, because, on many of the Amendments which had been moved both to this and to the Franchise Bill, the Government had used arguments which had been of very great weight, but which had been mainly based on the desire which had governed the framing of both those measures not to bring about any disfranchisement of any sort or kind. He was therefore entitled to ask that the
careful consideration of the Government should be given to the Amendment he proposed. It might be said that this Amendment was one which should have been proposed rather upon the Franchise Bill than upon the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill; but he would say with regard to that that the 7th clause of the present measure—the clause to which his Amendment applied—did in effect create a change in that very respect, because it added to the areas of the boroughs as they stood, making a change in the very opposite direction to that which the present Amendment proposed to bring about. The Bill proposed to add to the boroughs, and therefore not only to disfranchise, but also to enfranchise, in another way; and his proposal was that instead of adding to an anomaly which at present existed by increasing the area, they should do away with it altogether by throwing the area of the four boroughs, so far as freeholders were concerned, into the counties, and giving the freeholders a right to vote for the counties. He moved the Amendment in order to hear what arguments the Government might use. The matter was one which, at all events, deserved the consideration of the Government.
How does the hon. Member propose to fill up the blank in his Amendment before the word "Schedule"?
§ MR. ARNOLD MORLEY
Yes; a new Schedule. It is an Amendment to the existing clause; but, of course, it introduces a new Schedule which would have to be moved subsequently, if my present Amendment were adopted.
In page 2, line 29, to leave out sub-section (2), and add "(2.) From and after this present Parliament the several divisions of counties named in the first column of the ninth Schedule to this Act shall respectively include, for the purpose of Parliamentary Elections, the several boroughs or parts of boroughs respectively named in conjunction therewith in the second column of the said Schedule, and freeholders, as such, shall cease to vote for the Election of Members for the said boroughs."—(Mr. Arnold Morley.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."1176
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENBY JAMES)
I suppose, Sir, that this Amendment is in Order, as you called upon my hon. Friend to propose it; but I should have thought that it was not in Order. It is true that a certain section of this Bill deals with area; but this Amendment is really a disfranchising Amendment, and it is a matter which should have been dealt with, not in the present measure, but in the Franchise Bill. I understood my hon. Friend himself to say that that is so. We are not answerable for the legislation of 1832. If we had to justify it, probably we could not do so in all particulars. But we found that the ownership vote was maintained in these six constituencies; and in the Franchise Bill we determined what we should do with certain franchises—as, for instance, the freehold franchise. In order to retain as much as we could, we retained the freehold vote in these boroughs, and agreed not to disturb the existing right of the freeholders to vote in them. It was not our legislation; but we wished to disturb existing rights and privileges as little as possible, especially where they related to the ownership of property. This is a disfranchising Amendment which we did not introduce into the Franchise Bill, and we cannot accept it. Our objection was mentioned when we were discussing the Franchise Bill; and if we took any other course, we should be re-opening now, in the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, what was settled and accepted by both sides of the House before. Of course, we could have tried to get rid of the ownership vote; but as we did not try to get rid of it in the Franchise Bill, we ought not to endeavour to get rid of it in the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill.
§ MR. LEWIS FRY,
as representing the largest of the four boroughs affected by the Amendment, wished to point out that his constituents were quite satisfied with the present state of things, which had existed for many centuries. His hon. Friend had argued that the present state of things was an anomaly; but that was scarcely a very cogent argument, unless the hon. Gentleman was prepared to abolish the existence of these boroughs as counties. He (Mr. Fry) was opposed to the Amendment, because it would increase the area of the dual 1177 or plural vote, and he believed that that would not be in accordance with the general feeling of the House. He was glad to hear that the Government were not able to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LEWIS moved that Progress be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Lewis.)
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
thought it was an unusually early hour (12 o'clock) to move that Progress should be reported, and he suggested that the Committee should go on further.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
suggested that, at any rate, they should not take the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), as that raised a very large question, and a great number of Members, he understood, desired to take part in the discussion upon it.
said, it was necessary that they should get as early as possible to the Report of Supply. The Supply Votes which were to be reported that night were only passed at 4 o'clock in the morning; and when the Government were obliged to force Supply through at that rapid rate, it was only right that they should give some time for the consideration of the Report.
said, the Government were so entirely satisfied with the spirit in which the debate had been conducted, and thought the request, under the circumstances, for an early consideration of the Report of Supply was so reasonable, that they would assent to the Motion to report Progress after the clause now under discussion had been agreed to.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
thought the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman was a most reasonable one.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, there was no reason to believe that the next Amendment on the Paper would take up much time.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he hoped the Government were not disposed to yield everything in this matter. When the Supply Votes were taken at 4 o'clock this morning there were only three Members of the Opposition present—the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson), a noble Lord, and the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler). Where were the rest of the Opposition, then? Why, they were at home, in their beds. They now proposed, at 12 o'clock, to move that Progress be reported simply for their own amusement, in order that they might have the pleasure of talking about General Gordon, who was dead and gone. Did the Opposition give the Irish Members any assistance last night? No; the Irish Party had to fight the Government alone and unaided. The fact was that the Tory Party wished to thrust this money Vote for Gordon's relatives down the throats of the Government.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
MR. HEALY moved, in page 2, at end, add—
Provided, That no right of freeman franchise shall be acquired or acquirable by any resident in any part of the new area so added.
He said his proposal was one of a very slight character; and, so far as Ireland was concerned, it would not affect that country at all. But the freeman franchise was peculiar and undefined; and his notion was that if the present borough area, with the right of freeman franchise contained within it, were extended to the two-mile radius, there would be new rights springing up within that two-mile radius which did not exist there before. If there was the right of freeman franchise within the mile radius, he thought it should not be extended, by reason of the extension of the borough limits, to the two-mile radius. Perhaps he should be met by the statement that all rights of freeman franchise were heritable, and descended by birth. But, in his judgment, that was not so; and there was at least one borough in Ireland where a man could acquire the freeman franchise by serving in a particular trade. His view was that there were certain boroughs in Ire-
land and in England where the freeman franchise was obtainable by residence and by the practice of certain trades; and it was indefensible that the area of such an indefensible franchise should be extended outside its present limits. If the borough of Gal-way had its boundaries extended by this Bill for 100 yards, or half-a-mile, or half-a-dozen miles, it would bean unfair thing to give an extended right of freeman franchise within the new area. He did not care whether the Government accepted his Amendment or not; he had only put it down because he thought it was a fair thing to do. He should be happy to withdraw it if it did not meet their views.
In page 2, at end, add "Provided, That no right of freeman franchise shall he acquired or acquirable by any resident in any part of the new area BO added."—(MR. Sealy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
We quite sympathize with the desire of the hon. Member not to encourage the extension of these old privileges; but, so far as the freemen are concerned, I must say that the Amendment is not wanted, and that it would have no effect at all. In England you have a certain number of freemen existing by virtue of birth. Although you may extend the boundaries of a borough, you cannot extend the number of people who have been born, or who will be born, freemen. Only those people who got the freeman franchise by descent would have it. The hon. and learned Member puts another case, with which I am not so familiar, where persons acquire rights by exercising particular trades. I will only say that we will consider that point, and see whether it is necessary to deal with it in any way. At the present moment, I must confess that I do not see how we could deal with it. If it is good for one part of a borough, I do not see why it should not be good for the rest. It would be impossible to say that a person on one side of a street should, by following a particular trade, become a freeman, while another person on the other side of the street, under the same circumstances, should not become a free- 1180 man. All I can say is that we will consider the matter.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next.