§ Clause 8 (Division of Parliamentary boroughs).
§ MR. RITCHIE
Several attempts have been made on more than one occasion to ascertain from the Government what they consider to be the vital points of the Bill; but these attempts have always failed, or have been met evasively. It is evident to the Committee, however, that the Government are clearly determined to maintain the Bill, as it has been presented to the House, not only on questions of principle, but also on questions of even what some of us consider matters of merely minor detail. I am one of those who have always advocated, as strongly as I could, the ar- 1448 rangement in the matter which was ultimately come to between the Government and the Leaders of the Opposition, and I have not changed my opinion that that arrangement was a desirable one to come to, and that it was good for all parties concerned. But I am bound to say that the extremely hard-and-fast manner in which the Government seem determined to draw the lines of the agreement is calculated to militate strongly against any future proposal for entering into such an arrangement. We certainly did expect that there would have been some amount of elasticity in regard to questions of detail. But in whatever way these hard-and-fast lines may have been applicable to other matters which have come before the Committee on previous clauses of the Bill, I venture to say that the Government will find great difficulty in taking up that position in reference to the Amendment I have placed upon the Paper. Certainly nothing that may be said either by the Government or by the Members of the Front Bench below me upon the Amendment I am about to move can show that it is objectionable because it involves a departure from the principles contained in the Bill. So far from that being so, I believe it will be admitted both by the Government and the Front Opposition Bench that the Amendment I am about to move is one which carries out in its entirety one of the main principles, if not the main principle, of the Bill. That being the case, the Amendment which I have to move is one which not only ought not to be objected to by either Party to the agreement, but which ought to be welcomed by both Parties. I do not think I am wrong in stating that the principle of single-Member constituencies is one of the main principles, if not the main principle, of the measure. It was so described by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in introducing the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the division of constituencies into single-Member constituencies was one of the main principles of the Bill. The question then for consideration has reference solely to that principle. I may say that I do not wish to pause here to discuss whether it is a good principle or a bad principle—for my own part, I think it a good principle, and a principle the House ought to accept; but I 1449 can understand that there are Gentlemen in the House who may consider that the principle is not a good one. I can understand that there are many reasons why hon. Members should arrive at a conclusion of that kind. All I would lay down on this particular principle is this—that as Her Majesty's Government and those who negotiated this compromise with them have considered it a good principle, this good principle should be applied to every constituency dealt with by the measure. How is it applied by the Bill, as it stands, at present? Every county is divided into single-Member constituencies. All the new boroughs are divided, and all the old boroughs which are allowed to receive an additional Member are also divided into single-Member districts; but there is this singular and, I venture to say, ridiculous anomaly in the system—that while the old boroughs which are to have additional Members and the new boroughs which are to be created under the Bill are to be divided into single constituencies, the old boroughs returning two Members are to be left undivided. The old boroughs which have had one Member added to them are to be divided into single-Member districts. I venture to say that this is a ridiculous and absurd anomaly, and I cannot conceive what possible argument can be used in support of it. I have inquired of many hon. Members on both sides of the House what argument can be advanced in support of the proposition contained in the Bill; but I can find no one who has been able to put forward a single reason or argument why these exceptions should be made. As far as I have looked into the matter there are 23 boroughs which will stand in the condition of dual constituencies, while all the other boroughs will be single-Member constituencies. So far as I can gather the only basis upon which this proposition is made in the Bill is the one stated by the Prime Minister when he introduced it—namely, that the unity of municipal life ought to be maintained in these boroughs. But what argument can the right hon. Gentleman employ for maintaining the municipal life of a borough like Dundee, and destroying the municipal life of a borough like Aberdeen? Dundee, being a borough which now returns two Members, is to be allowed to remain un- 1450 cut up, while Aberdeen, which is a borough very similar in many respects to that of Dundee, is to receive an additional Member, and is to be divided into two single-Member constituencies. Surely the municipal life, of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, will be destroyed in the case of Aberdeen by cutting up that city into two districts? Then, again, let me take the case of Leicester and Nottingham. What possible argument is there for maintaining the municipal life of Leicester and destroying the municipal life of Nottingham? I might go on multiplying these cases considerably, but I think the illustrations I have given are sufficient. If there be advantages in cutting up the municipal life of some boroughs they must equally apply to all boroughs. When the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister introduced the Bill he recommended the single-Member system. He recommended it on the ground that it would be economical. Then I want to know why, if elections in single-Member districts will be attended with economy, the principle is to be applied to Aberdeen and not to Dundee, and why it should be applied to Nottingham and not to Leicester? The right hon. Gentleman stated also that the single-Member principle went a very long way towards that which many hon. Gentlemen have at heart—namely, what is termed the representation of minorities, the representation of separate interests and pursuits, and that the adoption of the principle would lead to a large diversity of representation. Then I want to know why the 23 boroughs I have spoken of are not to enjoy that large diversity of representation which the right hon. Gentleman says is a capital object in a good electoral system? As far as I can gather there is no possible argument in favour of preserving the dual representation in the ease of these 23 boroughs, and I am unable to see why the advantages which the right hon. Gentleman says, and says truly, are conferred by the one-Member system are advantages which ought not to be applied to all the boroughs of England alike. As far as the argument is concerned, I maintain that it is altogether in one way. My Amendment involves no departure, whatever, from the principle of the Bill, but simply an extension of that principle to the whole 1451 of the Bill. I also contend that it is an anomaly to have 23 boroughs excluded from the general principle of the measure; but although it is an anomaly, I do not ask the Committee to reject it on that ground. I am not one of those who desire to see the Constitution of this country set out as a mathematical problem. I am not afraid of acknowledging that I have some regard myself for anomalies; but for this particular anomaly I cannot for the life of me see the slightest reason why it should be adopted, or why it should be considered a vital principle of the Bill by either one side of the House or the other. If the Committee will consent to my proposal, which is simply that all boroughs returning two or more Members should be divided into divisions, they will do away with a glaring anomaly for the existence of which no reason whatever can be assigned. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name on the Paper.
In page 2, line 36, to leave out the words "mentioned in the Sixth Schedule to this Act," and insert the words "returning two or more Members,"—(Mr. Ritchie,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The hon. Member has pressed the Government very much to state whether this matter is regarded as one of those vital points which entered into the agreement between the two Parties, and I therefore think it is only right that I should say that it is a vital point of the agreement, and that the adoption of the Amendment would be a breach of the agreement. The hon. Member seemed to think that the Government have determined to draw a line, hard and sharp, with regard to Amendments, in consequence of the agreement between the two Parties, and to apply it rigidly to all hon. Members who wish in any way to alter the clauses as they appear in the Bill. Now, Sir, I hope that as we go on in Committee the hon. Member will find we are by no means disposed to draw the line rigidly, but that we shall be ready to accept, freely, Amendments which do not interfere with general principles or with the lines of 1452 the Bill, and which meet with the approval of the House. When Amendments are in their natural place on the Schedules, hon. Members will find that there is a disposition on the part of the Government to meet what may be the general and freely expressed wish of the House. The hon. Member has spoken of the matter now before the Committee as if it were one of mere detail; but the view that is taken of single-Member districts is, as he has fairly stated, that the boroughs generally, as well as the counties, should be divided into single-Member districts, except the City of London, and except those boroughs which, having two Members at the present time, are not to receive more than two by the Bill—that is, boroughs which gain no advantage by the Bill. I would freely admit to the hon. Member that the arrangement that has been arrived at on this subject is somewhat of a compromise between opinions of different kinds. There are persons on that side of the House, as was shown by the cheers with which the speech of the hon. Member was received, and others also on this side, who are in favour of single-Membered constituencies, while, on the other hand, there are persons of both political opinions who are opposed to them. These differences of opinion are naturally reflected in any body of persons who may act on behalf of the different political Parties in the State. As I have said, I freely admit to the hon. Member that the arrangement to which he objects is somewhat in the nature of a compromise. I am, myself, like the hon. Member, in favour of single-Membered constituencies. I believe in them in principle, and I have argued in favour of them in discussions which have taken place in this House. But there is a great deal to be said in favour of departing from that principle, if you once adopt the principle of excepting any constituencies in any part of the Bill from the general rule. The hon. Member has pointed out that we retain in the Bill the second seat in the ascending scale of boroughs up to the point of 50,000, which gives two Members, and that in those cases we divide the constituencies to which the additional seat is given into two separate districts. He asks why, as a logical conclusion, we do not adopt the same course in regard to the boroughs which have two seats 1453 already, and which are still to retain two under the Bill. Now, the general principle we have adopted has been to interfere as little as possible with existing interests in the middle size constituencies. We have displayed great tenderness towards them, both in regard to boroughs and counties. The hon. Member has asked upon what principle—if there is any argument or principle at all—we have been guided in the system we have adopted. We desire, as little as possible, to interfere with the unity of the boroughs which are given Representatives under this Bill. The hon. Member desires to secure the representation of minorities by providing single-Membered districts. So do I. But while it is easy to secure the fair representation of minorities in boroughs which are to have their Members increased, in boroughs having already two Members that is far less easy, for if there is a minority of a considerable size, the result, of course, would be that the minority would obtain far more than its fair share, and would, consequently, neutralize the political influence of the borough. Therefore, the representation of minorities on the single-Membered system does not apply so completely to boroughs with two Members as to boroughs having more than two Members. The hon. Member has drawn a sharp comparison between the boroughs of Dundee and Aberdeen and the boroughs of Leicester and Nottingham. Aberdeen is one of the boroughs which is to gain a double representation under this Bill, and in consideration of that fact it was thought fair that Aberdeen should be asked to submit to division into two parts. So also in the case of Leicester and Nottingham. Leicester gains no new representation, while Nottingham gains an additional Member. We have tried as little as possible to depart unnecessarily from existing arrangements. If we were to listen to the wishes of the constituencies, there can be no doubt at all that those which do not receive an accession of strength in their representation by this Bill greatly dislike the idea of being divided into equal parts. As far as I know, there is only one exception—only one out of the 23 boroughs spoken of by the hon. Member is inclined to favour a division into two parts, and that from local and personal reasons. All the 1454 others—22 out of 23—are opposed to the idea of division. Their view is not confined to one political Party in the State, but is shared generally by all political Parties and by the municipal authorities. Under these circumstances, I would ask the Committee to reject the Amendment of the hon. Member; but, in making that request, I will assure the hon. Member that he will find no indisposition to meet the views of the Committee generally later on in the Bill, when we come to the Schedules.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, I have listened with surprise to the greater part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I was aware that the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) was an Amendment inconsistent with the terms of the agreement entered into between the two Parties, and I was, of course, prepared to find that the right hon. Gentleman would call upon us, under the terms of the agreement, to resist the Amendment, and I myself was prepared to do so on being so called upon. But there was one expression of the right hon. Gentleman which somewhat surprised me, and which renders it necessary for me, at all events, to rise, in order to prevent any misunderstanding on the part of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the proposal with regard to these 23 boroughs is in the nature of a compromise. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he, for his own part, is in favour of single-Member constituencies. Now, if these statements are allowed to stand without any comment, it might seem to imply that there had been a difficulty between the Government and the Opposition, and that it was the Conservative negotiators who objected to that principle of single-Member constituencies. I think the more accurate account would be this. Both the Marquess of Salisbury and myself were anxious to introduce the system of single-Member districts. We considered that single-Member districts would have many advantages, and among them the great advantage of aiding in a satisfactory way, to a certain extent, the representation of minorities. After consideration upon that subject, the Government agreed to accept the principle we had striven for. It was very doubtful, however, at that time how far the principle of 1455 single-Member districts would be accepted by the House and the country; I and, no doubt, there was a natural hesitation in regard to introducing a principle which might turn out to be very much disliked. Therefore, a compromise was arrived at by which the Government consented to accept the principle of single-Member districts, on the whole, with the reservation that the 23 towns which at present are above the limit of 50,000 in population, which have two Members, and which are to continue to return two Members, should remain untouched. Upon that understanding, we came to the agreement at which we arrived. That, undoubtedly, is the line of the agreement, and the line by which we are prepared to abide. It is one that is clearly laid down and defined. But it does appear to me that, since the Bill was introduced, there has been a considerable change in the public feeling in regard to single-Member districts, and I should have been ready now to discuss the matter from another point of view, under what I believe to be the altered circumstances in regard to public opinion; but as the matter had been put before the Committee by Her Majesty's Government, and they express their desire to call upon us to adhere to the lines of the Bill, we shall undoubtedly do so; and I cannot, therefore, support the Amendment, although I think there is a good deal of force in the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie).
I am desirous of bearing testimony to the perfect accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, nor was the statement made by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) at all at variance with it. My right hon. Friend, no doubt, spoke of a compromise, and he was justified in describing the arrangement as part of a compromise; but he was thinking, not so much of a compromise between Parties, as of a compromise between principles. There were certain principles we were desirous of laying down, and, of course, there was that principle which lay at the very root of the whole measure, and which has received stronger support than any other principle—namely, the principle of population; and coming after that was 1456 the principle of the representation of diversity of interests—a matter in which it was only natural that hon. Gentlemen on this side should feel great anxiety, and one in which it was not the less natural that hon. Gentlemen opposite should feel greatly interested. It was considered that this representation of diversity of interests was likely to be secured by single-Member districts. To that principle the Government gave, on their part, a cheerful adherence, as being by far the best mode of solving the most difficult problem of distributing a considerable number of Members among the more populous towns of the country. In the third place, came the principle which I have referred to more than once in this House, and which I think the right hon. Gentleman himself, and other Members of the House, are disposed to value, and that principle is a disposition to respect the historical existence and the common life of the towns that for a long time have existed as communities in our Parliamentary system, and which are sufficiently large to return Members of Parliament by the votes of a considerable number of persons. That principle of common life has been very largely respected. Perhaps the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), who moved the Amendment—and I must say in a very moderate and able manner—will allow me to correct what he said. He spoke of the 23 towns as constituting an exception and an anomaly in the framework of the Bill. Undoubtedly, it is the simple fact that they are to continue to return two Members to the House, and in that respect they may seem to constitute an anomaly. But it is to be observed that the framers of the Bill have been desirous of striking a fair balance between two principles, both of which, no doubt, conflict up to a certain point—that of respecting the unity of common municipal life transmitted through many generations. In the case of the smaller towns—that is to say, of between 15,000 and 50,000 inhabitants—there is no compensation, because there is to be only one Member, and the community of existence and interests is preserved. It is at the higher end of the scale, where the constituencies are very large, we feel that the municipal unity must be invaded, because any attempt to pre- 1457 serve it would be attended with great disadvantages in other respects. But with regard to the towns which now return two Members, and are to continue to return two Members under the Bill, the considerations which have operated in our minds have been two. First of all, the desire of the towns themselves to have unity of representation is not an unimportant element. Speaking generally, I believe there is a strong desire on the part of the towns which now return two Members, and which are to continue to return two, to have their unity preserved. That, as I have said, it an important element in the consideration of the matter, and we think that, unless some stronger reasons exist than have already been shown, and which may be applied to the case, it is not desirable to interfere with the municipal and historical unity of these communities. My right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) has shown, I think, that there is a different reason which tells another way. Where you have a large town divided into five or six districts, the presumption would be that the different interests would obtain fair representation according to their magnitude and influence. Undoubtedly, it is very likely that in returning two Members, and where parties are almost equally divided, each party should return one Member, and in that case the minority would get more than it was entitled to. I admit that that is often the case now in particular towns, but it is done by the free will of the entire community. I do not object to the letting in of a second Member, although he may represent a somewhat smaller number of voters than those represented by his Colleague, provided it is done by the free will of the entire community. In the three-Member county constituencies, before the Minority Clause was introduced, where each elector had the power of giving three votes, if you will inquire into the history of the matter from the time of the first Reform Bill, it will be found that the majority had the means of appropriating the whole of the representation; but there have been a large number of cases since the Reform Bill where the minority has been allowed, under the Minority Clause, to obtain a share in the representation. Under all the circumstances of the case, 1458 I trust that the Committee will give its sanction to the Bill in its present state.
§ SIR FREDERICK MILNER
said, he was afraid that unless the Government consented to give way, the Committee would have to submit to the anomaly which had been pointed out by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). As, however, he represented a constituency (York) which was largely interested in the question, he hoped to be allowed to say a few words upon it. The Bill was founded on the democratic theory that each Party of the State should be properly represented. As objections were entertained against proportional representation, or any similar system for the representation of minorities, the Government and the Opposition Leaders had agreed to adopt what was called the single-seat system. It was quite true that many hon. Members viewed that system with daily increasing dislike; but no doubt it was the fact that, however much they disliked it, they must put up with it as they best could. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) that there was no possible argument why boroughs having more than two Representatives should, be divided into single-seat constituencies, and why even counties returning two Members should also be divided into single-Member constituencies, if the same principle were not to be extended to boroughs already returning two Members, whose representation was not changed by the provisions of the Bill. He desired to point out that a great injustice might be done in a large number of places—especially where those who held Conservative and Liberal opinions were pretty equally divided—if this Amendment were not agreed to. He would take the case of York, where, in 1884, his majority was only 21. He was not supporting the Amendment from any selfish motive, because he had good reason to believe that, owing to the curious freaks in which Her Majesty's Government had indulged during the last 18 months, his majority would be increased very largely at the next Election, in consequence of the votes of a number of patriotic Liberals who valued the interests of their country above that of Party. But, be that as it might, hon. Members would admit that in a constituency like York, where the Con- 1459 servative and Liberal Parties were almost equally divided, it would be a gross injustice if the opinions of each Party were not duly represented in the House of Commons. Yet, under the system proposed by the Bill, that was precisely what might happen; and if the Liberal Party in York found themselves stronger by only one vote, and all its members were whipped up by the exertions of the indefatigable 400, they might obtain both seats, and the Conservatives would have none, although the strength of the two Parties was nearly equal. It was quite evident that that would be a palpable injustice. No doubt it would be said that the same thing might happen if the borough were divided; but he would confidently assert that in no double-seated borough throughout the country, where political opinions were equally balanced, would two Liberals or two Conservatives be returned. He had not had the advantage of hearing distinctly the arguments which had been brought forward against the Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke); but he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that, as far as possible, the Government had been anxious not to interfere with existing interests. He (Sir Frederick Milner) confessed that he could not see how, by dividing the two-seated boroughs, there would be any interference whatever with any existing interests. On the contrary, he thought it would promote existing interests, rather than interfere with them. The only arguments he had heard outside the House were—(1) that it might happen that if the borough were divided, there might not be the actual number of voters prescribed for the return of a Member to Parliament; (2) that if the double-seated boroughs had been divided, it would have thrown much extra trouble upon the Boundary Commissioners; and (3) that it might possibly have increased the Conservative strength. The first of those arguments was the only one worth glancing at; but he did not see how any hon. Member could argue that the fact that each Member was not returned by the prescribed number of voters allowed for each Member ought to prevent such a fair system from being introduced, the general principle being to divide the urban districts in the country upon a system 1460 which would secure uniformity as far as possible. Hitherto Her Majesty's Government had not displayed much inclination to meet the wishes of those who sat on that side of the House; but he hoped they would think twice before they rejected the Amendment, and thus perpetrate an act of injustice which would remain as a great blot upon their Bill.
§ MR. WARTON
said he only wanted to make one short practical observation. He was very glad indeed to hear, at the beginning of this discussion, right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House say that this question was a matter of contract between both sides. It was much to be regretted that the debate on the representation of the City of London the other evening was allowed to drag on for four hours, and, after all the discussion which took place, to find that the subject had also been a matter of bargain between the two Front Benches. It was desirable on this occasion to obviate a similar misunderstanding at the earliest opportunity.
§ MR. HICKS
said that he had an Amendment upon the Paper of a very similar character to the one which had been proposed by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). There was only this difference between the two Amendments—that his included the words "except the City of London." He wished to put a question to the Chairman upon a point of Order—namely, whether, if the Amendment of his hon. Friend were negatived, or the first part of that Amendment were rejected, he (Mr. Hicks) would then be able to move his Amendment? He hoped he had made himself distinctly understood. What he wanted to know was, whether, if the first part of the Amendment were negatived, he would be in Order in moving the one which stood directly afterwards in his (Mr. Hicks's) name?
I think the Amendment of the hon. Member is very much to the same effect as that which the Committee is now discussing. If the present Amendment is negatived, I do not think the hon. Gentleman would be in Order in moving his Amendment.
§ MR. HICKS
said, that in that case he should like to say a few words on the subject now. The hon. Member for the 1461 Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) had told them that he was one of those who approved of the existing alliance between the two Front Benches. He (Mr. Hicks) was one of those who had never approved of it. He thought there was evil in it in the first instance, and the more he saw of the Bill the more he saw the liberties of the House sliding away from under their feet. Could anybody doubt it? What did the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Sir Thomas Chambers) tell them upon that day week? The hon. and learned Member maintained that if the Motion then before the Committee had been put in a free House, the four Members for the City of London would have been maintained. [Cries of "No!"] Yes; that was what the hon. and learned Member said, and he (Mr. Hicks) contended that the liberties of the House were being destroyed by the agreement between the two Front Benches. He came next to the question of the one seat. There again he differed from his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). He thought the one-seat principle was bad, and the principle which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister seemed to approve—namely, the principle of three-corner constituencies, was a much sounder one, and one that would be much better for the country. But if they were to have the single-seat constituencies, he maintained that the principle ought to be carried out universally, in the way it was to be applied to the counties and to a large number of boroughs, especially to those upon whom extended representation was to be conferred. There was no principle whatever in retaining the 23 boroughs to which reference had been made, with two seats for each borough. When the Prime Minister spoke of political life and historical life in boroughs, was there no historical life in the counties? Did not the electors in the counties desire to be retained as county voters, instead of having the counties cut up into wards with extraordinary names, which he believed the Committee would never, for one moment, retain when they came to the Schedules? If they would consult the county electors, he believed it would be found that they were unanimous in preferring to remain as counties, instead of being divided into districts. Her Majesty's Government, 1462 in this Bill, compelled them to become electors for divided constituencies, and yet they did not consider it necessary to apply their own convictions to the boroughs. Anyone who looked into the political constitution of the boroughs in question would find that the majority of Members they returned were supporters of this very truly Liberal Cabinet. For his own part he should certainly vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that after the discussion which had taken place, and after what he had heard from the two Front Benches as to this question being a matter of bargain between them, he did not feel justified in asking the Committee to divide. He was certainly desirous of maintaining the bargain as far as possible, and he would not put the Committee to the trouble of a division. He thought, however, that it was a greater anomaly than the existence of these boroughs to find that the two Front Benches were in favour of the principle for which he contended, and yet that they had come to the conclusion that it was impossible for them to support it. They had had one or two reasons given for retaining these 23 boroughs from the other side of the House; but he thought that probably the real reason and the real argument had not been mentioned—namely, that for the 23 boroughs which were proposed to be retained as dual constituencies the proportion of Representatives returned was four Liberals to one Conservative.
asked if it was the pleasure of the Committee that the Amendment should be withdrawn? [Cries of "No!" from the Ministerial side of the House.]
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that as the Committee would not allow the Amendment to be withdrawn he should certainly take a division upon it.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 253; Noes 44: Majority 209.—(Div. List, No. 57.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
Before this clause is agreed to, I am anxious to say a few words to the Committee. The House has allowed myself and hon. 1463 Members who agree with me to lay our views on proportional representation fully before it, and I do not propose to restate the case.
I am afraid that the error I have committed, and which I sincerely regret, will prevent the hon. Member from moving the Amendment, the Question having been put, "That Clause 8 stand part of the Bill." It will, however, be open for the hon. Member to make any remarks he desires to offer to the Committee.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
Sir, the House has been kind enough to allow us to lay our views on proportional representation fully before it; and though this clause raises other considerations, and if the hon. Baronet the Member for Buckingham (Sir Harry Verney) goes to a division, I shall, of course, vote with him, still I do not propose to trouble the Committee by restating the case. No importance is, of course, to be attached to the division which took place on my Instruction, because it was during the dinner hour. If, indeed, we had only been defeated by 100 in a full House, when we had against us the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), that would be very encouraging. Moreover, though we had been deserted by one or two on whom we relied, we had received quite as many adhesions. Still we felt we could not reckon even in a full House on more than 150 to 200 Members. But, Sir, I am anxious to say one word more by way of explanation on the subject of chance. We have pointed out that if the second votes are distributed proportionally, there would be no element of chance whatever; but the mode we have suggested is somewhat shorter, and the chance which does, no doubt, theoretically exist, is infinitesimally small. We have stated that the odds would be 44,000 to 1 against chance making a difference of 1464 100 in a constituency of 25,000. We made this assertion on the authority of Mr. Stokes, the eminent Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. This statement has been flatly contradicted by the hon. and learned Attorney General and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. I have in vain attempted until now to induce any of our opponents to state on what authority they contradict our statement. But at length we have extracted an answer. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board seemed to regard it as a question of Oxford Mathematics versus Cambridge Mathematics, and he stated that a distinguished Oxford authority, Mr. Dodgson, "attached a far higher value to the element of chance" than Professor Stokes had done. Much surprised that Mr. Dodgson should have made any such statement, and being only anxious to arrive at the truth, I wrote to Mr. Dodgson, and asked him if he really questioned the statement we had made. In reply, he says—Dear Sir,—I have entire confidence in the accuracy of Professor Stokes's calculations, and fully accept his conclusion.The statement of the right hon. Baronet, therefore, entirely breaks down, and I think the Committee and the right hon. Baronet himself will feel that we have completely substantiated our statement that the amount of the element of chance is just what we stated it to be. Whether it would be worth while to take the small amount of trouble which would completely eliminate even this minute fraction, I will not, of course, now occupy the time of the Committee by discussing. My right hon. Friend denies my statement that this Bill will multiply areas or dissociate the Parliamentary constituencies from the areas of local government. I confess I cannot understand this. Take Liverpool, for instance; it will be divided into seven constituencies. Is not this multiplying areas? In how many cases I should like to know—in how many of the whole number—will the boundaries of a constituency coincide with those of a municipality? But, Sir, though we do not propose to raise the question again, we are not convinced. In Ireland we believe the effect will be disastrous. Ulster, indeed, may, and I trust will, send Loyalist Representatives; but it is ad- 1465 mitted on all hands that the effect of the Bill, out of Ulster, will be that our Loyalist fellow-countrymen may not obtain one, or, at any rate, not more than a single Representative. It seems unwise—might I not say it seems madness—to devise a system which will silence and exclude our friends, and give our opponents far more political power than under any just system they could fairly claim. Sir, I repeat that though we do not propose to raise the question again here, we are not convinced. The effect of this clause will be to lower the character of this House; in large districts of the country it will entirely exclude the minority from any share of representation; about once in every four General Elections it will give the minority in the country a majority in this House; and, lastly, as has been pointed out by every bon. Member from Ireland, to whichever side he may belong, it will silence and exclude our loyal fellow-countrymen in Ireland, and thus practically handing over the whole representation of Ireland, excepting parts of Ulster, to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), will render the maintenance of the Union far more difficult, or perhaps render it impossible. We have done our best to prevent this, to warn our countrymen, and to avert these misfortunes. If any exertions of ours could induce the House and the country to pause before adopting a course so suicidal, no efforts on our part would be wanting; but we feel that in this House, at least, any further struggle would be useless. We shall continue our exertions in the country; but so far as the present clause is concerned, we are unwilling to give the Committee unnecessary trouble, and will therefore content ourselves with a respectful protest, and with the expression of an earnest hope that the country may in some way be spared the evils which we foresee, but which we are powerless to avert.
§ MR. HICKS
said, he very much regretted that in consequence of the unfortunate, although, he was certain, unintentional, mistake on the part of the Chairman, be was not in a position to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice in regard to Sub-section 3, and that, therefore, he was compelled to trouble the Committee with a few remarks on the subject. They had been told more than once that the Bill was 1466 not intended to deprive anyone of his vote; but this Sub-section 3 did deprive electors of their votes. It introduced an entirely new principle into the mode of carrying out the registration of the electors of the country. From the time of the first Reform Bill, persons possessing freeholds in different counties, or in different divisions of the same county, had exercised a right of voting in those several counties and in those several divisions. In this great Metropolis, which nobody could look upon but as one town, it was perfectly capable for an elector to have votes for Westminster, Marylebone, and the City of London. In the same way, the cities of Manchester and Salford were close together, and the same elector might have votes for both. But by this sub-section of Clause 8, it was for the first time proposed that this right of a person to vote in two counties or two boroughs should be abolished. [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: That is not so.] He (Mr. Hicks) thought that be was quite right. The words were—Where any Parliamentary borough is divided into divisions in pursuance of this section a person shall not be registered as entitled to vote and shall not vote in more than one such division.That was the point, and he maintained that it involved the introduction of an entirely new principle, and that a disfranchising principle. If it was to be applied to the City of Manchester, it might be applied to counties, and to the division of counties; to counties returning two Members, and to borough districts. He thought it was the introduction, almost clandestinely, of the thin end of the wedge of the "one man one vote" principle. It was the most democratic proposal ever made in that House. It had been contended that every man bad a right to a share in the representation of the country; but there was a great difference between an equal right to a share, and a right to an equal share. That was no new doctrine, nor was it a Tory doctrine. It was the opinion of a man who lived years ago, and was considered rather an advanced Member of the Radical Party—Horne Tooke. Horne Tooke said that he would give every man a vote for every bit of property he bad in every parish. Home Tooke contended, and he (Mr. Hicks) thought he contended fairly, that the 1467 larger a man's property the greater the stake he had in the country, and the greater the interest. It had been contended that one man's all was equal to another man's all. But that could not be true, because the all of a man advanced in life could not be recovered, while the all of a young man of 25, if destroyed, might be recovered. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board shook his head at that statement. There was doubt that it had not been introduced into the Reform Bill of 1832, or into any subsequent Reform Bill. He found, however, that it was useless in the present temper of the Committee to oppose the clause as it stood; but he hoped on some future occasion to have the opportunity of raising the subject again.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member did not quite understand the effect of the sub-section, or he would not have said that the clause was a disfranchising clause. No person was disfranchised by this sub-section. The hon. Member stated that at the present moment a man could vote for all the divisions of a county, or in two counties; so he could under this Bill. No doubt the principle was objected to, and it was intended to raise the question by Amendments to be moved later on. The hon. Member stated that, under the existing system, a person might vote in more than one Parliamentary borough. Under this Bill a man would still be able to vote for more than one Parliamentary borough, and even for a greater number of boroughs than he could vote for at present, because there would be a larger number of Parliamentary boroughs than now existed. The number of the Parliamentary boroughs in the Metropolis, for instance, was increased by the Bill seven-fold. The hon. Member stated that at present a man could vote for Salford, and also for Manchester; so he could under this Bill, The Bill disfranchised no one; but at present a man could not vote several times in Birmingham, and the Bill did not alter that state of things. A man for municipal purposes was prohibited by law from voting for every municipal division, and the municipal law was applied by the Bill to Parliamentary elections in boroughs. Probably, when they came to deal with the Amendments which proposed to prohibit persons from 1468 voting for more than one county, or more than one borough, he would find himself in the same Lobby as the hon. Member; but that question was not raised by the present sub-section.
§ MR. HICKS
said, he had listened with great attention to the right hon. Baronet; but he still maintained that the logical consequence of this section was to disfranchise men who had property in more than one part of a borough. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of Birmingham, and had stated that no one would be disfranchised. At the present time the electors of Birmingham had three Representatives, and every elector could vote for two of them. In future the borough would be divided into wards, and each elector would only be allowed to vote for one. What he wanted to know was, why an elector, having a residence in one district and a place of business and property in another, should not be entitled to two votes as he would be under the same circumstances in Manchester and Sal-ford;? There was no principle whatever in the case; and the Government were halting on this occasion—as they did on the last clause—between two opinions.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
thought the hon. Member had better not insist too strongly that there was no principle in the clause. Certainly in the boroughs the rating principle prevailed, whereas in the county elections the only principle involved was the possession of property. In a borough it was far easier to defend the retention of a name on the Register than it was in a county division. There was a common authority for registration purposes in the same town; but in regard to the county registration that was not the ease.
said, that no doubt the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Hicks) was perfectly right in stating that this clause introduced a new principle. It might not carry it further than it was carried by the present law; but if it were carried to its logical effect it would be the "one man one vote" principle. Hon. Members below the Gangway appeared to be anxious to smuggle through the Bill, without its real effect being understood. All he wanted to point out was that this was a new principle introduced into their electoral system. Hitherto no man had 1469 been debarred from voting in one Parliamentary constituency because he happened to possess a vote for another. Where the county or borough was large, and the constituencies were separated, any man could vote for each if he were upon the Register and possessed the qualification. This clause for the first time introduced this new principle—that in a limited number of constituencies carved out of what had previously been a single borough, although a man might possess votes in each separate constituency, he was prohibited by law from voting in more than one. He would not now discuss whether that principle was right or wrong. It was carried to so small an extent in the present case that it was hardly worth while fighting about except as a question of principle. He supposed that this was one of the points which had been considered and agreed to between the Leaders of both [political Parties. At the same time, he must enter a protest against the danger of allowing a precedent to be set in this particular case, which, if carried to its logical consequence hereafter, would introduce a new principle into their legislation.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENDRY JAMES)
said, that no new principle was introduced by the clause. He thought his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gorst) was mistaken in supposing that each ward or division of a borough was a constituency. Now, the borough was a constituency. It was only a Parliamentary town divided into divisions. The old principle was that one man might vote for more than one borough if he possessed the necessary qualification in each. That principle was still maintained; but by dividing a borough into different divisions each Member returned still remained a Representative of a borough, although for different divisions. At present, in the case of Birmingham, the Members returned were Members for Birmingham; and under this Bill the Members for Birmingham would not be Members of different constituencies in the borough, but for the borough of Birmingham. The only difference would be that, whereas at present each Member for the borough was one out of three, he would in future be one out of eight, and no elector would lose any portion of the privilege he now enjoyed.
said, that the right hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial Bench maintained that there was a principle in the Bill, whereas his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Hicks) maintained that there was no principle in it. Now, he did not altogether agree with his hon. Friend. He was reminded of the man who spoke of the seven senses, who, when told that there were only five, said—"Yes, there are five ordinary senses, but in addition to the five there are good sense and bad sense." In the same way he maintained that in this Bill there was a principle; but it was an abominable, bad, and unfair one. At present, if there were two Members, each elector could vote for two; but under this Bill no voter would be able to vote for more than one. It was all very well to say that the same elector might vote in different county divisions, or in different boroughs; but how would that be possible if it were provided that all the elections took place on the same day? Such a provision would effectually prevent persons who had votes for different constituencies from exercising the franchise. It certainly seemed to him that the Bill disfranchised those who ought to have a vote, and enfranchised those who ought not to have it.
§ MR. NORWOOD
desired to call attention to what he believed to be an omission in the Bill. Under the Bill, however many qualifications a man might possess in the same borough, he would only be able to vote for one district. He failed, however, to see that there was any provision made by which the Revising Barrister could prescribe the district in which such voter should record his vote. In the case of a borough returning three Members in three separate wards or divisions there would be a considerable number of persons who would possess the necessary qualification for a vote in each division. Certainly the division in which such persons should exercise the vote ought not to be left to chance; and he could not help feeling that there ought to be some provision giving the voter the option of signifying the district in which he desired to vote, or failing such an expression of opinion on the part of the voter, the Revising Barrister should have the right of assigning the voter to any division he thought right. For instance, if 1471 a man had a residence in one division, and did not express a desire to exercise the vote in another, an arrangement might be made by which his place of residence would be selected as a qualification. As he read the Bill, it contained no provision to meet that serious difficulty; and he thought it would be a serious difficulty in reference to boroughs divided into three or four districts, unless some machinery were provided to say where a man who possessed a qualification in more than one ward should vote.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, the question raised by his hon. Friend was one rather for a Registration than for a Redistribution Bill. The point would not be overlooked, and would be dealt with in the Registration Bill.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Hicks) had remarked that this was the thin end of the wedge; but it seemed to him (Mr. Lewis) that a material element in the case had been overlooked. In some parts of the Metropolis the Bill would materially increase the number of votes one man might have. Take the case of Marylebone. At present an elector for Marylebone voted for Marylebone, although he might have property in Paddington and St. Panoras. By the division of Marylebone into three boroughs the same man would have a vote for each. So, also, in the case of the division of the present boroughs of Chelsea, Hackney, and Lambeth. He could refer to many cases in which there would be an increase of the franchise rather than the disfranchisement which was suggested by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire. There were many persons in London who had establishments scattered all over the Metropolis, some of them having as many as 16 or 17, and they would be entitled to some six or eight votes, if not more.
said, that he had not overlooked that point; but what he contended was that this clause involved the introduction of a new principle. He was quite aware that in the Metropolis, where, as a matter of fact, the number of boroughs would be increased, plurality of votes would be very much increased, and the same man might have more votes than one. That arose from the fact that in the Metropolis the prin- 1472 ciple of division of wards into districts was not rigidly applied. There might be reasons for it in other cases, such as his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had given; but certainly in Parliamentary matters and in Parliamentary voting a new principle was about to be brought in. He wished to know, as he had failed to gather any information from the President of the Local Government Board or the Attorney General, whether this principle was only to be acted upon for the day, and was to be thrown overboard whenever a more Democratic Parliament was elected? He was not inclined to carry the matter further. All he said was that he agreed with the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Hicks) that it was the introduction of the thin end of the wedge, and the establishment of a principle which might hereafter be carried very much further.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
entertained very strong objections to the principle proposed to be established by this clause. He was convinced that under the proposed plan there would be a less independent class of Members returned than was formerly the ease, and he recollected pointing that out when the Bill was first brought into the House last Session. He regretted that the division of the boroughs into single-Member constituencies had been made a vital part of the Bill. He believed that what the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Hicks) had stated was quite true, and it was a misfortune to the country that the two Front Benches had come to an agreement. For his own part, he was very much inclined to rebel, and to invite the Committee to join with him in an act of rebellion. At present the Committee were altogether without information. They were in absolute ignorance of the grounds on which the two Front Benches had come to an agreement; and if such arrangements were to be entered into, it would be absurd to discuss any question that might be submitted to the Committee. He maintained that there were several provisions in the Bill which, if they had been discussed by the Committee separately without the existence of this understanding, would not have been accepted—for instance, the Committee would have, undoubtedly, rejected the proposal to increase the total number of the Members of the House. That 1473 question had already been discussed all over the country, and a general opinion had been expressed that it was not desirable to increase the number of Members. Certainly he should have thought that advantage would have been taken of so good an opportunity for reducing the number of seats given to Ireland. He fully appreciated the qualities of the Irish people. He was well acquainted with them, having a large body of Irishmen always in his own employment, and he had never had the slightest occasion to complain of the conduct of any of his Irish labourers. He had known 80 or 90 of them formerly employed in his own neighbourhood to get in the harvest, numbers now reduced to 40 or 50, and reposed the greatest confidence in them. At the same time, he could not see that any good or adequate reason had been given for preserving the present over-representation of Ireland. It must be borne in mind that the population of Ireland had been brought down from 7,000,000 to 5,000,000, and it was impossible to say where the diminution would end. In the event of the population being reduced to 1,000,000, was the existing representation still to be maintained?
I am afraid I must point out to the hon. Baronet that the question of the representation of Ireland is not involved in this clause.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he would apologize if he had, inadvertently, transgressed the Rules of the House. He would only add that he entertained a strong objection to the compulsory division of boroughs. He thought that the compulsory division of boroughs would in the future very much diminish, if not permanently injure, the character of the House of Commons.
§ MR. WARTON
asked whether Subsection 3 was included among the articles of agreement come to between the Leaders of the two front Benches? [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: No; it is not.] He (Mr. Warton) would like, under those circumstances, to make this observation. He thought it was extremely wrong in drafting the Bill to have one part of the clause a part of the bargain, and another part not. It would be much more advantageous if those portions of the Bill which were matters of agreement had been contained in separate clauses, while other parts which 1474 were not matters of agreement were put in a separate part of the Bill.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 9 (Division of counties].
said, ho had an Amendment upon the Paper to insert, after the word "Schedule," in page 3, line 12, the words—Except such counties as shall hereinafter by the provisions of this Act he deprived of one Member.He believed, however, that after the arrangements that had been made between the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition, the proposal of any Amendment was like throwing water into a sieve. He had put the Amendment on the Paper with the intention of moving it, and of ventilating the point which it involved in the Committee; but he believed that he would be able to do so at a future stage of the Bill, and, therefore, he would not put the Committee to the trouble of discussing the Amendment now.
MR. PICTON moved, in page 3, line 19, after "Schedule," insert—
Where any county is divided into divisions in pursuance of this section, a person shall not be registered as entitled to vote, and shall not vote, in more than one such division.
He ventured to differ from the hon. Member who had just spoken, and who seemed to think that it was altogether useless to propose any Amendment in that House. In spite of recent occurrences he should press his Amendment, because he remembered that in the course of the Autumn Session the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister stated, in answer to a Question, that hon. Members would be just as much at liberty to discuss the various parts of the Bill and to propose Amendments as they would have been if no agreement with the Opposition had been come to. He, therefore, intended to press this Amendment upon the consideration of the Committee, and he would do so in a very few words. As he gathered from the explanations which had been given by Members of the Government, the Bill was not intended to be a measure of disfranchisement, nor was it intended to do away with everything in the shape of an anomaly; but it was not designed
to multiply the individual power of voting, nor to increase any insidious anomalies under which the constituencies already suffered. Now, his contention was that the operation of Clause 9, as at present drawn, would be enormously to multiply the individual voting power, and that it ought to be prevented. He would take, for instance, the case of Middlesex. A voter who had one vote now might easily have seven votes under this clause. A voter in the county of Leicester, where his own constituency was situated, was at present able to give two votes for the county; but under this clause he would be able to give four votes, and even greater advantages were given in the case of large landowners, who had estates scattered over several divisions of a great county. He could not think that the Government intended, to this excessive degree, to multiply the individual voting power; and, therefore, he could not see why they should not apply to the counties the same provision which had been applied to boroughs. He had no wish to deprive the voters in separate divisions of a county of the number of votes they now possessed. For instance, if a gentleman had estates in North Lancashire, in North-East Lancashire, in South Lancashire, and in South-West Lancashire, he did not propose that he should be deprived of any of the privileges he now enjoyed; but what he desired was to prevent the separate votes he now possessed from being split up into a number of new ones for the additional constituencies created by the Bill. He thought these were sufficient reasons for urging this objection; and, therefore, without further observations, having explained what the point was he had in view, he begged to submit the Amendment to the Committee.
In page 3, line 12, after the word "Schedule," to insert the words "Where any county is divided into divisions in pursuance of this section, a person shall not be registered as entitled to vote, and shall not vote, in more than one such division."—(Mr. Picton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that personally he was very much disposed in the abstract to agree with the views of his hon. Friend. ["Oh!"] He was expressing his opinion as an indi- 1476 vidual, and that he had a perfect right to do. ["No !"] There had been some correspondence between an hon. and learned Gentleman sitting on the Front Bench opposite and himself as to the length to which parties to the agreement on the Bill could go in expressing their individual opinions; and from the answer he had received he believed that he had satisfied the hon. and learned Gentleman that his view was right. He was simply expressing his own individual view. The Amendment was one which, in his opinion, would, if adopted by the Committee, destroy the framework of the Bill. It dealt with a question of the franchise, and had nothing to do with the redistribution of seats; and upon that ground he should strongly oppose it. It was, in point of fact, a disfranchising proposal. He himself, as he had repeatedly stated in the discussion of the Franchise Bill, shared the views of those who desired to confine a man to one vote, with the right of exercising it in any portion of the country he chose, provided that he had the necessary qualification. But that was not a proposition which the Government could accept as a portion of the settlement of the question. The existing system of property representation had been, with the approval of the House of Commons, largely retained in the Franchise Bill; and, under those circumstances, it would be a great mistake to depart from the principles of that Bill in the provisions of the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill. Therefore, as the Amendment related to the subject of disfranchisement, and had nothing to do with redistribution, he felt bound to oppose it. His hon. Friend might contend that his Amendment would not apply to counties the principle which the Bill applied to boroughs. That might be so, but it was not the argument they had to deal with. The framers of the Bill had followed the present law in drawing a distinction between boroughs and counties. By the Bill they divided the boroughs for the first time, and in effecting the division they followed the municipal law, which forbade a man from voting for two divisions for the same qualification. But the counties had been divided for Parliamentary purposes from time immemorial, and since 1832 they had been largely divided. In reality each division of a borough and 1477 each division of a county were separate boroughs and counties for Parliamentary purposes. Therefore the adoption of the Amendment would introduce an entirely new principle. The Bill not only followed the present law, which treated each division as a unit, but they also acknowledged the existence of a double qualification, which had for years been recognized in the case of different counties and boroughs. The county qualification, which was a property vote, had been discussed on the Franchise Bill, and the House had decided to retain it. Therefore there was another reason for drawing a distinction in the case of county divisions and borough districts. He might point out to his hon. Friend that if he were to carry the Amendment it would substantially convert the whole of Yorkshire into one county for Parliamentary purposes.
§ MR. PICTON
said, that might be expressly guarded against by the insertion of the words "new divisions."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he had taken the words as they stood upon the Paper, together with the speech of his hon. Friend; and he failed to see how any distinction was drawn. His hon. Friend now offered to limit his proposal to "new divisions;" but in some cases a new division would not be altogether a new division—such, for instance, as the West Biding of Yorkshire. In boroughs the same condition of things did not exist, and it would be very difficult for his hon. Friend to word his Amendment in such a way that it would carry out the principle he recommended. The Amendment, however, was altogether outside the scope of the Bill; and it not only raised franchise questions, but new franchise questions, which were not raised in the discussions on the Franchise Bill last year, or in the discussions upon the Bill of the present Session. He was of opinion that if the Committee were to insert extraneous matter in the Bill they might jeopardize the settlement which had now happily been arrived at, and therefore he must resist the Amendment.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he thought the insertion of the Amendment would not only jeopardize the agreement arrived at, but would overturn it altogether. The hon. Member who proposed the Amendment supported it on the ground of what was 1478 called the "one man one vote" system. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was certainly surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet express his approval of that system.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that in those circumstances he was still more surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should, as a Member of the Cabinet, have given his adhesion to a Franchise Bill which did not carry out his own principles. That Bill avowedly retained the leasehold and the freehold, franchise. And it was essential that the right of exercising these franchises should be continued to non-residents, unless the leasehold and freehold franchise was to be abolished altogether. He had no desire to enter at length into the arguments for retaining the law as it stood, because the right hon. Baronet had fairly stated that county voters had always possessed the right of voting for different divisions of the same county; and it was perfectly clear, as the right hon. Gentleman had shown to the Committee, that if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) were adopted it would have a disfranchising effect of a very extraordinary character. There was hardly a county in England which was not included in the 7th Schedule referred to in the clause under the consideration of the Committee. He would take the case of his own county (Gloucestershire). At present it was divided into two divisions, and a voter was able, if he had the necessary qualification, to vote in each division; but by the Bill it would be divided into five divisions, and if the Amendment were carried, the voter, instead of being able to vote, as at present, in two divisions, would be restricted to the one in which he resided. That would be the case all over England, and would apply to the great county of Yorkshire as well as elsewhere. If such a proposal were to be seriously made it would require very grave consideration; and he thought the hon. Member would find that it would be resisted, not only in that House, but throughout the country, in a way he could hardly anticipate. He did not believe there was the slightest prospect of the Amendment being accepted, and therefore it was not worth 1479 while that he should detain the Committee further on the matter.
wished to say a word in reference to the observation which had been made by the right hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to intimate that the conduct of right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House was different from his own. [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: I did not say so.] He (Mr. Macartney) hoped that he was mistaken in the matter; but, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman on several occasions had taken the trouble to point out to the followers of the Prime Minister that instead of the provisions of the Bill being the result of conviction, after negotiation, he did not personally agree with some of the principles contained in the measure, although he was prepared to support them; and on more than one occasion he had foreshadowed that although he was bound now to adhere to the terms of the agreement he would be free to upset them in a future Parliament. This action on the part of the right hon. Baronet seemed to be a strong hint to Members sitting on the opposite side of the House, and especially to those below the Gangway, that they were perfectly free to oppose the Bill if they thought fit to do so, and to follow the line he had indicated. The hint had apparently been taken by some hon. Members in the case of the Amendment relating to University representation, and in another instance in which the lead was taken by the Prime Minister himself.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, he wished to point out what was the effect of the words of the right hon. Baronet. As he understood the case, the Committee were discussing part of a Bill which had been agreed upon by the heads of the two great Parties in the House for the settlement of the Reform Question, and that the right hon. Baronet himself was pledged to vote for the settlement so agreed upon. If, then, the right hon. Baronet got up and said that the Amendment was one of which, although he was bound to vote against it, he was personally in favour, it appeared to him that he was by so doing upsetting the very idea of agreement. He would endeavour to give an idea of the position by a reference to another subject. They were at present engaged 1480 in important negotiations with a Foreign Power. Supposing that the Russian Plenipotentiary were to say that, although a document he might sign should be represented as an agreement, yet his private opinion was opposed to it; would it not be taken that that agreement was not to be observed? He was sure that the right hon. Baronet would loyally carry out the bargain entered into; but he (Lord George Hamilton) felt bound to deprecate such language, because it undoubtedly tended to raise false expectations on the part of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. If they were to understand that these two Bills were to be a settlement of the question, that settlement ought to be a permanent one.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he thought the noble Lord might satisfy his mind on this subject; he would simply ask him to read a letter which he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had written to the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard).
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, he had stated that he was sure that the right hon. Baronet would loyally carry out the agreement; but he could not help deprecating the practice of making reservations which tended to weaken that agreement.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he might refer, perhaps, to the fact that similar reservations had been made on the other side of the House.
§ MR. PICTON
said, that the best reply to the noble Lord was that he was willing to withdraw his Amendment. He was perfectly satisfied with the expressions which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Clause agreed to.