THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
, who had a number of Amendments upon the Paper, said, he wished to explain to the Committee in a few sentences the course which he proposed to take. It must have been observed by hon. Members that the principle underlying the whole arrangement upon which the Amendments proceeded was that certain boroughs with a population of less than 1,000, and also a certain number with a population above that limit, should be taken from the groups to which they at present belonged and merged in the counties, under a plan of re-arrangement proposed in another Schedule. From communications, however, which had been received, it appeared that some of the Leaders of the Party opposite considered that the Amendments were not in accordance 67 with the spirit, at all events, of the arrangement which had been come to. That was certainly not the view of that (the Ministerial) side of the House, and he was sure that right hon. Gentlemen opposite would accept his assurance that there was no such intention on their part. If they had violated in any way the spirit of the agreement, they had certainly not failed to carry out the terms of the agreement. It had been the desire of the Government to carry the arrangement out in the most complete manner; not to introduce any provisions that were likely to be open to objection; but to make the Bill, as between the two Parties, acceptable to the House, and not to press anything in regard to which an adverse opinion was expressed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The discussions and divisions which took place on Wednesday last indicated, undoubtedly, that there was considerable difference of opinion in the Committee as to the merging of the smaller burghs. That being so, it might be inferred that as regarded the proposal to merge some of the larger burghs, the feeling would be still more unfavourable. It was in deference to an indication of opinion that it was desirable to undertake a re-arrangement of the burgh groups, that the Government had submitted the scheme contained in the Schedules to the Committee. It was well known to hon. Members that that scheme was put forward to give effect to what was believed to be a prevalent desire, altogether apart from the agreement not to introduce anything that was likely to lead to contention or serious difference of opinion between the two sides of the House, or among Gentlemen sitting in different parts of the House. It was, practically, a "consent" Bill. Moved by these considerations, the Government had resolved — indeed, they had no other alternative but to resolve—not to press any Amendment that involved the merging of any burgh in the counties. As that resolve would really take away a large part of the basis on which the scheme was framed, and leave exceedingly little further for the consideration of the Committee, they thought it would be hardly worth while, or that they would be justified in, occupying the time of the House with the consideration of anything that 68 would be left. In point of fact, nothing would remain except the re-arrangement of the Stirling and Falkirk groups. That might be done without merging any burgh in the county, but it might involve proposals which would give rise to a difference of opinion. Accordingly, it was not the intention of the Government to detain the Committee by moving any of the other Amendments which stood on the Paper in his name; and as regarded the Amendments which had already been moved, and which would now be upset by the course the Government proposed to take when the Bill came up on Report, they would be withdrawn, and the Bill would be restored, as far as the Government were concerned, to the position in which it stood when it was introduced. He believed that this course would meet with the general approval of the Committee. The Government regretted, themselves, that they had found it necessary to take it; but he hoped the Committee would be satisfied that it was their desire to make no proposal that was not likely to meet with general assent.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
As there is no Question before the Committee, it is only by the indulgence of the Committee that I can be allowed to say a few words. I do not for a moment doubt the bona fides of the Government and the Lord Advocate in placing the Amendments on the Paper; but I certainly think that, having regard to the proceedings of last Wednesday, and looking at the matter in the light and spirit of the arrangement with regard to this Bill, the Lord Advocate has put a correct interpretation upon the understanding, and is right in withdrawing the Amendments.
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT
rose to continue the discussion, and was received with cries of "Order!" He said, that if he were out of Order he would move the adjournment of the House.
At present there is no Question before the Committee, and if the hon. and learned Member moves the adjournment of the House, he must confine himself to the Question of Adjournment.
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT
said, he would move to report Progress, in order to enable him to call attention to the very remarkable statement which had been made by the right hon. and learned 69 Gentleman the Lord Advocate in reference to the Amendments now standing in his name upon the Paper. He had listened to the statement of the Lord Advocate with the greatest astonishment and apprehension. It was hardly-conceivable, after what had happened, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, should now come down to the Committee and tell them it was the deliberate intention of the Government to give up all the Amendments which they had met there to discuss that very evening. The Lord Advocate had, at some little length, entered into an explanation. He had told them that the Bill was substantially a "consent" Bill, and that he, in putting the Amendments upon the Paper, had, to some extent, gone beyond the arrangement. If that were so—and as the Lord Advocate said that it was, no doubt it was so—why, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) had pointed out, had the Lord Advocate brought down the Scotch Members to discuss Amendments which were contrary to the spirit of the arrangement between the Leaders of the two sides of the House? Scotland and the Scotch Members had been treated with very scant respect. They had been invited, for two days together, to consider the very elaborate scheme which had been submitted by the Lord Advocate. The scheme itself had been prepared by the right hon. and learned Gentleman after great trouble and consideration. It had been published in all the Scotch papers, circulated among all the Scotch Members, and published all over Scotland. A copy must have been addressed to the Prime Minister, as a Scotch Member; it must have been before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Campbell-Ban-nerman), and the hon. Member for Banffshire (Mr. E. W. Duff). These Gentlemen were all of them Members of the Government and Scotch Representatives, and must have been fully aware of the scheme of the Lord Advocate. The manner in which the Scotch Members had been dealt with in the matter was, upon every ground, much to be regretted. They had been brought down to discuss certain proposals which had already been discussed in all the 70 Scotch newspapers, and which were allowed to be put before the Scotch Representatives by a Member of the Government who was responsible for them. They were now told, at the last moment, without any word of explanation whatever, that the Government proposals were contrary to the stipulations of the compact between the Leaders of the two sides of the House. Why was that circumstance not stated last Wednesday, when the Scotch Members were allowed to discuss, without restraint, the Amendments brought forward by the Lord Advocate? He much regretted that it should have become necessary to make strong and disagreeable remarks upon the conduct of the Government; but he felt keenly that the Scotch Members had been trifled with in the matter. They were now told that the whole scheme of the Government was to be given up, notwithstanding the discussions and divisions which took place on Wednesday last. Scotland and the Scotch Members ought not to be treated with so little respect. It would be out of Order to enter into the merits of the question upon a Motion to report Progress; but he regretted that the Scotch Members, as a sort of Grand Council, had not been taken into the confidence of the Government by those who were responsible for that part of the Bill which dealt with Scotland, before it was originally submitted. He much regretted the course which had been taken by the Lord Advocate in the matter—in dropping his scheme. He was sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had introduced the Bill, so far as Scotland was concerned, without having placed it, in the first instance, upon a firm and settled basis. He begged to move that the Chairman report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. A. (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot.)
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he joined in the protest which had been made by his hon. and learned Friend as to the conduct of the Government in the matter. The Amendments of the Lord Advocate were intended for the practical improvement of the Bill, and it was upon the ground that the door was open for the practical improvement of the distribution of Scottish representation that these 71 and other similar Amendments had been proposed. Only a few days ago the Committee were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon, replying to the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy, that the question of the arrangement of the Scotch burgh groups was not included in the compact, but was left open as far as this—that there was no obligation, no agreement, no compact, which in any way bound the Government or the Committee or anybody else. The first intimation that the re-arrangement of the Scotch burghs was to come under the terms of the compact had just been made by the Lord Advocate. The Scotch Members had, therefore, a great grievance against the Leaders of the Opposition for withholding that information, and a still greater grievance against Her Majesty's Government for the course they had pursued in the matter. He was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, the President of the Local Government Board, was not not in his place, because he would recollect that on the second reading, when the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot) drew attention to this subject, it was by him that the Scotch Members were invited to explain their views, in order that the Bill might, if necessary, be amended in this regard. It was distinctly stated at that time by the right hon. Gentleman that the question of the burgh grouping was wholly outside the compact. Consequently, during the Recess a variety of suggestions were made in the Press and on the platform by Scotch Members and others, by which a considerable concensus of opinion on certain points was elicited. Afterwards, on the 28th of January, the Scotch Members received an intimation from the Lord Advocate that he had drafted a scheme, and a copy of it was at once circulated and published all over Scotland. On the 19th of February, the day on which the House re-assembled after the Christmas Recess, the Scotch Members met upstairs to consider the Government scheme; they deliberated upon it for two days, and, to a large extent, it was accepted. On the 5th of March attention was called by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot) to the fact that no Amendments had as yet been put on the Paper with a view to 72 carrying out the Government scheme. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan) thereupon informed the House that the Government had found themselves compelled to abandon part of the scheme, but that they would put down Amendments to carry out the remainder. Last week the proposals of the Lord Advocate, in compliance with that intimation, were placed on the Paper, and the discussion of them was commenced on Wednesday; yet they now found that the whole of these Amendments—the last remnant of the scheme—were now to be withdrawn. He did not think that this was the way in which the Scotch Business should be conducted in that House, and he was convinced that the course pursued by the Government would give rise to grave dissatisfaction throughout the country. It was not only the Scotch Members, but the House of Commons, that had been treated disrespectfully in the matter. It was a perfect farce to require hon. Members to come down to consider Amendments, imagining that they were at liberty to discuss them and to endeavour to get an impartial opinion upon them from the House, and then, after they had devoted a considerable amount of attention to them, the right hon. and learned Gentleman in charge of them was to get up and say that as the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords looked upon them as not forming part of the compact, they must not be pressed. He cordially joined in the protest of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot).
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he was more astonished than he could express at the statement which had been made by the Lord Advocate. Was he to understand that all the Amendments now on the Paper in the name of the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be withdrawn?
§ SIR JOHN HAY
Then in what position would those Amendments be which had already been discussed and adopted?
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he understood now, from the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that the 73 small burghs were not now to be merged in the counties. He was very glad that that should be so; but he wished to know what course was to be taken with regard to the large burghs in Haddington shire and the Wigtown Burghs, which he had the honour to represent? He could not understand how the Lord Advocate proposed to deal with them. In Wales, the town of Pembroke, with a population of 17,000, was grouped, by the provisions of the Bill, with another Parliamentary borough with a population of 6,000 or 7,000—namely, Haverfordwest. In that case there was to be a re-arrangement of boundaries, and both boroughs would remain as contributories. He could not understand how small towns like Stranraer and Fortrose were to remain merged in the counties in Scotland, while towns of a precisely similar character in Wales were to form part of borough groups. He had proposed to the House, on a former occasion, to add Stranraer to the Dumfries District of Burghs. By this arrangement the population would be raised from 25,000 to nearly 40,000, thus forming a most respectable group of burghs. The Lord Advocate declined to accept the proposal on the ground that he was asked to make an arrangement by which all the smaller boroughs were to be dissolved and merged in the counties. But as he found that a distinction was now to be drawn between the Scotch and the Welsh boroughs, he wanted to know how the Lord Advocate proposed to deal with the question of the smaller burghs in Scotland? He wished to know how it was that a considerable town like Stranraer was going to be dealt with differently from Port-rose, and that boroughs in Wales, such as Pembroke and Haverford west, which were in an identical position with the Dumfries Burghs, were going to be treated in a different way? He thought he had a right to ask whether Her Majesty's Government would not reconsider this decision?
said, that though he did not care very much about the abandonment of this part of the scheme, for it was a very small matter and scarcely worth talking about, he must complain most bitterly of the way in which the whole matter had been managed. The Scotch Members were asked by the Lord Advocate, at the in- 74 vitation of the President of the Local Government Board, to meet and discuss the question of the arrangement of the grouped burghs. They were further invited to draw up schemes for themselves, suggesting any Amendments they might think proper to make in the matter of those groups of burghs. Luckily, they did not take the trouble to draw up any scheme, and it was evident that if they had done so they would have found that they had wasted their labour. They had a discussion, and agreed to ask the Government to formulate its proposals, and submit them to their criticism. The Lord Advocate prepared a very much more elaborate and extensive scheme than was put on the Paper. That scheme was widely circulated throughout Scotland and discussed. The Scotch Members were then asked to come up to the House of Commons on the first day of the Session, and hold a meeting to consider the question. They did so, and he was bound to say that at that meeting of the Scotch Members an amount of unamiability was called into evidence which was not at all pleasant. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot) fell foul of the hon. Member for Wigton (Sir Herbert Maxwell), whom he was perfectly ready and willing to sacrifice, and he believed his hon. and learned Friend had been at loggerheads with the hon. Member for St. Andrews (Mr. Williamson) ever since. Even on Wednesday last they had the unusual picture of the amiable Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) tempted into applying the most savage lines to the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). After having wasted all this time, the Wednesday before last was devoted to a discussion of the important principle whether any populous places in counties were to be added to these groups of burghs. The whole Wednesday was wasted upon that matter. Then they resumed last Wednesday, when they had the principle again discussed at great length, and the outcome of it all was whether two wretched burghs under 1,000 population each should be merged in the county population of Scotland, or retained in their anomalous burgh system. He did not care much about those burghs. It seemed to him the only principle worth talking about would be to apply to each 75 of the undivided burghs the 15,000 population principle, and to say that if any burgh did not come up to that it should be merged in the counties. But since it was determined to leave them as they were, he did not think it made much difference. It would leave an anomaly which would be got rid of at some future day. He believed they were in a fair way in the direction of equal electoral districts, and the fact that some glaring anomalies were left in the present scheme would not at all impede the onward march towards equal electoral districts. But if anything could show the lack of consideration which Scotland enjoyed in that House, it was the manner in which they had been treated upon this subject. Two days' discussion had been wasted on the matter in Committee, and when the Lord Advocate proposed to restore those interesting burghs of Fortrose and Kintore, they might have another discussion and a fight as to whether they should be restored or not. He again emphatically protested, not against the abandonment of the scheme, but against the very improper manner in which Scotland and its Representatives had been treated.
wished to express his entire concurrence in the expression of disappointment on the part of his hon. Friends at the action taken by the Government in this matter. He felt more than astonishment, he felt indignation, at the conduct of the Government towards the Scotch Members. He differed entirely from the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), who said he did not care about the grouping. He represented a group of burghs (Kilmarnock, &c), and his constituents felt strongly the gross way in which their interests were neglected. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) had quoted some words which fell from the Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday last, indicating that ho, at least, was not indisposed to consider the question of the re-arrangement of groups. But he might have quoted still stronger words used by the right hon. Gentleman, in which he distinctly stated—That the arrangements of the Scottish burghs was deliberately excluded from the Bill in order that it might be considered afterwards:and the whole action of the Government, up to this moment, went to show that 76 that also was their sense of it. This was a matter of very great consequence. The Lord Advocate wanted to get rid of the inconvenience of getting into the counties two burghs like Fortrose and Kintore, and for that small reason he had come down and wished to set aside the arrangement in regard to grouping. What he complained of was, that after the scheme had been before his constituents—and they were entirely satisfied with it—after it had been accepted by everybody except, perhaps, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), for some altogether trifling reason, the Government now came down and withdrew it. In point of fact, the Scotch Liberal Members, who numbered 50, were really sacrificed to the nine Scotch Tory Members; and for the convenience of three Members, the Government consented to withdraw a scheme that was entirely satisfactory to the 50 Liberals, and not only to them, but to the general community of Scotland. He trusted the Lord Advocate would reconsider this matter. As regarded his (Mr. Dick-Peddie's) own burghs, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not propose the Amendment which stood in his name, he should do so himself, and, though there was no chance of carrying it, he should press it on the Committee as a protest on behalf of his constituents against the extraordinary conduct of the Government.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, that as he was the only Member on that (the Conservative) side of the House who supported the Government in the last division on Wednesday—[An hon. MEMBER: No!]—well, nearly the only one, he felt bound to join in the protest made by hon. Members opposite. He had listened with nothing short of amazement to the statement of the Lord Advocate, and the extraordinary course he proposed to take. The Government had invited the House to enter into the consideration of the question of the redistribution of the Scotch burghs, and it had engaged the attention of the Committee for nearly two Sittings. They had half gone through the scheme, and now the Government turned round and discarded it altogether. Even in the case of the burghs which the Lord Advocate had already obtained the sanction of the Committee to place in the Schedule, they were on the Report to be struck out, and the only 77 question left would be the fate of two burghs—two of the smallest groups—which were to be left in the cruel position of being thrown into the counties. Their case, however, was of infinitely less importance than that of the remaining burghs. For his own part, he was bound to say that, of all parts of the United Kingdom, the Scotch groups of burghs seemed to him to imperatively require a redistribution scheme. Yet they were going to leave them, as they were, absolutely undealt with. By leaving such a chaos, such a scandal, and such an anomaly as was afforded by the Scotch system of grouping, they would invite a re-opening of this question at the very earliest possible time, and would strike a fatal blow at the settlement which both sides of the House were committed to.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he frankly owned that he expected that protests would be made in consequence of the statement of his right hon. and learned Friend; but he was not prepared altogether for the quarters from which those protests had come. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Dick-Peddie), the last Gentleman who had spoken from that side of the House, had expressed his general satisfaction at the proposals of the Government, and had stated that he could understand an objection coming from the other side of the House to the merging of small burghs. Now, they had only had the opportunity of taking one division on the merging of small burghs, and that was on Wednesday afternoon, but in that division the hon. Gentleman himself voted against the merging of small burghs. The same was the case with the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), though he did not observe the same inconsistency in that hon. Member's speech. The hon. Member put the practical side of the question very plainly when he said that what remained of the original scheme was not worth fighting for, or words to that effect. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Raikes) who had just sat down talked of the extremely anomalous character of the Scottish burgh system, and of the very great importance of reforming it; but his right hon. Friend had altogether exaggerated the machinery of that Scotch burgh system which was being given up. What it had now come down to was, that there were at present 78 three groups of burghs—one of 31,000 population, another of 49,000, and a third of 49,000; and those three groups were going to be re-arranged in such a manner as to turn them into three groups—one of 43,000, another of 49,000, and a third of 29,000. He thought it was impossible that any hon. Member could describe this as fulfilling the needs of Scottish burgh reform which the right hon. Gentleman desired. He thought the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) had been rather hard on the Lord Advocate. He could not but recollect that those two Gentlemen, when speaking of this scheme, which they now described as so desirable, had damned it with faint praise. The hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire said it was cut down until it was comparatively insignificant; and he remembered the hon. Member for Edinburgh making an attack on the scheme, in which he said it was sacrificing the single burghs to the groups of burghs in a most unjustifiable manner. The fact of the matter was, that in a great Bill of this sort, for the purpose of getting it through the House in a satisfactory shape, or perhaps in getting it through the House at all, from time to time certain alterations must be made in minor matters of detail, and this alteration had now come to a very small one. The original scheme which was brought before the Scotch Members was—he must speak plainly—a scheme which it was impossible to carry out without the consent of hon. Members opposite. The main and prominent features of that scheme were the giving of a Member to the Western Isles, the junction of Bute with Argyllshire, and the junction of Caithness with Sutherland. It was absolutely necessary to get the consent of hon. Members opposite to this arrangement, and that consent could not be obtained; and when that was lost, most of what was valuable and what was worth fighting for in the scheme disappeared. Then came the question whether they could carry the scheme through the House in its mutilated form? He thought they could not. It was quite evident to anyone who had followed the debates and divisions on Wednesday that they could not. It was quite true that there was a certain sort of languid consent on the 79 part of hon. Members to the general principle of merging the small burghs, of which there were 10; but when it came to the particular burghs, that languid consent turned into the most ardent opposition, and out of the faithful phalanx of Scotch Liberal Members who always stood by the Government in their troubles, no less than 10, he thought, on the very first opportunity for considering this question of merging the burghs, voted against the Government. He would ask the Committee whether, upon this Bill, the importance of the passing of which was beyond words, when such opposition was given on a preliminary stage of the first of these moderate propositions, there would be any chance that the opposition, increasing as the Bill went on, would not have hampered the Government to a very serious degree? He put that before the Committee, not expecting that it would satisfy those Gentlemen who had an ardent and disinterested desire to reform the burgh system of Scotland, but in the hope that it would excuse the Government to the great body of Members. He would only add that he thought hon. Members exaggerated very much the time that had been wasted. On Wednesday week there was very little time spent over the Scotch burghs; and though, last Wednesday, a good deal of time was spent over them, yet it was spent very much over the question whether considerable towns like Jedburgh and the fragments of the Wigtown constituency should be added to other groups. That was a question which was well worth discussing and threshing out, because the Government had an opportunity of saying that they were absolutely opposed to such a proposition. The time spent upon that part of the scheme which was abandoned had been very little. He was very sorry that the Government could not carry it through, and thereby gratify hon. Gentleman who took an interest in the question; but he was convinced they had taken the wisest course.
§ MR. ORR-EWING
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan) had been somewhat severe on the Scotch Members in regard to that portion of the redistribution of seats which had been brought before the House. He did not think the 80 way in which the Scotch Members had been treated by the Government was at all fair, seeing that they would have been content with the smallest concessions, and would then have allowed the provisions of the Bill to be passed. The Government complained of the opposition which had been raised to their proposals; but it must be remembered that they had laid down extraordinary principles, which were not at all part of the Bill, and which, of course, created the greatest opposition from this side of the House, and did not give entire satisfaction to their own supporters. He was sure that in regard to the only things upon which they had made a stand they had had justiceon their side. He thought it was most unfair that the Government declined to entertain proposals to include populous places or burghs in any old group. They did not ask for the formation of any new group; but still the Government would not allow any burgh that was not previously enfranchised to be included in any group. That was a most astounding principle, and he should like to inquire why it "was adopted? He had not the slightest doubt that the Government desired to follow the same course as that which they had pursued in Ireland—namely, to weaken the Conservative Party and strengthen their own. He should like to ask why Scotland was exempted from the arrangement between the two Front Benches as to the redistribution of seats only? Why was it not dealt with in the same way as England, Ireland, and Wales? It surely must be for some reason. It certainly could not have been to enable the Government to deal less fairly with the Conservatives of Scotland. Then what was the reason? It must be acknowledged by both Parties that the system of grouping burghs, which only existed in Scotland to any extent, was so peculiar that it required to be differently arranged in order to carry out those strong professions, so frequently made by the Prime Minister on the part of the Government, that every care should be taken to separate the urban from the rural popolution.
The hon. Gentleman is now discussing the Amendments to the Bill, and not the Question of reporting Progress, which is now before the Committee. Of course, some latitude is allowed to an hon. Member in giving 81 the reasons why he thinks it is desirable to report Progress.
§ MR. ORR-EWING
said, he would apologize, but he had been under a misapprehension. He would probably be able to find another opportunity for alluding to this subject.
§ MR. R. PRESTON BRUCE
said, he was not very much surprised at what had occurred that day, and at the abortive result which had followed all the trouble and discussion which had taken place in Scotland during the Recess, and during the early part of this Session among the Scotch Members; but he was sure his hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) and Roxburghshire (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) never intended to convey what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan) had stated—namely, blame to the Lord Advocate personally for what had happened. Blame, in his opinion—and, he believed, in the opinion of others—most distinctly fell upon the Government. It fell upon the Government, because, in the first instance, they neglected to deal in their Bill with this matter of the grouping of burghs. It was quite true, as was said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Raikes), that these groups of burghs in Scotland presented some of the most extraordinary anomalies, or rather absurdities, which could be found in the electoral system of this country; but the Government neglected to take up this question, and to propose any reform on the subject in their original Bill. But that was not all. If they had told hon. Members frankly that they did not intend to deal with this subject, and that they must be content with the very substantial and much more important advantages which they acknowledged were conferred by this Bill upon Scotland—if they had been told that, as practical men they would have accepted the position. But that was not what the Government did. They invited the Scotch Members to attempt to deal with and make suggestions in regard to the grouping of burghs, and they allowed their Law Officer (the Lord Advocate) to make 82 proposals, which, of course, were accepted by the Scotch Members and accepted in Scotland as practically the proposals of the Government, although he must say that these proposals had received extremely little advocacy from the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles W. Dilke) who was in charge of the Bill. The scheme certainly had been reduced to very small dimensions. Nevertheless, he believed it was such as would make a substantial improvement upon the existing state of affairs. But because a little difficulty had been found in pressing this matter, because a little local feeling was excited here and there, which no doubt accounted for one or two of those votes of Liberal Members which had been referred to—because that happened, the Government were at once prepared to throw the scheme over altogether. The plain fact was, that they did not care to devote the little time that would be necessary to enable them to carry out these proposals. Therefore, he must say that he thought the protest which had been made by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Roxburghshire was perfectly justifiable; and if his hon. and learned Friend went to a division he should certainly vote with him.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, he did not rise to enter into a discussion of the grievances of the Scotch Members, but to express his personal satisfaction at the state of matters which had arisen. He did so on this ground. On the Wednesday before last, when this question was first discussed, the Government appropriated the favourable opportunity which he would have had for bringing on the second reading of the Suspension of Evictions (Scotland) Bill. The Government took that day away from him with the silent acquiescence of all the Scotch Members—a day set apart for a very important purpose. The consequence was that they went on discussing and dividing upon critical Amendments which the Lord Advocate had thrust into the Bill, and he supposed they would now have the satisfaction of supporting the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he moved to get rid of them on the Report. It certainly was a most profitable way of spending the time of the House, and he hoped that it would be fully appreciated by the Scotch. Members. For himself, personally, he 83 enjoyed a certain malicious satisfaction at the whole business.
said, that as one of the phalanx of Scotch Liberal Members who usually supported the Government at a pinch, and who had been spoken of somewhat cavalierly by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan)—
remarked, that the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the Scotch Members on that side of the House as a phalanx of Liberal Members who always supported the Government on a pinch. He had thought that the right hon. Gentleman by his tone seemed to treat them with less respect than they were entitled to. But, be that as it might, he begged to add his protest to that of the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot) against the manner in which, not the Lord Advocate, but the Government, had treated the Scotch Members and the whole House. From the moment this transaction of compromise in secret conclave was entered into, the Scotch representation had been disregarded. No attention had been paid to it from the beginning. His own burgh (Haddington) and that represented by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Sir John Hay)—Wigtown—were struck out and merged in the counties; but, with that single exception, not a moment's attention was given to Scotch affairs at all in this matter. He wished to join his protest with that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Raikes) against the manner in which the small burghs, such as those which were talked of the other day, were to be retained, and large, influential, important, and growing burghs, such as Stranraer and Dunbar, were to be merged in the counties without any reason given. But his main reason for rising was to ask the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot) to mark his protest against the manner in which the Government had treated the Scotch Members and the House by going to a division. If he did so, he (Mr. Craig-Sellar) would certainly support him.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he wished hon. Members would say in public what they had said in private. Did the hon. Gentleman deny that he had said that the scheme should be withdrawn?
I made no such statement. I have not requested the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the scheme. I never cared for the scheme, but I certainly did not ask him to withdraw it.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I am very much astonished at the statement of the hon. Member. I was certainly under that impression.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he thought that it was not the Scotch Members alone who had a right to complain upon that occasion of the course which the Government had pursued. Their conduct was certainly most extraordinary. The Lord Advocate, whatever his desire might have been, had succeeded with most admirable completeness in offending everybody concerned. Every Whig and Tory Scotch Member seemed to be competing as to which had been most offended by the Government. He did not know whether the Tory Scotch Members had much claim upon the forbearance of the Government; but after the eloquent testimony which had been borne by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan) to the fidelity of the Liberal Scotch Members, he should have thought that the Government would have been prepared to treat them with greater consideration. What was it they had seen? After repeated conferences between the Lord Advocate and the Scotch Members, a scheme had been prepared, discussed, and practically settled. Public opinion had been collected, and it affirmed the main features of the scheme; and now the Lord Advocate came down to the House, and, without giving a moment's Notice or the slightest hint to the Scotch Members, announced that the whole policy of the scheme was to be thrown over. It was said that the Scotch Members had been treated with lack of consideration; but there was one body of Members who had been treated with even less consideration, and that was the Members for Ireland. He thought they had strong reason to complain of and protest against the action of the Government. What had happened? The Lord Advocate proposed to cancel a number of Amendments which now appeared on the Paper—10 in all, he believed. But the Irish Members had calculated that the discussion of those 10 Amendments would occupy the whole of the evening, 85 and they were now suddenly told by the Lord Advocate that the whole of the Scotch scheme had fallen through, and the Committee wore suddenly thrust into the middle of Irish Business. That was certainly not a position which the Irish Members were prepared to accept. The Government ought to know their own mind, and if they found it necessary to change it, it was incumbent on them to give ample Notice to the Scotch Members and to the House. He was afraid that some of the Scotch Members were professing against the Government an indignation they did not in reality feel; but if their anger was real, there was a simple method they might pursue—namely, to follow the suggestion of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Dick-Peddie), and move all the Amendments abandoned by the Lord Advocate, one after the other.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he had no intention whatever of taking part in the discussion. He merely rose to express a hope that the advice of the hon. Member for the Haddington Burghs (Mr. Craig-Sellar) would not be taken by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot), who had been invited to divide on reporting Progress, and thus stopping the progress of the Bill. No doubt the Scotch Members had just cause of complaint, both against the Government and the Front Opposition Bench, for having let this matter go so far. He was one of those who had always been strongly in favour of merging the small burghs in the counties; but he had had doubts, from the beginning, whether it was wise on the part of the Government to attempt to take this course. It appeared to him that there had been no distinct understanding between the Front Benches and the Government. By adopting the course taken by the Lord Advocate they were pursuing a rather hazardous experiment, and blame was attachable to them for not giving fair warning of this at the beginning. Still, he could not blame the Government for the course they had taken that night, and he was not disposed to censure the Lord Advocate in the strong manner indulged in by some of his hon. Friends. The Lord Advocate had found that the simple fact was, that to go on with the proposals contained in the Amendments would necessitate very many days of 86 long and, perhaps, angry discussion. This Bill was a Bill of "consent;" and although it might be amended in some small particulars, he had been afraid from the commencement that any such great amendment as this could not possibly be carried into effect without substantial agreement on both sides of the House. He was sorry to be placed in this position; but he thought the Government had had no alternative but to take the course they had now taken.
§ MR. RENEST NOEL
said, that, as one of those who agreed with what the Government had done, he would like to say a few words in answer to what had fallen from several hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. The Government had been blamed very seriously for withdrawing these Amendments at a critical time, and they had been strongly blamed by his right hon. Friend on the other side (Mr. Raikes). One of them said that in a very few hours the Note would have been passed if the Government had been prepared to make certain concessions. What were those concessions? They were concessions which every single Scotch Liberal Member on that side of the House would have spent days, weeks, or any amount of time to prevent being passed. That was what the Government was blamed for—because they would not give in. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Raikes) also condemned the Government; yet he (Mr. Noel) ventured to say that if the right hon. Gentleman were in the House there was not one single Amendment brought forward by the Lord Advocate which the right hon. Gentleman would not have voted against. [Mr. RAIKES dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head; but he (Mr. Noel) was perfectly certain that that would have been the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Representative of the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay) was also opposed to most of the Lord Advocate's Amendments. He wanted the small towns taken out of the counties and added to the groups of burghs. That was just what the Liberal Members for Scotland did not wish to see done. On the contrary, an hon. Friend who sat behind him was going to ask the Committee to put a town that was not already a burgh into the county. 87 He thought the Government did right, and were quite justified when they found a great difference of opinion among Scotch Members on this subject, to return to the original condition of the Bill. He would only make one observation more, and it was in answer to what had been said on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. There was a complaint that nothing had been done for Scotland. Why, more was done for Scotland by this Bill than for any other part of the United Kingdom. By this Bill the same principles were being carried out for Scotland as were being carried out in other parts of the country—that was to say, it disfranchised the burghs below 15,000.
§ MR. A. GRANT
said, he was astonished at the part taken by the Government that night, and he must take his share in protesting against the way in which they had behaved towards Scotland all through this business. He took this opportunity of saying that his hon. Friend the Member for the Haddington Burghs (Mr. Craig-Sellar), who by the Forms of the House could not say it himself, while disapproving of a great portion of the Lord Advocate's scheme, and having no great wish or desire that it should be carried out, wished him to say that his object when he rose that night was not to speak in regard to the Lord Advocate's scheme, but to join his protest with that of other Scotch Members against the way in which Scotland had been treated. It seemed to him that they had just ground for complaining that the Scotch Members and the Scotch people had been trifled with in this matter. What had been the course of events? Before they separated in the autumn they were told distinctly by the Government that the question of redistribution, as regarded the grouping of burghs in Scotland, was an open question, and that they might take counsel with their constituents and the people of Scotland generally, and endeavour to elaborate a scheme, which scheme would have the full consideration of the Government and of the House. That idea was strengthened by the fact that the Lord Advocate, as the Representative of the Government, afterwards 88 submitted a scheme to the Scotch people and the Scotch Members in such a way as to justify them in the belief that the Government were in earnest. They, therefore, gave their support to the proposals of the Government contained in that scheme. The House was allowed to take up parts of the scheme, and take divisions — yet, now, the Government turned round and told them that all that had been make-believe, and that they were not going to have any part of the scheme. It seemed to him that this was only another illustration of the mischief and inconvenience arising from the practice of legislating by means of private compacts between the two Front Benches. He presumed that the statement of the Lord Advocate that night would prevent the Government from supporting the Amendment he (Mr. A. Grant) had to make in regard to his own (the Leith) District of Burghs; but he would nevertheless feel it his duty to his constituents to go on with the Amendment.
§ MR. PENDER
said, he thought the Government should be commended for their courage in coming forward and abandoning what seemed a hopeless task. He entirely concurred in the course pursued by the Lord Advocate, and he trusted that the Scottish Members would continue to be loyal to the Government now as in the past, and that the good sense of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot) would be shown by the withdrawal of the Motion.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ernest Noel) made a statement concerning him (Mr. Raikes) which he wished to refute. The hon. Gentleman said that he (Mr. Raikes) was prepared to vote against any of the Amendments which the Lord Advocate proposed. On the contrary, he had voted for those Amendments which had been proposed, and he was prepared to vote for those still on the Paper in the name of the Lord Advocate.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, he could not allow that conversation to close without expressing his opinion that, after what hon. Members had said, he was not surprised at the course the Government had taken. He was one of those who had taken a prominent part in pressing that this subject should be 89 taken up. A very moderate scheme was brought forward—the extinction of smaller burghs—one which he regretted they could not have carried much further; but the scheme, as it was, had a favourable reception from the Scottish Members. When it came down to the House, however, and it was announced that some of the best parts of it were abandoned, it met with some very severe criticism on the part of hon. Members on Wednesday. In the face of the very unexpected opposition to the rejection of the small burghs, he began to despair of the thing going on. He must say he did not feel surprised that the Government had given the scheme up. He said so with the greatest regret, because he felt that the state in which the Scottish burgh system was left was one which would invite severe criticism and encourage agitation for reform. If the Government had taken up this question earlier and in a larger spirit, he thought it would have been more easily carried; but with only the small burghs taken out, he did not think the matter was worth fighting for. He hoped the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) would not put the Committee to the trouble of a division.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
said, he could not congratulate the hon. Member for the City of Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) on the course they had taken that night. After all, they had only succeeded in raising a storm in a teapot, and had buckled on their armour and worked themselves into a great state of indignation for nothing at all. The Amendments on the Paper amounted to nothing, and really did nothing to remove any anomalies in the burgh representation of Scotland. Most of all, was he surprised at the advice given by his hon. Friend the Member for the Haddington Burghs (Mr. Craig-Sellar) in urging the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire to divide the Committee on this most obstructive Motion.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask, Mr. Chairman, whether the hon. Member is justified in characterizing any Motion which you have allowed to proceed as obstructive, and whether he has not, therefore, come under the censure of the Chair?
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
said, he was about to say, when he was interrupted, that when obstructive Motions were made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, no Members on the Ministerial side of the House were more eager to denounce such Motions than the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot). He hoped those hon. Gentlemen would see the error of their ways before it was too late. He did not think their course that night would appear in a very favourable light to their constituents, and he would strongly advise them, for their own sakes, to withdraw this Motion.
said, it was quite refreshing to him, and he was sure to many other hon. Gentlemen, to see a little independence displayed on the other side of the House. For the last four years, they had seen nothing but slavish submission; but he was glad now to see a little exhibition of the per fervidum ingenium Scoturum. The performance of the Government on this occasion was very like a balloon party, who, finding their balloon was not soaring so rapidly as they expected, threw over some ballast; the ballast on this occasion was composed of the Amendments of the Lord Advocate. He trusted that the Scottish Members, who were only expressing the dissatisfaction they all felt at the way the Government were attempting to thrust the Bill down their throats with alteration, would persevere in their opposition.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he was not at all surprised at the course the Government had adopted on this occasion, because the Amendments which had been put on the Paper were of such a trivial character that they were not worth the time of the Committee to discuss them. The pity was that the Government did not discover this sooner, because they must know that small and trifling Amendments provoked from hon. Members quite as much opposition as very much larger changes did. What the Scottish Members did object to was the manner in which these proposals had been dangled before them, and afterwards abandoned by the Government. The Scotch Representatives would like 91 to know who was responsible on this occasion for the manner in which Scotland had been dealt with. Was it the Lord Advocate or the Members of the Government who were responsible for this Bill? If the Lord Advocate had the authority of the Government to submit to the Scottish Members the proposals which he did submit, he thought the Lord Advocate was entitled to expect from the Government the support necessary to carry them through when they had received the support of a large majority of the Scottish Members. But the manner in which Scotland had been dealt with in this Bill was like what they were accustomed to with regard to all measures for Scotland. Measures were dangled before them, and then withdrawn without explanations. What Scotch Members had to complain of was that influence was used in dealing with Scottish Business which was not publicly disclosed in the House. What explanation, for instance, had been given of various Bills which had been spoken of—
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he would not go into that subject, or beyond the limits of the debate. He thought the objection he had indicated would be quite understood by the Scottish Members, and it was more on that account than on the account of the wretched Amendments to which the Lord Advocate's proposals had been reduced, that his hon. Friends desired to take the opinion of the Committee. The Scottish Members wished to indicate that they were not at all satisfied with this mode of conducting Scottish Business; and that if there was to be some one specially in charge of Scottish Business, he should have certain powers and responsibilities, such as the Lord Advocate did not appear to have under the present system.
suggested that this conversation might now be brought to a conclusion, and the Committee allowed to proceed with the real Business of the evening. It was not often that the Members who represented Scotch constituencies broke out in clamorous rebellion against the Government; and, therefore, he thought that on this occasion the Committee would be ready to receive their complaints with indulgence. But the conversation had now been going 92 on for an hour, and the Committee were perfectly possessed of the feeling of Scotch Members; they knew how bitterly the Representatives of Scotland resented the manner in which they had been treated by the Lord Advocate—["The Government!"]—and how worthless they considered the relics of the scheme the Government were now about to withdraw. Under the circumstances, would it not be as well to withdraw the present Motion, and allow the Committee to proceed with the real Business before it?
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, it was not his business to defend the Government, and on that occasion he could not if he would; but he must say it seemed to him that they had here the principle of better late than never, and that the Government had been wisely advised in dropping a bad scheme. He thought the Government could not have done otherwise. The real truth was that almost every Scottish Member wanted something done, and no two were agreed as to what should be done, and they had got into such a mess that the Government would never have been able to make a satisfactory scheme unless they had devoted weeks to the subject. It seemed to him that the Government had in this matter two courses open to them; they should either have produced a complete scheme, making things fair all round, or have confined themselves to one or two small changes, in regard to which there would be general agreement. They had taken neither course. They had taken a middle course, and proposed a partial scheme—a scheme of no principle whatever—and he was not surprised that there had been rebellion against it on all sides. He must, however, join in the expression of surprise at some of the statements made by hon. Members. He was not surprised that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. E. D. Elliot) should have expressed his indignation, for he rather thought the whole scheme was hatched in the brain of his hon. and learned Friend; and it was natural that he should be indignant at the prospect of its being addled. The hon. Member for the City of Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) had throughout condemned the scheme as one without a principle, and one which created greater inequalities than existed before. Now, however, the 93 hon. Gentleman expressed his indignation at the withdrawal of the scheme. Under all the circumstances, he (Sir George Campbell) thought the Government were quite right in taking the step they now proposed.
§ MR. BOLTON
said, the conduct of the Government and of the Lord Advocate had been animadverted upon by many of his hon. Friends. He did not join in that animadversion. The Lord Advocate and the Government had endeavoured to make arrangements which they thought would be satisfactory to the Scottish Members; but he was afraid that, taking each of these Amendments by itself, the reverse of satisfaction had been the result. Every Amendment had had a supporter; but, unfortunately, every Amendment had also had a great many opponents. He was, therefore, satisfied that the Government had done the right thing in withdrawing these Amendments, and he should give them his support.
drew the Lord Advocate's attention to the peculiar position of the Inverness Burghs, which he had the honour to represent, for, by an Amendment passed last Wednesday, those burghs had been dissolved. He was not present when the Lord Advocate began his statement that night; but he hoped to hear that his right hon. and learned Friend would take the very earliest opportunity of reconstituting the Inverness Burghs.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
remarked, that if the hon. Member (Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh) had been in the House when he (the Lord Advocate) made his statement, he would have heard that as regarded the Amendments which had been already passed, the Government intended to propose on Report to delete them.
said, that before going to a division he desired to say a word of explanation in regard to a question which had been addressed to him by the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke). He had never disguised his opinion in private that he considered the Lord Advocate's scheme, in its present curtailed form, of little value, and that it was a waste of time to go on with it, and he might have stated that in the Lobbies and Tea Room in the hearing of the right hon. Gentleman. But the value, or worthlessness, 94 of the scheme was not the point at issue. The point at issue was the manner in which Scotch Members had been treated in regard to this Bill from the beginning. His reason for taking part in the discussion was to protest, and to beg his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) to go to a division in order that they might protest, against the general manner in which the Scottish Business had been conducted in this matter. He was glad the scheme had been withdrawn.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he was glad the hon. Member had made the explanation, because he had made the statement to himself (Sir Charles W. Dilke), and the hon. Member was one of those whose names he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had mentioned to the Lord Advocate as being opposed to the scheme.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
apologized to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) for calling the Chairman's attention to the use by the hon. Member of the word "obstructive." He ought to have known that the epithet was legitimate, because it was used so frequently and with much gusto by Scotch Members in respect to Motions introduced by Irish Members. Now, Scotch Members seemed to think that the abandonment by the Government of the Scotch scheme concerned them alone. That was not the case. Anybody who would take the trouble to look at the Paper would find that the removal by the Lord Advocate of all his Amendments had the effect of launching the Committee upon a discussion of the Irish portion of the Bill, which no one expected would come on for some considerable time. The general expectation of the Committee, certainly the expectation of the Irish Members, was that the earliest opportunity of arriving at the Irish portion of the Bill would be next Monday or Tuesday; but now, at 7 o'clock on Friday evening, they were compelled to begin a discussion on the Irish part of the Bill, one of the most important and debatable portions of the whole measure. He and his hon. Friends had every reason to expect that the Scotch debate would have gone on for a much longer time than it had. In the first place, they had every reason to believe that the scheme was one which had been carefully con- 95 sidered by the Government and the Scotch Members. They had been informed over and over again by many Scotch Members that they had gone down to their constituents to consult them as to the merits of the scheme. They had heard that the scheme was the result of an understanding between the Representatives of Scotland and the Government, and in the face of all that the scheme was suddenly dropped and the Committee were plunged into another part of the Bill. While he and his hon. Friends would support the hon. and learned Member (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) if he went to a division, they protested against being called upon so suddenly to discuss matters which affected so seriously their own country.
§ MR. J. A. CAMPBELL
said, that so much had been said on the other side of the House expressing dissatisfaction with what the Government had done, that it might be thought they on the Opposition side were gainers by this new move on the part of the Government. So far as he was able to form an opinion, they were not gainers at all. There had been a mistake, and for that mistake the Government must bear the blame. But he must say he and his hon. Friends would have supported some of the Amendments of the Lord Advocate so far as they went, and he thought it was to be regretted if nothing should be done to improve the grouping of some of the Scotch burghs. Although the Government withdrew their Amendments, he believed it was still open to private Members to bring forward Amendments in the same direction, and he hoped advantage would be taken of that opportunity. He and others wished Amendments of a different kind, in addition to many that the Lord Advocate had proposed; but he wished particularly to say that they did not consider themselves in any way gainers by the course the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate now proposed to pursue.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 45; Noes 242: Majority 197.—(Div. List, No. 70.)
proposed, in Schedule 1, page 13, column 2, line 49, to insert, at the end of the foregoing Amendment— 96Kilmarnock (District of Burghs)/Ayr, Lanark, Renfrew, and Dumbarton.The hon. Gentleman said, he had not expected that it would devolve on him to move this Amendment; but as the Lord Advocate, in whose name it stood on the Paper, had been obliged to give it up in consequence of the decision of the Government to leave the Scottish group of burghs unaltered, he was obliged to take it up. He might explain that his object in moving this Amendment was to bring about a re-arrangement of the burghs, which would reduce to some extent the population embraced in the Kilmarnock group. That group was the largest group of burghs in Scotland, with the exception of that of Leith. The 13 groups of Lurghs in Scotland had an average population of 40,000; Kilmarnock had a population of 69,500. If, however, they took Kilmarnock out of the list, they would find that the average population of the remaining 12 groups of burghs was 37,883. The population in the Kilmarnock group was, therefore, out of all proportion to the average population of the other groups of burghs. If Kilmarnock be altered, as proposed in the scheme of the Government, it would be reduced to a population of about 58,000, and the remaining 12 groups of burghs would have an average population of about 38,800, still leaving to Kilmarnock a very large number in excess of any other group of burghs. What Kilmarnock wanted—and in asking this all the Members connected with Ayrshire agreed—was that two groups of burghs should be formed in Ayrshire—one in the North, having Kilmarnock as the returning burgh, and the other in the South, having Ayr as the returning burgh. Ayrshire would then have four Members — two county Members and two burgh Members — and considering that the population of the county was 217,000, that would be by no means an excessive representation. At present, the Kilmarnock group consisted of five burghs, and these burghs were scattered over four counties, and they had hardly the slightest connection or interest one with another. What the Government scheme proposed, and what his Amendment proposed to do, was to take out of the group which consisted of Kilmarnock, Renfrew, Port-Glasgow, Dumbarton, and Rutherglen, the last- 97 named burgh, and add it to another group, composed of Hamilton and Airdrie, in Lanarkshire. If that were done, the population of Kilmarnock Burghs would be reduced from 69,000 to 58,000; and, in his opinion, the groups would be very materially improved. Now, the scheme of the Government had, for months past, been before the burghs. Large public meetings had been held in every one of the burghs to consider the scheme, and, without exception, the burghs were unanimously in favour of it. Rutherglen was quite agreeable to be taken out of the Kilmarnock group and added to Hamilton and Airdrie; and Hamilton and Airdrie were quite pleased to be joined by Rutherglen. Now, this, there for 9, was a case in which no burgh concerned had the slightest objection to the proposed change; indeed, every one of them approved of the change. The proposal did not touch the principle at all of merging burghs in counties, or affect in the slightest degree the representation of counties; and yet, for the sake of the idea which had been started that night, that very necessary reform, which would have been hailed with great satisfaction, was to be thrown overboard. He did not intend to detain the Committee longer. He trusted that the Government would be able to find the acceptance of his Amendment quite consistent with any arrangement they had made with the Front Opposition Bench.
In Schedule 1, page 13, column 2, line 49, to insert at the end of the foregoing Amendment—
|"Kilmarnock (District of Burghs)||Ayr, Lanark, Renfrew, and Dumbarton."|
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
scarcely thought that his hon. Friend could have been in the House when he (the Lord Advocate) made his statement a short time ago; because, if he had been, he would hardly have spoken of an arrangement being arrived at with the Front Opposition Bench. He (the Lord Advocate) need hardly say that if the Amendment were not associated with anything else he should not offer any opposition to it. In fact, it was a very similar Amendment to one he (the Lord Advocate) had proposed 98 himself. The Amendment which he (the Lord Advocate) proposed would, in his own opinion, have been an improvement; but he must point out to his hon. Friends that the way in which the Government proposed to get a Lanarkshire group was by creating a new group, and that new group was to be created by, amongst other things, dissolving the present Stirling group of burghs, a group which comprehended no fewer than three small burghs—namely, Culross, Inverkeithing, and Queensferry, which it was proposed to merge. If the merging of the smaller burghs had been carried out, a re-arrangement would have been possible; but as the merging had not been agreed to, the matter would have to be dropped.
§ MR. COCHRAN-PATRICK
said, he agreed with everything that had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Dick-Peddie). Scotch Members were originally informed by the Government that it was proposed to merge Kilmarnock, Irvine, and Ayr together. That was a proposal which was not assented to. The proposal, however, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate had that day withdrawn from the Committee was one which was agreed to by both sides in the House—which was agreeable to the wishes of the constituencies, and had been supported by public meetings, and by everybody in the districts; and he (Mr. Cochran-Patrick) could not help expressing his extreme surprise that the agreement come to on this matter should have been so summarily dropped. It was only the other day that an important deputation came up to London, and, after interviewing their Members, expressed themselves perfectly satisfied that the re-arrangement should be carried out. The deputation went home fully impressed that the re-arrangement would be effected. He could not say what their feelings to-morrow would be when they learnt that the scheme had been so suddenly withdrawn. He hoped his hon. Friend would persevere with his Amendment.
wished to say a word to the Committee with regard to the case of one of the burghs to which the Amendment had reference — namely, Rutherglen. Rutherglen had now practically become a suburb of Glasgow, and 99 there was no reason for keeping it as a separate burgh. The obvious course was to merge it in Glasgow, or in one of the divisions of Lanarkshire, which might be called by its name. If English and Irish Members realized how preposterous the present condition of the Scotch districts of burghs system was, they would feel some sympathy with Scotch Members when they expressed regret that the scheme of the Lord Advocate for its improvement had been dropped.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he thought that Rutherglen ought to be consulted before anything was done in this matter.
§ MR. R. PRESTON BRUCE
said, he hoped that his hon. Friend the Member for the Kilmarnock Burgh (Mr. DickPeddie) would not press his Amendment to a division. He agreed with his hon. Friend that Scotch Members had been very badly treated in this matter; but it seemed to him quite impossible, on the spur of the moment, to construct a re-arrangement of the burghs upon a new basis. He thought it would be better, under the circumstances, to be content with the protest they had made, and to leave the groups as they stood.
said, that no rearrangement could be more unsatisfactory to Rutherglen than the one suggested by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce). Rutherglen was one of the oldest Royal Burghs in Scotland; it was a very much older burgh than Glasgow; and while it was anxious to be joined to Hamilton and Airdrie, it had no desire to be swallowed up by Glasgow. He could not agree with the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire (Mr. Preston Bruce) to withdraw his Amendment. His constituents attached great importance to the matter; they had been under the impression that a satisfactory scheme had been arranged, and now that this change had been suddenly sprung upon them they had great reason to complain.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. A. GRANT
said, the Amendment which he had now to move, with the intention of altering the mode of representation in the burgh of Leith, must be taken in connection with an- 100 other Amendment which appeared in his name upon Schedule 4. His object in the two Amendments was to remove a very great hardship and injustice of which his constituents complained. That hardship and injustice consisted in the burgh of Leith being compelled to re-main in its present unsatisfactory and unfair position of forming one of a group of burghs, and only sharing with the other burghs of the group the privilege of returning one Member to Parliament, and the services of the Member when returned. The people of Leith contended, and very justly so, that whether trade, population, electors, wealth, or commercial importance be taken as the test, they were fully entitled to a Member of their own. For the information of English Members, who perhaps had a very vague idea of localities in Scotland, he might say that Leith was a large flourishing seaport with 60,000 inhabitants, and with an electorate of 9,000. The rateable value of the property in the town amounted to £384,000, and there was in Leith a large and extensive system of docks, with a revenue of £83,000 per annum. He might say further that the Customs collected during the course of 12 months amounted to close upon £500,000 sterling—in short, Leith was fairly entitled to rank amongst the most important seaports of this Kingdom; and yet for all that, with all her claims to that position, she was relegated to the inferior and subordinate position of being only one of a group of burghs; while with the burghs to which she was allied she had very little, if any, interest at all in common. Now, with these strong claims to separate representation which she had, the people of Leith felt perfect confidence that justice would be done them in this Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, and this confidence was strengthened by representations which they received from time to time from Members of the Government in answer to Memorials from them, presented previous to the introduction of this measure. He need hardly say that when the Bill itself appeared, and when it was found that all the new Members had been otherwise appropriated, and that the redistribution scheme for Scotland had been so arranged that the claims of Leith were entirely ignored, it gave rise to a large amount, he would not say of 101 astonishment and dissatisfaction, but of just indignation and of bitter disappointment on the part of the people. He thought that when the people of Leith read of what had taken place that night, when they learned that the Government had confessed that all along it had been under agreement with hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House that nothing should be done to redress injustice with regard to the grouping of burghs in Scotland, the indignation of the people would be vastly increased. The people of Leith trusted even yet that the innate spirit of fairness which characterized the House of Commons would redress the injustice which had been done them, and give them what they were entitled to. The Prime Minister himself had told the House that one of the fundamental principles of this Bill was equality of treatment in all the constituencies in the United Kingdom. He (Mr. A. Grant) asked if there was any proof that Leith had been treated on an equal footing even with other places in Scotland? Leith was the sixth town in Scotland as regarded population, and all the burghs before her had one or more Members of their own. Paisley, with a smaller population than Leith, had a Member of its own. The City of Perth, with one-half the population, and with a much smaller rateable value, had the privilege of returning a Member to Parliament; and, looking at the question from another point of view, he might say that there was not one other grouped town in Scotland which had anything like one-half the population of Leith. Now, if they compared the treatment which was accorded to Leith with that accorded to similar places in England, it would be found very difficult indeed to reconcile the treatment of Leith with the principle of the Bill. He found that in England the following seaports, analogous to Leith, had each a separate Member of their own — Whitehaven, with 20,000 people; Hartlepool, with 47,000; Tynemouth, with 44,000; Scarborough, with 30,000. He might be told that those were all places which had long had representation; that they were what the Prime Minister described as historical communities. Well, that might be so; but they found that the Government had thought fit in this very Bill to give separate representation to various 102 places in England on account of the importance and population of those places. Amongst the new boroughs created, still taking places analogous to Leith, he found Barrow-in-Furness and Great Yarmouth, the one having 47,000 of a population, and the other 40,000. Now, what became of the principle of equality of treatment when such places as those were given separate representation, and Leith, with its 60,000 and with its varied and great interests and rapidly increasing size and importance, was denied such representation? He might be told that this Bill had avoided, as much as possible, interfering with the present electoral arrangement of Scotch burghs. Now, was that so? The Bill, in the first place, took away representation from two of the Scotch burghs, applying the English rule with regard to the limit of 15,000; and, in the second place, it had satisfied the claims of various large towns in Scotland to increased representation, solely on the grounds of their population and importance. Why, he asked, was not Leith treated in the same spirit? It would not open up any great question, for the case of Leith was perfectly unique, and there was no other burgh which could present anything like so good a claim to separate representation. Now, with regard to the other burghs in the Leith group, they, perhaps, had even more reason to complain of the present arrangement than Leith, and very naturally so, because they at present were so overshadowed by their larger neighbour, that they could not exercise their just influence in connection with electoral or Parliamentary matters. He was speaking for those burghs when he said that they would infinitely prefer to be merged in the county of Mid Lothian rather than remain under their present condition; and that was the solution of the difficulty which he suggested as the most feasible under the present circumstances. If the Government, however, did not see their way to that solution of the difficulty, he was perfectly willing to accept any better scheme which they could propose, and which would carry out the object he had in view. He was bound to say that there was a certain section of people in the smaller burghs of Portobello and Musselburgh who would prefer to be joined with some other smaller places more like themselves, and form a group 103 of burghs; but that would involve the difficulty, which apparently was insurmountable, of finding another Member. He must admit that there was a feeling in Mid Lothian that if Portobello and Musselburgh were merged in the county, the county would form such a large constituency that it would be entitled to an additional Member. Mid Lothian would, undoubtedly, under such circumstances, have a fair title to another Member, if another could be obtained. At the same time he must point out that even at present Mid Lothian was a very large constituency to have only one Member; and that the addition he proposed to make would not amount to any large increase, though, of course, it would make the county larger than at present. Assuming that it was impossible to get another seat, he would put this question to the Committee—"Are you not doing a greater injury to Leith by keeping it in its present position, than you would do if you provided that these two small burghs should be thrown into the county?" Now, if he were to take into account the number of inhabitants subtracted from the county by the alteration of the boundaries of Edinburgh, he might show that the addition of these two burghs to the county would not make any appreciable difference in the balance of Parties in the country; and he might also show that, although the constituency would be enlarged, it would not come up to the limit which had received an additional Member by the Bill. It was not necessary, however, for him to take up the time of the Committee by going into those details. Let him say, in conclusion, that public opinion in Scotland generally was all in favour of the claims of Leith. Those claims had been discussed in the Press, at public meetings, and by associations of both sides of politics; and at a large and enthusiastic meeting lately held in the burgh of Leith itself, attended by people of every shade of politics, the treatment dealt out to Leith was animadverted upon in very severe terms, and the hope was expressed that even yet Parliament would see reason to give effect to the fair and just claims Leith put forward. He appealed to the Government, and to the feeling of justice which existed in the Committee, to do what was fair and right in this matter, espe- 104 cially when that could be done with so little interference with the Bill, and with so little, if any, real hardship to anyone concerned.
In Schedule I, page 13, column 2, line 49, at the end of the foregoing Amendment, to insert the words—
Leith (District of Burghs)/
Mid Lothian."—(Mr. Andrew Grant.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, his hon. Friend had very fairly stated the case of Leith, and he was quite justified in saying he had had a certain amount of encouragement at various times for bringing the matter before the Committee. What his hon. Friend asked was just one of the things which he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had always very much wished to see his way to do. He had told his hon. Friend so; but he had, at the same time, put frankly before him the difficulties which stood in the way. The hon. Gentleman admitted that if an additional Member had to be got to make the scheme workable, there would be no difficulty in finding that Member. Therefore it was that his hon. Friend, on the whole, thought it most expedient to propose to throw the burghs which were grouped with Leith into the county of Mid Lothian, and to leave matters otherwise as they were. But, on the other hand, it must be remembered that this was the case of a group of burghs with 72,000 population, and that the county of Mid Lothian, when reduced by 8,000 by the extension of the boundaries of Edinburgh, would still be a county of 78,000 population, and, he might add, a rapidly increasing county too. Now, the proposal to take 14,000 away from a group of burghs of 72,000, and throw them into the county of Mid Lothian with a population of 78,000, would make 92,000, which would be an enormous constituency for one Member, especially having regard to the fact that the population was rapidly increasing. The Bill gave the county of Perth, which had about that number, a second Member, and the Government would have been glad to carry out the same idea in regard to Mid Lothian if they had seen their way to find a Member. But although they had not been able to do so, he could not ignore the fact that the 105 single-Member counties in Scotland were at the top of the single-Member counties. The Isle of Wight, which was a very large and populous county in England, was, nevertheless, smaller than Mid Lothian. The reason of that was that there were in Scotland, in proportion to the total number of Scotch Members, a considerable number of small county constituencies, and unless they were to carry the principle of grouping counties further than the Government proposed to carry it, in oases such as the grouping of Caithness with Sutherland, they could not find additional Members for the larger counties. If that were done, no doubt a strong demand would be made for a Member to be given to the Western Islands, so that he fancied that the hon. Member would not succeed in getting a second seat for Mid Lothian; and he certainly did not think that the Committee would be willing to take away the second seat which it was proposed to give to Perthshire in order to give it to Mid Lothian, because, although Mid Lothian was undoubtedly increasing faster than Perthshire, its population was at present less than that of the county of Perth. Under these circumstances, it would be objectionable to take away a population of 14,000 from the Leith Burghs, in order to add them to a county which already possessed a population of 78,000; and he regretted that, on the whole, he must ask the Committee to reject the proposal of the hon. Member, although it was one the Government would be glad to see their way to accept.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
supported the Amendment moved by his hon. Friend behind him, believing that it would remedy one of the chief practical defects in the Bill. He felt, however, that the position of affairs was very much changed by what had happened that evening, and that the prospect of his hon. Friend being able to carry the Amendment, or to get support for it, had been considerably diminished by the action of the Government and the Leaders of the Opposition. Before the Bill came out, it was recognized that one of the first defects to be remedied was the fact that Leith had no separate representation. Since that time every speaker had had but one voice in the matter, and every public body the same. Both political Parties 106 were agreed, and it would be found that the National Union of Conservative Associations for Scotland put the claim of the burgh of Leith to have independent representation as the leading feature of their programme for redistribution. Very recently a deputation from Leith waited upon the Lord Advocate, and this was what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said to the Provost—It is unnecessary that you should come to convert me to your views. I think as strongly as you that Leith should have a Member to itself. I have always thought so.Even more recently the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan), when the question was raised in the House, speaking from the Treasury Bench, said—Notably they (the Government) earnestly hoped to meet the case of the burgh of Leith, which was, perhaps, the strongest case of the many which had been put forward by the Lord Advocate, and viewed favourably by the Scotch Members.The separate representation of the burgh of Leith also stood first among the suggestions of the Lord Advocate, which were submitted to the Scotch Members upstairs. He (Mr. Buchanan) asked the Committee to imagine the surprise and disappointment of the Scotch Members after the prominence which had been given to Leith by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the statement he had himself made in regard to it, the further declarations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy on Wednesday, the 4th March, and on the following Tuesday, March the 10th, to find, when the Lord Advocate's Amendments appeared, that Leith was dropped out of the scheme altogether. It was not necessary to add to what the Government had themselves said of this burgh. Its population, its commercial importance, and its shipping fairly entitled it to separate representation; and if Portobello and Musselburgh were taken away, Leith would still remain one of the largest constituencies in the United Kingdom with a single Member only. He certainly thought that, having regard to the circumstances of the case, and to the wishes of the constituency, that it was advisable to merge Portobello and Musselburgh in the county, although, undoubtedly, in that case, the county would require an 107 additional Member. It was a great blot upon the Bill that this strange anomaly should be allowed to exist, and it was only right that it should have been removed by the action of the Government themselves. For his own part, he was prepared to merge Portobello and Musselburgh in the county, even although Mid Lothian did not obtain additional representation. But he acknowledged the strong grounds there were for giving that county additional representation. With that object, and in order to obtain a Member for a new Highland constituency, he had put down Amendments to merge in the counties the Wick and the St. Andrew's Burghs, the two smallest district groups. That seemed to him a reasonable and practical way of meeting the difficulty; but after what had taken place that evening he would not proceed with these Amendments. In conclusion, he wished earnestly to impress upon the Committee the great disappointment and regret which would be felt in Scotland in regard to this question of the separate representation of Leith. He was unable to say what occult influences had been at work; but, whatever the cause might be, it was very disheartening that, after the statements made by the Government before the Bill was introduced, and the approval which had been unanimously given to the promised proposals of the Lord Advocate, all the good intentions of Her Majesty's Government were now to be frustrated.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
wished to say a word on the subject, because, a short time ago, he had the honour of receiving a deputation from Leith with respect to this arrangement. He could only say—and he thought it was the feeling of the Committee on both sides—that it would have been a very great satisfaction to him and his hon. Friends if it had been possible to do what was desired—namely, to separate from Leith the other boroughs which were now associated with it. He was bound, however, at the same time, to say that Leith so completely dominated the group of burghs, and they had been so much in the habit of talking of "the Member for Leith," that until recently he was hardly aware that there were any other burghs associated with it. He had always looked upon Leith 108 as possessing predominating influence over the group, and he was quite sure that it would aways be so considered. Still, it would have been a matter of great satisfaction if that which was so much desired in Scotland could have been done. The question had been urged ably and temperately by the gentlemen who did him the honour to wait upon him, and at one time it appeared as if some arrangement might be made by which what hon. Members desired could be accomplished. But the difficulty which the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) had acknowledged, and which the President of the Local Government Board had pointed out, did arise, and would not be easy to deal with—if they were to throw Musselburgh and Portobello into the county of Mid Lothian, and thus greatly increase the population of that county, it would follow as a matter of course that they must provide a second Member for Mid Lothian. How were they to do that? Various plans and suggestions had been made; but, on the whole, it seemed to him that the Government had arrived at a right conclusion in the matter— namely, that the only possible way of dealing with Leith, and giving it a separate representation, was to give the county into which Musselburgh and Portobello would be thrown an additional Member.
said, he was glad to find, from the statement which had just been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that the claims of Leith to separate representation were equally acknowledged on both sides of the House. It was a very curious matter, then, that when an injustice was acknowledged by everybody, and admitted to be of a glaring character, the combined ingenuity of the Government and the Front Opposition Bench was not sufficient to find a remedy. He thought it was possible, however, to make some arrangement by which the principal seaport in Scotland, next to Glasgow, should obtain a Member for itself instead of being in the position of having only partial representation. If the Bill were allowed to stand in its present shape, it would not be long before some Government, perhaps a Government composed of Gentlemen now sitting on the Opposition 109 Benches, would be compelled to bring in a plan to remedy the gross injustice which would exist in regard to the Scotch burgh groups. He would certainly support his hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. A. Grant) if he went to a division, if it were only by way of entering a protest.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, he regarded it as very unfortunate that Scotland was not dealt with by itself, instead of being included in a Bill of this kind embracing the whole of the United Kingdom. If Scotland had been dealt with by itself, such a case would not have occurred as a place like Leith not having a Representative for itself, and a county like Mid Lothian not having a second Member. It ought to be a matter of some consolation to the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. A. Grant) to recollect that at a meeting of the Scotch Members, little as was now thought of it, although it lasted for two days, a unanimous expression was put on record that Leith ought to have a second Member; but it was coupled with the condition that Mid Lothian was to have a second Member. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan), who addressed the Committee a few minutes ago, told them that that was also the recommendation of the National Union of Conservative Associations in Scotland; but that it was coupled with the same condition. He desired to express his sympathy with Leith, on account of its not having obtained separate representation for itself; but he thought there would be less injustice in Leith remaining as it was than there would be if a considerable additional population were thrown into the county of Mid Lothian without giving it a second Member. It must be admitted that it would be less hard for Leith to remain as it was, especially after the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote)—that in that House Leith was always spoken of as the returning burgh, but never as the Leith Burghs—than to create a hardship which would undoubtedly be much greater by making a large addition to the constituency of the county of Mid Lothian. Reference had been made by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to the case of Perthshire. It was true that Perthshire, according to 110 the last Census Returns, contained a somewhat larger population than Mid Lothian would have, even by including within the latter the burghs of Portobello and Musselburgh. No one could for a moment doubt that in the next Census the population of Mid Lothian would be considerably greater than that of Perthshire. In one place, on a farm in the West part of the county, the population, in the course of a few weeks, was increased by 600, owing to works which were being erected in the neighbourhood. While he sympathized very much with the case of Leith, and would gladly have seen an arrangement made by which that burgh could have obtained separate representation, he did not see that any advantage would be derived from dividing the Committee on the subject.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
said, that this was a very important matter, and reference had been made to the opinion he had already expressed upon it. He had not gone back in the slightest degree from that opinion; and so strong did he consider the claim of Leith to be that, in the scheme submitted for the consideration of the Scotch Members, a separate Member for Leith was proposed, even although Mid Lothian was only to get one Member. Leith was of great importance as a seaport, and the special character of the burgh certainly marked it out for separate representation. But when the scheme came to be considered by the Scotch Members, while considerable sympathy was expressed for Leith, it was thought, for reasons which were perfectly intelligible, that to put 94,000 persons into the county of Mid Lothian, and leave only 58,000 in the burgh, would scarcely be fair. Consequently, a rider was attached to the resolution in favour of Leith, which made that point perfectly clear. The Scotch Members were unanimous in assenting to that rider, and the effect of it was to provide that a separate Member should only be given to Leith on condition that the county of Mid Lothian got a second Member. That being so, the question was carefully considered by the Government, and the reconsideration lasted until yesterday, various schemes being suggested by which a second Member might be obtained. Reference had been made to 111 the county of Perthshire. The claims of that county were fully considered when those of Mid Lothian for a second Member were put forward. Although Mid Lothian was numerically somewhat under Perthshire in its present population, it was felt that it would very soon be equally as large, seeing that the population of Mid Lothian was increasing at a much greater rate than that of Perthshire; but as a second Member had already been appropriated for Perthshire, and the necessity being laid upon the Government of taking the existing population as their basis, it was found impossible to appropriate a second Member to Mid Lothian. Therefore, as there were no means by which a second Member could be obtained for Mid Lothian in any other way, the Government were left in the position, which he admitted to be a most unfortunate one, of not being able to do that which in itself was most desirable.
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT
remarked that, if all they could do was to separate Portobello and Musselburgh from Leith and throw them into the county, without giving a second Member to Mid Lothian, the arrangement would be a very unsatisfactory one for the county of Mid Lothian. He therefore hoped that the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. A. Grant) would not put the Committee to the trouble of a division, but would rest content with the protest he had made.
§ MR. A. GRANT
said, he was obliged to his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. A. R. D. Elliot) for the advice he had given to him; but, at the same time, he regretted that he was unable to take advantage of it. He should certainly feel it his duty to take a division upon the question. In regard to the difficulty which his hon. and learned Friend had named, he might say that his proposal would be the taking of the initial step for securing a second Member to Mid Lothian. If the Committee adopted his proposal, he thought the Government would be compelled to find some way of giving a second Member.
§ MR. C. S. PARKER
desired to say, in the absence of his hon. Friend the Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie), that that county would feel much aggrieved if, in consequence of the acceptance of the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. A. 112 Grant), it were arranged to give a second Member to Mid Lothian, with a smaller population than Perthshire, and to deprive Perthshire of the second Member already promised to it. He had no doubt that much dissatisfaction would have been expressed in Perthshire if the proposal of the Lord Advocate had been accepted, and an exception to the rule of taking the present population as a basis of representation had been made to the prejudice of Perthshire.
§ MR. C. S. PARKER
said, he hoped that it would not, as sometimes happened, be reconsidered. He regretted that it had not been found possible to give a separate representation to Leith, and to allot a second Member to Mid Lothian as well as to Perthshire.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, he could not understand what those who framed the Redistribution Bill were thinking about when they made so egregious an omission as to leave Leith in the unjust position it occupied now—of not having a Member to itself. As a division was intended to be taken, he felt bound to express the regret he felt at being obliged to vote against the Amendment of his hon. Friend. At the meeting, upstairs, of Scotch Members, a Resolution was distinctly passed that it was not desirable to give separate representation to Leith unless a second Member could be got for Mid Lothian. As the claims of Mid Lothian to a second Member were even greater than those of Leith to separate representation, he should feel compelled to vote against the Amendment if it were pressed. At the same time, he thought the time had arrived when the claims of Leith to separate representation should be fully considered. He hoped the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. A. Grant) would content himself on the present occasion with the discussion which had taken place; and seeing the position in which many hon. Members would find themselves, who deeply sympathized with his hon. Friend, but who could not vote with him, because a second Member was not to be assigned for Mid Lothian, he hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he was surprised to find that the unanimity which generally prevailed among the Scotch Members had been broken up. They often heard of dissensions among the Irish Members; but they rarely found the Scotch Representatives adopting the attitude of the Kilkenny cats. He felt bound to complain that the Government had not shown as much deference to the opinions of the Irish Members as the Lord Advocate had shown to those of the Scotch Members in these matters. He failed to see why similar attention should not have been paid to the Irish Members by the Chief Secretary for Ireland as that which had been paid to the Scotch Members by the Lord Advocate. Both the Irish National Representatives and the Conservative Members had a right to complain, because if the same deference had been shown to their opinions they might have arrived at some amicable understanding. The present fight was upon some unintelligible system of the grouping of Scotch burghs. In point of fact, they had been in a Scotch mist, all the evening, about this question of the grouping of burghs; and he wished to know why the vital limit of 15,000 for the purposes of enfranchisement, which had been extended to England and Ireland, had not been applied also to Scotland? It was quite evident that the system of grouping burghs in Scotland had saved numerous burghs in that country from being extinguished. That was not the case in Ireland; but, on the contrary, nearly the whole of the borough representation in that country had been extinguished; whereas, if the system of grouping had been adopted, the Irish boroughs would have been saved. He maintained that it was neither a fair nor an honest proceeding on the part of the Government to have refrained from consulting, either formally or informally, the Irish Members in the same way as the Scotch Members had been consulted. He intended to vote with the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. A. Grant), in order to show that the different system upon which the Irish borough constituencies had been treated by the Government was fully appreciated, and further to express the discontent and dissatisfaction of the Irish Members at not having been consulted as to the arrangements in regard to Ireland in the same way 114 as that in which the Scotch Members had been consulted by the Lord Advocate.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that he differed from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and was disposed to think that the principle of private consultation with regard to the provisions of a Bill, when the interests of the different parties were not identical, was not a good one, nor one calculated to be attended with any great success. He thought that, taking it for all in all, the Scotch Members would have had every reason to be perfectly satisfied if they had not had this opportunity for private consultation. He doubted whether the Front Opposition Bench would not themselves have been satisfied if they had refused to enter into a private conference, and to enter into the loving embrace of the Government. His own impression was that the arrangement which had been entered into was far from being a satisfactory way of doing business, having always been of opinion that explanations of all matters on the floor of the House was fairer to the House generally than the practice of entering into private consultation. It was perfectly impossible in a private consultation to consult all Members, and it was always possible for someone to be left out who took great interest in the question. It was possible for many Members to be left out who took much more interest in the question at issue than many of those who were taken into consultation; and altogether he thought that consultations between individuals and the Government were far from satisfactory, and things to be avoided. If he had any influence with hon. Friends near him, he would press them to vote against the proposal.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: — Ayes 15; Noes 89: Majority 74. —(Div. List, No. 71.)
§ MR. J. A. CAMPBELL
said, he wished to move the Amendment standing on the Paper in his name, in order that he might have an opportunity of adding Kirriemuir to the Montrose Burghs under Schedule 4. It certainly required some courage to make a proposal of that kind after what they had heard the other day from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy 115 of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan). The right hon. Gentleman had declared the opposition of the Government to adding any new town to an existing group of burghs. Indeed, he had said that he could not find words to express how strong the opinion of the Government was upon that subject. At the same time, this question of adding to the existing groups of burghs was perfectly open to the Committee. It was not included in the agreement of which they had heard so much. The discouraging fact which he could not get over was that the Government appeared to be opposed to any proposal of the kind. He (Mr. Campbell) might be excused for stating on what grounds such a proposal as this was advanced. They heard the other day that the main principle of this Bill was that representation should be given as much as possible in proportion to numbers. That no doubt was one principle, but it was not the only principle of the Bill. There was another, of which he thought they had not heard quite enough—namely, the principle of keeping different interests separate. That principle was not a doctrine of that (the Opposition) side of the House only, but was one which had been recognized as a general principle of legislation by both sides. Allusion had already been made to the Instructions to the Boundary Commission for Scotland, in which attention was called to the proper way of dealing with populous localities of an urban character in counties. But they had something more definite than even a general instruction given to the Boundary Commissioners; and with the permission of the Committee he would venture to remind them of a few words which they heard about that time last year—namely, on the 28th of February, from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman, when introducing the Franchise Bill, said that in a sound measure of redistribution the distinction between town and country, known to electoral law as borough and shire, ought to be maintained; that although the franchise was identical, that was not the question; that the question was whether there was not in pursuits and associations and in social circumstances a difference between town and country, between borough and shire, which it was expedient, becoming, and useful to maintain. The object of his 116 (Mr. Campbell's) Amendment was simply to carry out this principle in the case of the county of Forfar. At present they had a group of five burghs, four of them in Forfarshire, and one small burgh in Kincardineshire. The population of these was 59,654; and his proposal was to add to that group the manufacturing town of Kirriemuir, which had a population of 4,390. In that way they would have all the manufacturing towns in Forfarshire outside of Dundee grouped together for representation. Their aggregate population, including the town of Inverbervie in Kincardineshire, would then be 64,064; and this addition of Kirriemuir to the Montrose Burghs would still leave for the constituency of the county of Forfar a population of 63,083. It was on these grounds that he proposed the Amendment, which he submitted to the Committee as a reasonable and proper one, which would place the electoral arrangements in the county of For far on a fair basis. He had the honour to move his Amendment.
In Schedule 1, page 13, column 2, after line 49, insert—
|Montrose (District of Burghs.)||Forfar and Kincardine."|
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
said, that the arguments against proposals of this kind had already been urged with such emphasis and clearness that he would not repeat them. He would merely say one or two words with regard to the particular case before them. His hon. Friend had referred to a speech delivered by the Prime Minister in which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of maintaining the distinction between borough and shire. Well, he (the Lord Advocate) must point out that certainly, in reference to a case like the present, they were maintaining the distinction between borough and shire. That statement of the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to a case like this. It merely had reference to what was occurring in England, and not to the creation of groups or the making of additions to groups. The place in question was not a burgh at all. It was a prosperous village in the county of Forfar. It had none of the qualities of a 117 burgh; and unless, therefore, it was to be laid down that wherever a population was in excess of a particular number, say of 2,000 or 3,000, it was to be added to the nearest group, in which case it would be maintained that there could be no reason for dealing with one town in a different manner to another, there was no ground for favourably considering the present proposal.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, it might be convenient to the Committee that he should say a few words upon his hon. Friend's Amendment, because, if he did so, he might in the result feel it unnecessary subsequently to move an Amendment which stood on the Paper in his own name. He should not be content to deal with this Amendment and other Amendments of a similar kind, even if they were defeated or negatived by the Committee, without making some remarks. He spoke more freely of the present Amendment because he had no connection whatever with that part of the country to which his hon. Friend had alluded, and he only took this case as an illustration of the cases that the Scotch Members had had very much in their minds. He did not understand from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate on what authority he gave them his interpretation of the words of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The Scotch Members were entitled to their own view of those words, and he had never until that moment heard any doubt thrown upon the interpretation given to the words of the Prime Minister by his hon. Friend (Mr. J. A. Campbell). Those words had been referred to before that day. They were referred to very frequently, both in the House and outside it, and yet he had never heard of any interpretation differing from that of his hon. Friend. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate maintained that the Prime Minister had not meant what he said; whereas he (Mr. Dalrymple) had a very strong authority for the interpretation which his hon. Friend (Mr. J. A. Campbell) had given of the words used. He held that the declaration made by the Prime Minister gave encouragement to the various Amendments which the Scotch Conservative Members proposed to the Committee, and it had never yet been disputed that the words entitled them to the attention 118 of the Committee in respect of every Amendment of this character. He must refer to what had happened on a former occasion in reference to this Amendment. The hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Bolton), in reference to an Amendment on this question, had said that he wondered what would be said when this became known in Scotland. Why, there was nothing in the whole world to be more desired than that the subject should be made known all over the country. There was nothing in these Amendments, and there was nothing in the opinions that Scotch Members entertained upon any political question, for which he did not desire the utmost publicity. Their opinions, political and otherwise, were not of an exotic character, and would stand the full scrutiny of the people of Scotland. He was prepared to defend the principle upon which they had put this Amendment on the Paper on every occasion, and desired for such defence the utmost possible publicity. Reference had been made to the general expression used when any attempt was made to amend the county representation by adding towns that were not at present Parliamentary boroughs to the existing groups. He need not refer to the expression always used in that connection; but he was perfectly content, however they were described, so long as the proposals made were thoroughly understood, and so long as hon. Members had an opportunity of vindicating them in that House. He supposed no one would dispute that it was open to them to propose these Amendments. Certainly the statements of Her Majesty's Government had conflicted most sharply the one with the other upon this subject. In a debate which took place on Wednesday week the right hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill had used these words—"If it was possible to extend, break up, and reconstitute the groups, he would be glad to hear the opinion of the Scotch Members upon it. "Then the next thing they heard on the following Wednesday was from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancester (Mr. Trevelyan). That right hon. Gentleman said that this was a vital question—and it was almost ludicrous, in view of the statement of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board in the previous week, that the right 119 hon. Gentleman should have used these words. He said—I do not want to emphasize this by adding words at this moment; but it is quite impossible that any form of words which I can use should exaggerate the strength of the opinion which the Government entertain on this subject."—(3 Hansard,  1611.)That statement reached almost the highest point of force that any words could convey; and yet, in the previous week, they were given to understand that this was an open question. He wished to recall, for one instant, the attention of the Committee to the fact that when the extension of the franchise to the counties was resolved upon, the class to whom it was proposed to give the franchise, who had been, as it was stated, kept a long time out of their rights, was the agricultural class—the class of country voters. And he (Mr. Dalrymple) said that it was a strange comment on the statements that were so frequently made at that time that by the measure that was now before the House the very class to whom they gave their votes by the Franchise Act would have no say whatever in time to come in the counties in which they resided. They would have their votes, no doubt; but the votes of the counties would be swamped out of sight by the existence all around them of these towns which, by their numerical superiority, would outweigh them to the utmost possible extent. Who would have thought that the Party opposite would have so arranged matters that the suffrage which had just been given to those country districts would have no practical value for those receiving it? He knew that in some minds there existed the notion that there was some spell or charm about the possession of a vote; but his contention was that it was not in the least important to bestow it unless it in some way influenced political feeling and the result of elections. He desired to offer one word of explanation on the character of the proposals now made. The case just brought before the Committee was a good illustration. They might be quite open to the charge that they had not gone on any principle in the selection of towns, because it was sometimes without explanation difficult to state the principle on which they had acted. But it was simply this. They had not in all cases proposed to take the largest 120 towns out of the counties. They had not proposed to take what he might call the capital towns out of the county. Far from it. They had held that in some oases a mixture of urban and rural voters was thoroughly good. There was often a county town which was essentially a country town, where people went to church and to market, so to speak, and where the inhabitants were related in every possible way to the country districts. But the principle on which they had gone in the selection of the burghs which they proposed to add to the existing groups was that of taking out places that were essentially foreign to the districts in which they were. He was scarcely out of Order in referring, by way of illustration, to the case of Stirlingshire, especially as he did not intend moving the Amendment which he had put on the Paper. In Stirlingshire two of the towns which they proposed to group were busy manufacturing places of 4,000 or 5,000 inhabitants, and they were a distinctly foreign element in the districts in which they were. They would never have proposed to take out what were in any sense considered as country towns, and they would have avoided doing so even although the population of such towns had been larger than those of the manufacturing places they proposed to take out. It was said two or three days ago, in answer by anticipation to this Amendment, that all the grouping system in Scotland was unpopular, and that they were proposing to aggravate it. Well, if it had been proposed to abolish the grouping system altogether he could have understood the principle upon which it was proposed to act. He could have understood the complete abolition of the grouping system in Scotland. Then there might have been a redistribution indeed, and the counties, in his judgment, would have had a fairer share of representation than they would have under the present partial system of grouping. But here they had been met, as they had been met elsewhere, by the conviction, forced upon them from every quarter, that the case of Scotland in regard to redistribution had never received adequate attention, and that what they had been favoured with had all along been an extremely inchoate and imperfect scheme, altogether inadequate to the ciroumstances 121 of the case. As matters stood, the condition in which this measure would pass would leave the grouping of burghs in neither one state nor the other, but in a most anomalous condition, only greatly aggravated by the large measure of franchise extension which had been passed. He would not detain the Committee longer, having said these few words in defence of the position which they had taken up. He, for one, had never been in favour of the creation of purely urban and purely rural constituencies. He was in favour of what the hon. Member for North Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke) had called a mixture of the constituencies; and it was only where boroughs were of a foreign character, had grown up in a short space of time, and had been increased by manufactures, or works, or mining operations, and so forth, that he called them foreign elements in counties; and he maintained that those were places which ought, from their character, to have been added to the existing groups of boroughs. He cordially supported the proposal of his hon. Friend so far as it went, and was glad that he had had an opportunity of supporting it, and of expressing his opinion on the whole question, though he did not propose to trouble the Committee with his own Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ VISCOUNT CRICHTON
said, he did not intend to trouble the Committee with the two Amendments which stood in his name. They were consequential on the Amendment he moved on the 2nd clause of the Bill, reducing the limit from 15,000 to 10,000. The same remark applied to the next group; but when they reached the Amendment referring to Lisburn, that stood on a different footing, and he proposed to proceed with it.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that, on rising to move to leave out Drogheda from the Schedule disfranchising certain one-Member constituencies, he had, in the first place, to call the attention of the Committee to the declaration made by the Prime Minister in introducing the Bill, which was to the effect that the limit of 15,000 as affecting Ireland was not to be taken as a hard-and-fast line. His (Mr. Callan's) attention was, during the very first week of his knowledge of 122 the Bill, directed to the case of Drogheda, mainly in consequence of the substitution of one Bill for another, through an amended Bill having been circulated shortly after the original Bill was introduced. In the amended Bill he found that in the case of Warwick this hard-and-fast line had not been adhered to. In the case of this old historic English town of some 8,000 population, the Commissioners had gone beyond the municipal boundary for a distance of five or six miles in one direction for the purpose of bringing in a population sufficient to bring the constituency within the requirements of the Bill. He found at the same time that, with regard to Drogheda, a hard-and-fast line had been laid down. The 15,000 limit having been insisted upon, and no measure having been taken to extend the boundary, although only 338 people, according to the Census of 1881, were required to bring the population up to 15,000. He could not but think that the Government, when considering the representation of Ireland, had acted—and he said it with all due deference, but, at the same time, he did not think he should be contradicted in the statement, upon imperfect information in including Drogheda amongst the disfranchised boroughs. Although he happened to be a Member for the county in which Drogheda was mainly situated, he did not know, until two years ago, that he had constituents in that town. Two years ago, when he went to Drogheda, it was pointed out to him that he had passed his own constituents in the main street of the town. This street ran from east to west, and was the main street, and he was entirely at a loss to make out why one-half of it had been cut off and thrown into county Louth. It had been done evidently for some inscrutable reason. There could be no doubt that if the whole of the borough were included within the boundary Drogheda would have a population of 17,000, or 2,000 above the limit of 15,000. An inquiry into the circumstance of Drogheda had been held a short time ago; he referred to the inquiry of the Boundary Commission. Captain Purchas, R.E., one of the Boundary Commissioners, had sat in the assembly room of the Tholsel on the 17th of January for the purpose of considering the Parliamentary boundaries 123 of Louth. Captain Purchas had taken some important evidence; hut, looking at the Report of the Commissioners, he found that this evidence was not set forth. The evidence, however, given on that occasion was to the effect that some years ago a Royal Commission sat and took evidence in reference to the borough of Drogheda. That was called Mr. Exham's Commission. He believed a Borough Commission was also appointed in England at the same period; but of that he was not quite sure. At any rate, a Commission had sat in Ireland. The Government had adopted the Report of the Exham Commission for Belfast for the purpose of a jerrymandering arrangement between the two Front Benches. The Boundary Commissioners had accepted the Report of the Exham Commission for the borough of Belfast in order to give it four Members; but they had disregarded it in the case of Drogheda. The Exham Commission had made a Report recommending the extension of the borough boundary; but unfortunately for Drogheda no Bill had ever been introduced into Parliament to carry out the recommendations of the Commissioners. It appeared from the Report of the proceedings of the Boundary Commission on the 17th of January that the population of Drogheda now stood at a figure short only by 338 of the 15,000 required by the Bill, although, if the recommendation of Mr. Exham's Commission were carried out to-morrow, Drogheda would have a population which would exceed by 3,000 the number required to entitle it to a Member. Belfast, as he had said, was to be dealt with in the way in which he now asked the Committee to deal with Drogheda—that was to say, Mr. Exham's recommendation had been accepted in the one case, and he hoped the Committee would accept it in the other. All he asked was that the Report of the Exham Commission should be adopted; that the main street of the town, both east and west, should be included in the borough of Drogheda; and that no portion of it should be included in the county. He (Mr. Callan) had been present at the investigation in the Drogheda Tholsel, and had heard the evidence given. Amongst those who had given evidence were a number of the leading residents in Drogheda. Mr. Alderman Whit-worth, a brother of the present Member, 124 had expressed the opinion that it would be manifestly unjust to disfranchise the borough. Then he had been asked—Is it not a fact that portions of the town connected with streets within the borough are excluded from the Parliamentary boundary of the borough?—Yes; and most unaccountably—no one knows why.Mr. Whit worth had said that if the Commissioner walked from the Court, a distance which he would reach in a few minutes, he would come to that portion of the town the exclusion of which was complained of. This gentleman went on to state that he was born and bred in Drogheda, and never could get the slightest information as to who cut off that part of the borough, or why it was done. He had added that the part of the town excluded was as much part and parcel of the town as any street within the borough. Mr. Pelham J. Mayne, Clerk of the Peace for Drogheda, had stated that he considered the exclusion of a portion of the main street of the town a most unmeaning act, and for which no rational justification could be offered. It had, he said, the effect of unjustly limiting the population of Drogheda so as to reduce it below the number which under the Bill would entitle Drogheda to representation in Parliament. He (Mr. Callan) believed he was not incorrect in saying that if the Government had been at the time the Bill was drafted in possession of the information they now had they would not have proposed to disfranchise Drogheda. But the question arose, if Drogheda were allowed to retain a Member, where would he be taken from? That, he confessed, was the difficulty; but the Government had created the difficulty, and it was for them to extricate the Committee from it. It was not for him (Mr. Callan) to say where the Member was to come from. All he wanted was that Drogheda, which was one of the oldest and most historic towns in Ireland, being a town in which an Irish Parliament had once assembled, and a town whose historic associations were more identified with the past of Ireland than those of any other town in the country, should not be disfranchised. The town was endeared to Irishmen by the recollection of the massacres of English oppressors. The town was one which recommended itself to all Catholics, and, at the same time, recommended itself to 125 Irish Conservatives as having been the one through which ran the river which gave its name to the great battle between the Loyalists and the Catholics—a battle which the Loyalists never won although they claimed it—namely, the Battle of the Boyne. The only cotton factory in Ireland was in this town, and Drogheda was a more industrial place than any other town outside Ulster. Moreover, it was an improving town. From the Income Tax Returns they would find that it was one of the wealthiest towns in Ireland. If he were allowed to go into those Returns, and into the Valuation Returns, he would be able to deduce ample reasons why Drogheda should not be disfranchised. He had no particular fancy for any method of retaining the franchise in Drogheda; they might group it with another town, or do what they pleased. All he asked for was that Drogheda should be saved. He had questioned the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board, the other day, as to his reasons for his leniency in the case of Warwick, and he had not been able to give any. He would again ask the right hon. Baronet on what substantial ground he could extend the boundary of Warwick, with its population of 8,000—what reasonable justification there was for extending the boundary of that town some five miles, in order to save its representation, if not for a partizan of the Government, at any rate for a supporter of the Government, when he excluded Drogheda, with its population of 14,614, and its large number of other urban residents who, through some accident, had not been included within the borough boundary? Why should one be enfranchised and the other disfranchised? He asked that the same rule should be applied to both. If they enfranchised the one, let them enfranchise the other. If they disfranchised Drogheda, they must be consistent and also disfranchise Warwick. Of course, he knew that this was the result of an arrangement between the two Parties in the House. The Government were totally disfranchising 22 towns in Ireland, and partly disfranchising three others. They had cut down the borough representation of the country by 25 Members. They left only three boroughs enfranchised—namely, Newry, Londonderry, and Kilkenny — and 126 clipped the wings of Galway, Limerick, and Waterford; and he must say, county Member as he was, that the counties of the country had got an unfair and preponderating representation as compared with the boroughs. Some of those boroughs were the life and soul of the districts in which they were situated. They were the very gems of Irish commercial life; and yet the Government had swept away with one stroke of the pen substantially the entire Irish borough representation. He thought the Government would give satisfaction to both sides of the Committee and to all parties if they gave Drogheda a Member, or added Lisburn to it and gave a Representative to the group. In his opinion, it would be very easy to find a Member for each of the two boroughs he had named. Tyrone would yield one for Drogheda.
§ Amendment proposed, in Schedule 1, page 14, column 1, line 13, leave out "Drogheda"—(Mr. Callan.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member (Mr. Callan) had stated his case very fairly to the Committee, and he had no fault to find with the manner in which he had brought it forward. The hon. Member had made one observation with regard to the treatment of Irish boroughs, which was a matter the Committee had already discussed at considerable length on an earlier stage of the Bill; but it was just as well that he should remind the Committee that even now the Irish boroughs were very much over-represented at the expense of the counties. The Irish borough population was 756,000, and the county population 4,418,000. The counties had 85 Members by the Bill, and the boroughs 16. The result was that the Irish counties had one Member to every 52,000 population, which was much the same as in England and Scotland; and the Irish boroughs had one Member for every 47,300. So that when they spoke of the ill-treatment of the Irish boroughs it should be explained that though, no doubt, there were but a few Irish boroughs left, yet that Ireland was an agricultural country, that most of the population dwelt in the counties, and that the Irish boroughs were better 127 represented than the counties. They had decided not to reduce the Irish University representation, and therefore a seat for Drogheda could only be found by taking a county seat; and, looking at the fact that the counties were not so well off as the boroughs, it would be regarded as rather a hardship to counties in general, as well as to the particular county which might be selected for the loss of a seat, if a Member were found for Drogheda in this way. On the earlier stages of the Bill, when this matter was fully discussed, and when they were considering the desirability of grouping Irish boroughs, a suggestion was thrown out by an hon. Member on the opposite side of the House who was not at present in his place. The hon. Member proposed that some arrangement should be come to by general consent with regard to the Irish boroughs. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had said that, so far as he was concerned, he would throw no difficulty in the way of such an arrangement. Since then he had carefully examined the papers and the details of the question; and he was bound to say that he doubted very much if any other Irish borough could make out so strong a case as Drogheda, or whether the hon. Member who had brought that case forward could justify any argument for giving a couple of Members to Drogheda and Lisburn, as he had for the enfranchisement of Drogheda. It would be very difficult to extend the two places to the population which was recognized as the general limit. Even though it might be thought desirable to make an exception in the case of Ireland, on account of the small number of borough Members it possessed, it would be difficult to find boroughs over the 15,000 line to be represented at the expense of the agricultural districts. Enormous agricultural sections of the country would have to be added to the boroughs in order to bring them up to the required population. In the case of Lisburn, in order to bring its population up to the required 15,000, it would be necessary to bring in a very large acreage indeed. He had gone through the cases of Dundalk, Wexford, Armagh, and Carrickfergus. In Armagh, in order to add the necessary number of 5,000 to bring up the population to the 15,000 limit, it would be necessary to increase the 128 borough, which now consisted of 1,000 acres, to 16,000 acres, or one acre to each person, and it would be impossible to call that an urban population. In Carrickfergus, in order to add 6,000 population to make up the 15,000, they would have to include 22,000 acres. In Dundalk, in order to get in 3,000 or 4,000 population, they would have to add 9,000 or 10,000 acres; and even in Lisburn, for which the hon. Member (Mr. Callan) had to some extent pleaded, both now and on a previous occasion, it would be necessary, in order to add 4,000 population, to take in 8,000 acres. In Wexford also, in order to add 3,000 electors, it would be necessary to include 10,000 acres. [Mr. CALLAN: How about Drogheda?] He was speaking of the others first, and was showing that it was difficult to pair off any other borough against Drogheda. He had promised to look into the matter, and do what he could to meet the wishes of the Irish Members at a later stage of the Bill. With regard to Drogheda, the hon. Member had made out a very strong case, except on one point. If it were desired to make an exception in Ireland, and to keep in one additional borough, in spite of the argument of over-representation of the boroughs at the present moment as compared with the counties, no doubt the hon. Member had made out a strong case; but a point which the hon. Member had not borne in mind was that in Drogheda the population had steadily decreased of late years. [Mr. CALLAN: How about Warwick?] Well, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) should be prepared to defend what had been done in the case of Warwick at the proper time; but he might here state that the population of Warwick had been one which had been very steadily increasing—that was to say, the population of the borough which it was proposed by the Boundary Commissioners to include within the district.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that Warwick was a small place, and the increase had not been so remarkable there; but the increase in the borough included within the boundary by the Commissioners had been going on with extraordinary rapidity. Warwick was a little over 12,000 by itself; but Leamington, which was included with it, was making 129 tremendous strides. Now, they found that the population of Drogheda had very largely decreased. The decrease was larger than the average decrease in Irish boroughs. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Callan), however, wished to make a special exception with regard to Drogheda, he had a fairly strong case, a far stronger case than could be made with respect to any other Irish borough. In the case of Drogheda it would only be necessary to add 410 people to bring the population up to 15,000; and, therefore, if the Committee wished to make an exception in the case of one Irish borough, undoubtedly Drogheda had the strongest claim; but he understood from the previous discussions in the House, when the proposal was made to pair off two boroughs one against the other, that there would be no probability of a general consent with regard to this matter. That being so, they had to consider the case of Drogheda as standing by itself. Standing by itself he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) thought there was very little to be said for it. It would be necessary to take Members from counties which were large and populous; they would have to take a Member from constituencies which, on the average, had something like a population of 50,000 each, and give it to a town where there were not 15,000. That seemed impossible; and he doubted whether the Irish Members generally would approve of such a step. The counties which would stand first for reduction would be the counties of Tyrone and Tipperary; those would be the counties which would stand first for reduction in the event of any general agreement as to giving separate representation to Drogheda. He doubted whether it was possible to arrive at a general agreement, therefore he asked the Committee to adhere to the general principles of the Bill.
§ MR. WHITWORTH
said, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) went a long way to prove that Drogheda was entitled to retain its separate representation, and he (Mr. Whitworth) did not think the county of Louth would object at all to have one Member and let Drogheda have another. The population of Louth was only about 70,000, and a portion of that was in the borough of Drogheda, so that if there could be no other means 130 of retaining the representation of the town, he thought it would be well to adopt the suggestion he had now made. He was quite certain that Drogheda had now a sufficient number of inhabitants to entitle it to separate representation, for at the present moment the actual population was something like 18,000. It ought to be considered that Drogheda was becoming a large manufacturing town. It was the site of a very large active manufacture, and he did not think Parliament would be doing justice to Ireland if it were to shut out altogether representation of the commercial element. Drogheda was one of the oldest boroughs in Ireland, and he hoped the Committee would allow it to retain its separate representation.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he thought that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whitworth) who at present occupied the position of Member for Drogheda had not added any wisdom to the debate on this subject. The proposal of the hon. Gentleman was not a very wise one certainly, because he proposed that one of the two Members should be taken away from the county of Louth and given to Drogheda. His proposal, therefore, amounted to this—that 14,600 or 15,000 people in the town of Drogheda should have one Member, and that the county of Louth, with a population of something like 63,000, should have another Member, or, in other words, that the citizens of Drogheda, who had proved their wisdom by returning the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whitworth), should each of them be of the same value as five ordinary persons in the county of Louth. There was some inconvenience in discussing this question in the absence of the particulars which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had promised. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would say how soon the Committee might expect the Reports made by the Commissioners to be laid on the Table.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he hoped to lay the particulars to which the hon. Gentleman referred on the Table on Monday, and to circulate them on Tuesday. He spoke with some doubt, because Sir John Lambert was not very well, and was absent from London. It ought to be borne in mind, however, that what he had promised had special reference to the case of counties.
§ MR. SEXTON
understood that they were to expect Reports as to what had been said in the ease of Drogheda.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the promise he made was in answer to a specific question put to him by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy), and the particulars were to relate principally to counties.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, it was unfortunate that the Committee were obliged to discuss the case of Drogheda with such meagre information as they were possessed of. The Commissioners reported that applications were made to them on behalf of Lisburn and other towns, but that they had not thought it necessary to take any action upon those applications, as they were confessedly made in the hope of retaining for those towns their present separate representation. The Boundary Commissioners might have felt themselves absolved from making inquiries into the circumstances; but it was certainlyr elevant—indeed it was indispensable—that when the Committee were called upon to consider the case of towns like this that Captain Purchas and the right hon. Gentleman should lay before the Committee the evidence which had been given.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
remarked that it was no part of the business of the Commissioners to take evidence.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he had read the Instructions given to the Commissioners in England and Ireland carefully, and he quite admitted that that was so. He (Mr. Sexton) had understood that the Instructions to the Commissioners were that if in any case it might be shown to be desirable that the boundaries of a borough should be extended they must take evidence.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
remarked that it was quite within the power of the Commissioners to take evidence where they thought it was desirable for the purpose of taking urban populations out of counties to bring up a borough to a particular line.
§ MR. SEXTON
accepted the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but thought that it was clearly elliptical; it must have been by private conversation, and not from absolute instructions, that the Commissioners arrived at that conclusion. No doubt it was by a stretch of condescension that Captain Purchas was led to consider the case of Belfast. Now, 132 while agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman on the general question that Ireland was in the main an agricultural country and that its interests laid in rural representation, he must admit that there was a very special and exceptional case to be made for Drogheda. He could discover no parallel between Drogheda and the towns which had been aimed at by a previous Amendment, moved by the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton), for those were towns of only about 10,000 inhabitants. Lisburn, for instance, had only a population of 10,000; it was an inland town, it had no particular ancient municipal position, and its manufactures were not very considerable; and, therefore, on the whole, the interests of Lisburn might be fairly and adequately represented by a Member who would sit for the division of the county in which the town was situated. Drogheda, on the contrary, was a corporate town; it was a county town; and, besides having manufacturing and industrial interests, it had a shipping trade. He (Mr. Sexton) noticed that, in this connection, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board evaded the case of Warwick. On each occasion, however, when he did approach it he tried to impress the Committee that, in contradistinction to the decay of Drogheda, Warwick had increased considerably in the course of the last few years. Now, at the last Census, the population of Warwick was only 11,800, and the increase since 1871 had only been 800. Surely there was nothing in an increase of 800 to entitle the place to any special consideration. Now, he (Mr. Sexton) had said that Drogheda had very special claims, and he should be glad indeed if any means could be found whereby the separate representation of Drogheda could be continued; because he agreed with those people who said that though it was true the proportion of representation for counties in Ireland was lower than in the boroughs, still, no doubt, the representation of boroughs in Ireland had been minimized. He was bound to say that if he could see his way to give a Representative to Drogheda he should be very glad to do so, because he considered that the 2,000 men who would have to vote in that town would take at least as intelligent and as common sense a view of the interests of Ireland as the 2,000 learned 133 gentlemen who returned a Member for Trinity College.
§ VISCOUNT CRICHTON
said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had stated the case fairly with regard to the urban population of Ireland. If they were to take the urban populations preserved by the Bill, the people in towns numbered upwards of 700,000; but if they were to take the people residing in towns having 3,000 inhabitants and upwards, they would find there was in Ireland an urban population of 1,200,000. That population would be very much under-represented by the proposed arrangements; and, therefore, if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) went to a division, he (Viscount Crichton) would certainly vote with him.
§ MR. WHITWORTH
ventured to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill (Sir Charles W. Dilke) a proper solution of the difficulty—namely, that Drogheda and Dundalk should be constituted one constituency, and the county of Louth another. The county would then have 52,000 inhabitants, and the two boroughs between 25,000 and 26,000. He thought the adoption of some such solution as that would meet the difficulty.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Drogheda (Mr. Whitworth) was no doubt very anxious that the separate representation of the borough of Drogheda should continue. He (Mr. Biggar), however, was opposed to the formation of small boroughs, because he thought the tendency of them was towards corruption. It was his opinion that the argument that the boroughs in Ireland were over-represented was, after all, almost unanswerable. It was idle to talk of boroughs of 3,000 inhabitants, because, in point of fact, such populations were purely rural. The interests of such populations were entirely mixed up with the interests of the rural population; indeed, there was no practical difference between the interests of the two populations. It was very properly said that Drogheda was a manufacturing and seaport town; but manufacturing places would be very fairly represented under the Bill. Belfast was to have four Members, Dublin four, Cork two, Derry one, and Newry one. 134 These were all more or less manufacturing and seaport towns; and, seeing that Ireland was a much more agricultural country than a manufacturing or mercantile country, he thought the different trades were very fairly represented by the Bill as it now stood. He was somewhat timid about making such changes as the one now proposed. If they were to give Drogheda a seat, a difficulty as to where they were to get the seat from would arise. He thought that, under all the circumstances, it would be well to take the Bill for better or worse, and let Drogheda be thrown, as proposed, into the county.
said, he was glad he had had the advantage of hearing the speech just delivered by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), because it appeared that the great fear of the hon. Members for whom the hon. Member spoke was that the retention by the smaller boroughs of Ireland of separate representation would open the road to corruption. The hon. Gentleman could not be afraid of corruption from the landlords, because they had been deprived of the means of corrupting anybody. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had said that Ireland was an agricultural country, and really had a very small commercial and manufacturing population; it was an agricultural country, he said, and would remain so. He (Mr. Macartney) had always thought that the English who wrote on the subject of Ireland lamented the fact that Ireland was so completely an agricultural country. Whatever strictly urban population there was in Ireland they were to be deprived of proper representation in Parliament by being handed over to the mercy of the counties. It had been said that if Drogheda were to retain its own Member a seat would have to be taken from Tyrone or Tipperary. He would like to know which? ["Tyrone."] On behalf of Tyrone and Ulster generally he should object to such a proceeding, and he supposed that if it were proposed to vote a seat from Tipperary hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway would object equally strongly. It would be perfectly unfair to deprive Tyrone of a Member. At present Ulster was not properly represented as compared with the Province in which Drogheda was situated. Under the Bill Leinster would return one Mem- 135 ber for every 43,000 people, while Ulster would return one Member for every 55,000 inhabitants. If hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway would agree to the Members to which Leinster was not entitled being distributed over the other Provinces it would be a great boon. Hon. Gentleman, however, were not likely to agree to that, because their bête noire, or enemy, Ulster, would receive fair treatment. If the present proposal were to be carried out by taking a Member either from the county of Antrim, in which the borough of Lisburn was situate, or any other Ulster county, he should certainly oppose it.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said, he could easily understand the very natural desire there was upon the part of certain Members of the House, and certain persons outside the House, to keep for Drogheda the privilege of separate representation. The right hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill (Sir Charles W. Dilke) said very truly that perhaps there was no borough, certainly in Ireland—he (Mr. W. Redmond) was sure there was no borough in England—that came so near to the required limit of 15,000, and that, consequently, would have a better right to have an exception made in its favour, than Drogheda. While he (Mr. W. Redmond) fully recognized and sympathized with the hon. Member (Mr. Callan), who moved for the retention of the separate representation of Drogheda, he (Mr. W. Redmond) could understand why the Government would not consent to the Amendment. He could not see, if Drogheda were to be allowed to retain its Member, how the Government could very well refuse to allow other boroughs, with almost equal populations, to have separate representation. He did not know whether the noble Viscount the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton) intended to move an Amendment which stood in his name farther down on the Paper, with reference to the borough of Wexford. ["No!"] Of course, he supposed it would depend upon the reception which the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) obtained whether or not the noble Viscount would propose his Amendment; but he (Mr. W. Redmond) did not see very well how the Government could make an exception in the case of Drogheda, and refuse to 136 make it in the case of Wexford. Wexford was also a town upon the sea-board, and it had many claims which Drogheda also possessed. It was true that Wexford was not as near the required population as Drogheda; but still he felt that if Drogheda were to be made an exception of, a great many people in the South of Ireland would consider that there was an almost equal claim for an exception to be made in the case of Wexford. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Drogheda (Mr. Whitworth) proposed to solve the difficulty by grouping Drogheda and Dundalk together, and giving them one Member, and the county of Louth one Member, instead of two. Perhaps he (Mr. W. Redmond) might be allowed to offer a suggestion. That suggestion would be to take the two Members from the University of Dublin, and give one of them to Drogheda and the other to Wexford. Certainly, if that were done, nine-tenths of the people of Ireland would be highly delighted.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Drogheda (Mr. Whitworth) had suggested, as a means of giving a Member to Drogheda, that a Member should be taken from the county of Louth. Although he (Mr. Callan) was very sorry that Drogheda and Dundalk were not to continue to retain their Members, in order to show that with the extended franchise they could be as true to the cause of Irish nationality as any other part of Ireland, he could not consent to Louth being deprived of its fair share of representation. Hitherto Drogheda and Dundalk had returned Whig supporters of the Government; but with an increased electorate of 700 in the one case, and 600 in the other, he was fully persuaded that if they were allowed to retain separate representation, they would return Members whose hearts beat as true to the cause of Ireland as any other constituency in Ireland. In view of the arrangement arrived at between the two Front Benches, he would not now take a division upon this question. He would, however, certainly do so on Report, and hoped that, in the meantime, they would be able to arrive at a fair solution of the difficulty. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had compared Drogheda and Warwick; but he regretted that he had not given any rea- 137 son why the former should be included in the Schedule, and the latter excluded from it. The right [...] Baronet had applied a hard-and-fast rule in one case, but not in the other; and although he would not divide the Committee on his Amendment, he (Mr. Callan) should take the opinion of the House upon it on the Report, unless some explanation was given.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT CRICHTON
said, he felt bound to oppose the retention of the name of Lisburn in the list of boroughs to cease as such. Lisburn was a somewhat smaller borough than Drogheda, and it would require a larger extension of area in order to bring it up to the requisite limit. But while they were told that Drogheda was decreasing in population, Lisburn was increasing steadily. In 1871 the population was 9,356; and in 1881 it was 11,083, the increase being about 1,700 in 10 years. And he was informed that it was calculated that there had been a further increase, amounting to nearly 1,000, since 1881. Now, he thought, although Lisburn was not historically of such importance as the borough of Drogheda, for which the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) had asked exemption from the Schedule, yet, taking it as a fair representative of the manufacturing interest of Ireland, he might claim for it representation. It was one of the boroughs inquired into and reported upon by the Exham Commission which sat in 1881, and which recommended that its municipal boundaries should be considerably extended. That recommendation, if it had been carried out, as he believed it was at one time intended it should be, would have prevented the borough occupying its present position with regard to the Bill. He was told that the population within the boundaries recommended by the Commission would have been 16,800. Under those circumstances, he thought he might be excused for urging the claims of this borough upon the Committee, and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would see his way to the adoption of the Amendment which he now begged to move.
§ Amendment proposed, in Schedule 1, page 14, line 8, to leave out "Lisburn."—(Viscount Crichton.)138
§ Question proposed, "That 'Lisburn' stand part of the Schedule."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he had already referred to the case of Lisburn on the previous Amendment, because it had been suggested that the position of the two boroughs—Lisburn and Drogheda—was the same. With regard to the population of Lisburn, while admitting that it was increasing, Lisburn was still but a very small place, and in respect of population considerably below 15,000. The noble Viscount had spoken of the extension of area recommended by the Commission which sat in 1880; but he would point out that even that extended area would not bring up the population to the required number of 15,000—that was to say, according to the Census of 1881. But even if it were so, he must remind the Committee that the principle of the action of the Commission was not that of a Boundary Commission; the idea was that of extending the boundaries, not for the purpose of bringing in an urban population, but for the purpose of bringing in the scattered suburban population lying around the town itself. Again, in order to add 4,000 to the population, which would bring it over the 15,000, it would be necessary to add an area of 8,000 acres to the area of the borough, and it was upon that fact that his main answer to the noble Viscount rested. There were other reasons which occurred to him; but for those he had stated he did not see his way to make an exception in the case of Lisburn.
said, that one of the places proposed a short time ago to be added to Lisburn was named Pill-burn, where there were extensive works belonging to Messrs. Barbour and Co. There were besides a great number of manufactories, employing many persons who were paid wages, and had nothing whatever to do with agriculture. [Dissent.'] Hon. Members below the Gangway made assertions about the trade and manufactures of the North of Ireland which were palpably erroneous. If they took the manufacturing interest of Lisburn alone, it would probably be found that the exports exceeded those of Drogheda. Lisburn was the seat of the damask manufacture in Ireland, which industry was founded there by a colony of Huguenots, who took refuge in Ire 139 land from the persecution of Louis XIV. If the case of Drogheda was to be considered at all by the Government, be thought it would be a very extraordinary thing if that of Lisburn was not considered also.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he proposed to move that Boston should be included in Part III. of this Schedule, which dealt with boroughs disfranchised for corruption. He did not suppose there was any borough in the Kingdom which could show so bad a history as Boston with regard to electioneering malpractices. The borough of Boston had a population of 19,000, and it had been the subject of inquiry at the hands of two Election Commissions. The House had decided to retain a special part of this Schedule in which to include the names of two boroughs which the Government proposed absolutely to disfranchise on account of malpractices in connection with Parliamentary Elections. The names of those boroughs were Macclesfield and Sandwich. The borough of Boston, like the borough of Sandwich, was very ancient; it had rather dwindled in importance, and had been passed in the race by other more thriving and enterprizing neighbours. It lay at a distance from the sea, a circumstance which had diminished its prosperity; and being a place of departed importance, yet retaining a considerable population, it was just one of those places in which it was found that electioneering malpractices most extensively prevailed. He wished to put before the Committee the disparity which existed between Macclesfield and Boston, which he believed was not altogether in favour of the latter. Macclesfield was a town of 40,000 inhabitants, and which had never been visited by a Royal Commission until after the last election. The malpractices which had taken place at Macclesfield were, after all, of a description which, although corrupt, was not corrupt in the strongest sense. They consisted chiefly of small sums paid freely and openly to the poorer voters on both sides, who regarded them only in the light of remuneration for services on election day rather than as the price of their voting for a particular candidate. He did not want to apologize for those malpractices at Macclesfield; but 140 there were, no doubt, many parts of the country in which those practices had become almost a recognized part of the system of electioneering; and although it was the wish of Parliament to put a stop to them, they did not argue the same amount of accessibility to corrupt influences as was to be found in Boston, Sandwich, and other places where the election was determined by the weight of the candidate's purse. At Boston the Commissioners' Report stated that they had ascertained and reported the names of about 300 persons, many of whom were not of the impoverished class, and who directly received money in respect of their votes. It was stated that the persons who came before the Commission had an imperfect recollection of the persons to whom they paid money; but they remembered enough to give the names of 300 persons. But not only was that the case. The Commissioners admitted that if they had felt themselves warranted in pushing the inquiry to its full extent, they would probably have had to give an account of a great mass of bribery; and they went on to say, with regard to previous elections, that although no bribery had been proved to have been practised, several witnesses had informed them that all elections at Boston, both Parliamentary and municipal, had for a long time been corrupt. The vicar stated that the municipal elections had materially contributed to produce corrupt practices in the borough, and the Commissioners reported that they had formed emphatically the same opinion. They added that there was a large number of persons in the borough living by precarious employments; that of that class about 600 were voters, and their votes were sufficient to determine an election in favour of and candidate. He did not know what the Committee might think; but it appeared to him that never had there come from any Commission appointed to examine into the position of a borough a stronger statement as to the hopeless condition of corruption in which it was found to be. The number of voters proved to have received money in respect of their votes was 300; and that of the persons who the Commissioners were satisfied gave their votes corruptly was 600, a number which they said was, in their opinion, sufficient to determine every Parliamentary and Municipal Election which 141 had taken place for a long time past. The whole tenour of the Report was to suggest a condition of habitual and absolute corruption. The population of Boston, again, was little more than the limit determined upon in the case of pure boroughs; and the Committee were still to allow Boston to retain its electoral franchise. They were to leave other places, like Birkenhead and Cardiff, without second Members, in order to preserve this beggarly and corrupt borough from disfranchisement. He trusted the Committee would not hesitate to do justice in this matter. The Government had shown a disposition to do rather more than justice in the severity with which they dealt with Macclesfield, although he did not feel himself free to vote against the action of the Government in that case. As Boston had been, so it was proposed it should continue to be—one of the sinks of iniquity, which was to disgrace the Parliamentary system whenever an election took place by the continued application of parties in that constituency to reverse the result of the polling. He thought there would be no harm if the House were to save itself from these recurring scandals. He would not argue or make any precise suggestion as to whether the seat which his Amendment proposed to take away should be given to restore in some degree the electoral privileges of the City of London, or to some other deserving borough. He had only to say that if it were a question of distributing the seat of any constituency, they could hardly do worse than give it to Boston.
§ Amendment proposed, in Part III, page 14, line 26, before the word "Macclesfield," to insert the word "Boston."—(Mr. Raikes.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Boston' be there inserted."
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said, as he had the melancholy satisfaction of exposing, by his Petition, the corruption which took place at Boston in 1880, he was sure the Committee would assent to this proposition—that he, for one, was as anxious as any Member of the House of Commons in no way to palliate malpractices which might have taken place in Boston or elsewhere. In fact, he would even go so far as to say that if the Government had thought fit to include in this Schedule all those boroughs 142 against which the Election Commissioners had adversely reported he should have supported their proposal. But that was not the object of the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Raikes). The right hon. Gentleman proposed, unjustly as he thought, to single out Boston, as against Chester, Gloucester, and other corrupt but unscheduled boroughs, and place it in the same category as Macclesfield and Sandwich. The right hon. Gentleman practically challenged comparison between Macclesfield and Boston; and it was there that he (Mr. Sydney Buxton) would directly meet his argument. He said that, as regarded disfranchisement, Boston was not in the same category with the boroughs which the Government in their discretion had thought fit to disfranchise, and for these reasons. There were several points of difference between them. In the first place, there was no case of gross corruption proved against Boston before 1880, and the bribery in the election of 1880 was confined to one side. Although no one denied that there was a corrupt element in the borough, that did not represent the corruption of the constituency as a whole; whereas anyone who studied the case of Macclesfield would see, by the Report of the Commissioners, that there had never been a pure election there. As regarded the elections of 1865, 1868, 1874, and 1880, the Commissioners reported definitely that—Corrupt practices do extensively prevail in Macclesfield."—(Report, page 16 [C.—2853.] 1881).Then there was no question, as far as Macclesfield was concerned—and the right hon. Gentleman himself had acknowledged the fact—that both sides had been equally lavish in their bribery, and equally responsible for what had taken place; while it appeared also that corruption was not the exception, but the rule, in Macclesfield, seeing that the Commissioners reported that out of a total of 5,500 electors who voted in 1880 some 1,000 were bribed. He thought he had shown that Macclesfield compared very unfavourably with the constituency which the right hon. Gentleman desired to place in the same category with it. Now, with regard to the corruption in Boston, the right hon. Gentleman had quoted a passage from the Report, which showed the individual opinion of a 143 clergyman at Boston, and the individual opinions of one or two other persons, that some of the elections there had been corrupt; but the right hon. Gentleman had omitted to quote the Report of the Commissioners themselves, where they said they accepted the Report of the Commission of 1874 to the effect that—Gifts of coal had been made corruptly, but that direct bribery of a grosser form had not taken place at the elections of 1874 and 1868.That, he thought, showed clearly that, although, undoubtedly, there had been some corruption at Boston, it had not been so extensive, or in anything like the same degree, as the corruption which took place at Macclesfield. Then, with regard to the second point, that the direct bribery was entirely confined to one side; no single case of direct bribery had been produced against the Liberals even after 30 days of exhaustive examination. There was the allegation that the Liberal Party employed too many persons, and that he did not deny; on the contrary, he was clearly himself of that opinion, although he was sure the Committee would acquit him of any personal knowledge in the matter, and he was equally ready to acknowledge that the Election Judges were entirely justified and right in unseating Mr. Ingram. There was, however, absolutely no allegation of any sort or kind of direct bribery proved against the Liberal Party. But in every way—and this was his point—the two sides were entirely different. On the one hand, the Liberals spent £1,860 in all; on the other hand, the Conservatives returned their expenses as £4,000, of which £1,100 was put under the head of "employment," and, in addition, they spent some £3,300 in acknowledged direct bribery—money spent with the knowledge and at the instigation of one of the Conservative candidates, and by the son and son-in-law of the other. That he mentioned to show that the bribery, such as it was was, all on one side. Then, as regarded the last point, that there was an element of corruption in the borough. That no one could deny; but this element did not extend to the constituency as a whole; it did not, as in the case of Macclesfield, include the majority of the electors. The Commissioners scheduled 300 out of 3,000 electors. But granted that many escaped; granted that the whole of the 600 144 "needy persons" mentioned in the Report were all corrupt, that, after all, was nothing like the proportion of corrupt voters which was acknowledged to exist in Macclesfield. Even then nothing approaching to the half of the number of voters were corrupt, and there remained the large balance of the constituency unaffected. Then as to the point which the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to make, that it was not so much the number of persons who were corrupt, but the amount of money spent, which constituted the real corruption of a constituency, he (Mr. Sydney Buxton) entirely dissented from that proposition. He took an opposite view; for it seemed to him that it showed a greater virtue in the constituency that it should require a greater amount of money to overcome its scruples. No doubt the bribers were the worse in the latter case; but the bribees were less bad, and it was for the sins of the bribees, more than of the bribers, that disfranchisement was inflicted. It appeared to him that a constituency was more corrupt if the vast majority of the electors were ready to receive bribes than it would be, as in the case of Boston, in which a large sum of money was spent upon a small number of electors. Moreover, in that case, it was clear from the Report of the Commissioners that it was not, as at Macclesfield, the voters who importuned the bribers, but the bribers who had arranged a carefully prepared plot to corrupt the place. The Commissioners reported (page 5, Report [C.— 2784] 1881) that—It appears to us that Mr. F. Rowley and his agent Mr. George Wise intended at an early period to procure votes corruptly,and so on, showing how the matter was arranged. That, he thought, proved that it was the bribers who prepared a carefully laid scheme in order to corrupt the constituency of Boston. The blame was on the bribers in this case more than on the bribees, and that was a matter which he thought ought to be taken into account in the question before the Committee. He had no desire in any way to whitewash Boston, or to blacken Macclesfield; and if it were a question of all corrupt boroughs being disfranchised, he would vote with the right hon. Gentleman with that object. All that he urged was that the case of Boston was not so bad as that of Mac- 145 clesfield; that, comparing Boston with Macclesfield, the former came out well in comparison with the latter in the points which he had endeavoured to lay before the Committee—namely, that it had a better record in the past; that, in 1880, the corruption was mostly confined to one side; and, that while there was a corrupt element, the constituency as a whole was not corrupt. On these grounds, he trusted the Committee, if they were not going to disfranchise all the peccant boroughs, would not accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, he thought it unfortunate that in a discussion of this kind such a speech should have been made as that which had been delivered by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He regretted that the hon. Member should have taken the opportunity of making the question a political one, and attacking one political Party.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I did not desire to make any political attack. It was necessary for my argument to show that one side was worse than the other. I referred to the Report of the Commissioners; but I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that there was no intention of making any Party attack.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, as he wished to be perfectly fair, he also would refer to the Report of the Commission. The hon. Member had repeatedly stated that the bribery at Boston had been all on one side, and that it had been the deliberate intention of the candidates of the Conservative Party to corrupt an unwilling constituency. He (Mr. Edward Clarke) thought it a pity that charges of this sort should be introduced into the debate; but in order to make things fair he would read one passage in the Report—In addition to the acts of bribery above set forth it appears that Mr. E. W. Staniland, Mr. J. Lockwood, Secretary to the Boston Liberal Association, Mr. G. Wise, and others, endeavoured to procure votes corruptly by paying voters and the children or friends of voters for unnecessary work, and on a scale of remuneration at least double the ordinary rate of wages in the town. The total number of persons employed was certainly not less than 1,200 (variously estimated at 1,200 or 1,500), of whom the large majority were voters, the whole number of voters in the borough being about 3,000, including 66 freemen, almost all of whom are otherwise qualified. Of those employed 150 146 Boston men and 20 persons imported from Lincoln were appointed by Mr. Staniland as watchers to detect and prevent the bribery which he states that he had reason to believe would be resorted to. We are satisfied, however, that there existed no excuse for the number of watchers, or for the number otherwise employed by that gentleman and his sub-agents. As it is proved that Mr. W. T. Ingram and Mr. S. C. Buxton were in consultation with Mr. Staniland on the subject of this employment, we have had very grave doubts whether we ought not to report to your Majesty that they were guilty of bribery; but, it not being certain that the scheme of employment was corrupt in intention and in extent at the time when they approved it, we have omitted their names from the Schedule appended to this Report. Both these gentlemen have stated to us that the watchers were employed by them in order to prevent and detect bribery, which they believed would exist, and that their intention was thoroughly honest in employing them. We find, however, that in fact the watchers, with few exceptions, used their position simply as an excuse for taking bribes, which they did not, except in a few cases, report, and which they were allowed to keep even when they did report them.He hoped that, so far as the charge or counter-charge of the hon. Gentleman was concerned, this passage would be considered by the Committee as a sufficient answer to the speech they had just listened to. He did not say that Boston should be added to this Schedule; he thought there was a good deal to be said on both sides, and it was true that there were some considerations with regard to Boston which might have justified the decision of the Government with regard to it. But, knowing something of the electoral corruption which had taken place in this country, he did not think there was a worse case than that of Macclesfield. That borough was created by the Reform Act of 1832; it was a borough of the ideal size, and out of about 5,000 voters there 3,500 had received payments in money; it showed on both sides the most outrageous system of corruption that anyone could conceive, and it would be a disgrace to the House of Commons if the name of Macclesfield were retained as an enfranchised borough.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman had no wish to misrepresent the case. As the hon. and learned Gentleman, however, represented it, the employment was entirely on the side of the Liberal candidates. But that was not so, because anyone who has read the Report will know that Mr. G. Wise was the agent on the other 147 side. I only wish to make a personal explanation.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he thought that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Sydney Buxton) had adopted an unfortunate line in his defence of the borough in question; nor had he improved his position by what had just fallen from him, as he had adopted a paragraph in the Report of the Commissioners which not only showed that his agent had been guilty of bribery, but nearly brought it home to the hon. Member himself. As regarded the proposition of his right hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Raikes) he was not prepared to accede to it. The Schedule referred to was of a highly penal character, as entirely disfranchising the boroughs at present in it, and ought not to be extended beyond the necessity of the case. The two boroughs scheduled were in flagrante delicto. The bribery there was notorious and universal; but if they were to insert Boston on the Report of the Commissioners, he pointed out that they must deal with seven or eight other boroughs at least in the same way as they had dealt with the state of things which existed at Macclesfield and Sandwich. He would point out that some of the statements in the Commissioners' Report—such, for instance, as to there being 600 men in the town open to bribery—were somewhat of a hearsay character, and rested on very little or no evidence. For these reasons he could not support the Motion of his right hon. Friend.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he was very anxious to keep the discussion apart from Party politics. He would point out that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Sydney Buxton), although he contended that the bribery was all on one side, had admitted that Mr. Ingram was rightly unseated. With regard to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he would acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman had made out a strong case against Boston, and that his heart was not with that constituency. But he could also make out a very strong case against the eight towns which had been the subject of inquiry, with the exception of Knaresborough and Canterbury. The amount of corruption in those cases was 148 a matter of degree, and the Government had endeavoured with regard to them to draw a somewhat rough-and-ready line. In respect of Macclesfield and Sandwich, they found a number of persons reported for bribery which exceeded half of the constituencies. In Macclesfield the number amounted to 53 per cent, and in Sandwich it was 60 per cent of the constituency; and, inasmuch as more than one-half of the electors who voted had been detected in voting corruptly, the Government thought that on the side of clemency at least the 50 per cent limit was a safe line to draw. If they were to schedule Boston they must also schedule Gloucester. In the case of Gloucester, 40 per cent of the constituency was reported to have been bribed. In order to draw the line referred to, the Government had, however, to strike Gloucester out. The number of persons bribed at Boston amounted to 12 per cent. He would not enter into the details of the Report in any way. He repeated that the Government had drawn a rough line at 50 per cent, and that if they were to schedule Boston they would have to schedule all the other boroughs reported upon also.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 37; Noes 136: Majority 99. —(Div. List, No. 72.)
§ Schedule agreed to.