HC Deb 20 March 1885 vol 296 cc148-70

, in the absence of his hon. and gallant Colleague (Colonel Milne-Home), wished to move the Amendment which stood in his name, which was in effect to insert Berwick-on-Tweed in the Schedule, in order that it might retain one Member.


rose to Order. He wished to point out that Berwick-on-Tweed had been retained in Schedule 1, which had now been passed.


said that, Berwick-on-Tweed having been retained in Schedule 1, it was not competent for the hon. Member to reopen the question on Schedule 2.


remarked that, that being the case, it would be his duty to bring the matter forward on Report.


rose to move that "Exeter" should be left out of the Schedule of boroughs which were only to return one Member. The hon. Gentleman said he would not have troubled the Committee with matters of a sentimental character if it had not been that the Government had laid stress on the fact that in bringing forward this Bill they desired to have regard to the historical character of the constituencies, and they also wished to have regard for electoral continuity. Now, with regard to the sentimental side of the question, he would point out that Exeter had for several centuries returned two Members to that House; it was the county town, it was an Assize town, a considerable seaport town, and was commonly known as the Metropolis of the West. If it had been a decaying town, however, he would not have mentioned even those matters; but, as a matter of fact, it was a steadily growing town, and although it might not be increasing as rapidly as some of the great Northern manufacturing towns, it was gradually increasing. There were considerable railway works in Exeter; further railway extension to it was contemplated, and at the present moment it had a population of some 48,000 inhabitants; so, as he had said before, it was growing steadily. On this occasion he fully agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), with whom it was seldom his good fortune to agree on matters in that House, in regard to the Boundary Commissioners. He found that the Instructions to the Boundary Commissioners contained the following:— The Commissioners will, therefore, previous to making any recommendation, take the necessary steps for satisfying themselves whether there are any considerable number of houses beyond the boundaries, but contiguous thereto, the occupiers of which, either from community of interests with the borough or from other circumstances, form part of the town population proper. Now, he ventured to assert that if the Boundary Commissioners had carried out those instructions in the spirit and the letter, he would not have been then standing there to advocate the claims of his constituency, because Exeter would at the present moment have been entitled to two Members. There was no question of having to add thousands of acres to the borough in order to bring it up to the dimensions of a borough returning two Members. When the representa- tive of the Boundary Commissioners went down to Exeter, Petitions were presented to him signed by more than 90 percent of the population of those portions of the city which were just outside the present boundaries, praying for inclusion within the City limits; and they were utterly unable to ascertain why the Boundary Commissioners had reported against the inclusion of those parts of Exeter within the Parliamentary borough. Very great weight must, of course, be given to the question of numbers; but he contended that the mere question of numbers should not alone determine the amount of the representation to be given. Rateable value ought also to be taken into account. Now, the rateable value of Exeter was £230,000, whereas the rateable value of Plymouth was only £205,000, and that of Devonport £97,000; and yet both the latter places were to return two Members, as against one Member for Exeter. Then, again, Exeter had an unusually large number of electors in proportion to its population. In a population of 48,000 there were 7,523 electors, while in Devonport there were only 5,421 electors in a population of 63,000; and again in Bath, which had just over 50,000 of population, there were only 6,231 electors. It appeared to him that these were reasons which ought to have some weight with the Government to induce them to look favourably on the proposal he now submitted. Moreover, Exeter had many varied interests. It had a very large clerical population owing to the existence of the Cathedral there; and, at the same time, in the town and its neighbourhood they had a large number of retired officers of the Army and Navy, well-to-do tradesmen, as well as a great quantity of the working classes. For a borough of its size also it represented an unusually large amount of agricultural interests. He did not wish to speak disparagingly of the boroughs of Plymouth and Devonport; but he was obliged to (point out, in contradistinction to the varied interests involved in Exeter, that the interests of those two places were very much of an uniform Dockyard character. The Government had not taken into ac-count, moreover, the probable position of Exeter within the next few years. If he could induce the President of the Local Government Board to consider this matter, he thought he could prove to him that there need be only five instances in which boroughs at present returning two Members might claim to keep them, and that Exeter might easily be enlarged so that its population would be raised over the necessary 50,000. Then, again, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the constituency of Exeter was evenly balanced in political feeling, and he believed that for nearly the last half-century it had returned one Member of each particular shade of political feeling; and if it was now to be deprived of one of its Members, there would be a number of citizens in Exeter who, according to the 15,000 population test, would be entitled to a Member, who would be absolutely unrepresented in that House. He admitted that in the South-West of England there were a large number of small constituencies which, under anything like a drastic Reform Bill, would have to be disfranchished; but that was a stronger reason for retaining any borough constituency the population of which nearly approached the limit laid down by the Bill for double-Membered constituencies. Under this Bill he believed there would be only two borough Representatives left in Cornwall, three in Somerset, and five in Devon. Now, he had the greatest respect for the Gentlemen who would represent the counties in the South-West of England; but he was not inclined to give up the proper representation of the South-Western boroughs. If the President of the Local Government Board would listen to his appeal, he was quite certain he could show him where the population of Exeter could be increased to upwards of 50,000 without making any serious inroad upon the county constituency. As he commenced by saying, if this Bill was to recognize the existence of historic associations, and if such associations were to have any weight at all, he thought the City of Exeter was a place which deserved to be treated with some leniency.

Amendment proposed, in page 15, line 15, to leave out "Exeter."— (Mr. H. S. Northcote.)

Question proposed, "That 'Exeter' stand part of the Schedule."


said, the City of Exeter had been the subject of careful inquiry by the Boundary Commission of 1868, and if hon. Members would refer to the Report of that Commission they would find it contained a large map of the borough of Exeter, and they would also find that the city had not yet reached the limits of the boundary which was shown thereon. In the extension of boundaries in 1868 the Commissioners had provided for the possible increase of the population; but, as a matter of fact, the increase of the city had never come beyond the Parliamentary limits. Although not touching the boundary of the city, there was a collection of railway employés houses, about 93 of them, and the only reason for bringing them into the Parliamentary boundary would be to raise the number of the constituency to upwards of 50,000 persons. But, looking at the matter from the hon. Member's point of view, they would have to consider where they were to get the extra seat from? By the arrangement which had been arrived at it would be impossible for them to take seats from constituencies of 50,000 to give them up to constituencies which had less than that number. Suppose they decided to give extra seats in cases such as this, where would they have to be taken from? They would have to be taken from great English borough constituencies like Wolverhampton and Sheffield, whose representation was to be increased by the Bill; but he did not believe the Committee would consent to take seats away from constituencies like that, where each seat represented, in some cases, something like 65,000 or 70,000 people, in order to give them to towns like Exeter, where, although they represented great historical associations, each Member would only represent about 24,000. The hon. Member had said that the South-West of England suffered by the Bill. That might be true; but under that Bill it would still be more represented than was Wales, although Wales was over-represented as compared to all the other parts of the Kingdom.


remarked that there was an observation made by the hon. Member opposite, in support of his claim, derived from the historical associations of Exeter, and the fact that it divided its representation. That argument seemed to him to go against the hon. Member himself, because, in his opinion, any constituency which could not make up its mind in politics ought to have but one Representative. If the Government had determined to reduce all Cathedral towns to the position of one-Member constituencies they would have found in him a warm supporter. He considered that the explanation of the division in the representation was due to the corrupting influences of the presence of a Dean and Chapter. If there was one part of the Bill which was settled it was this—that boroughs with 15,000 inhabitants and over should have one Member, and boroughs with 50,000 and over should have two Members. What, then, was the good of discussing a thing which was already decided? The whole of that debate reminded him of two lines of Pope, which summed up the whole case— Thus, well-bred spaniels civilly delight In mumbling at the game they dare not bite. The hon. Gentleman had dwelt on the opulence of the Exeter citizens. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer told him yesterday that Exeter was too poor to buy silver spoons, and therefore it had lost its Assay Office. If that was so, it appeared to him that the City of Exeter was a decaying and not a progressive city. His (Mr. Thorold Rogers') own city had lost its representation; but that must be because it had a Dean and Chapter. The City of Oxford was a great manufacturing town however, for they were just as much a manufacturing town for the manufacture of graduates as the City of London was for the manufacture of fagot voters. He considered that it was idle to discuss this question further, because they had already arrived at a decision upon it.


said, he had listened to the very able and interesting speech of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. H. S. Northcote) with much interest, and as he went on he (Mr. Ince) felt less and less inclined to take the course which he was about to take. He thought those large towns like Exeter and the large town which he had the honour to represent, which at the time of the last Census had less than the number of electors which would entitle them to two Members, but which would be now entitled to two Members, having regard to their present population, had some cause to complain. But he felt that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill, it would be absurd to persist in this Amendment; and as he could not prophesy what would be the result, in any of these cases, of a division, he would not persevere with the Amendment which stood in his name.


remarked that his hon. Friend (Mr. H. S. Northcote) had put the claim of Exeter in the strongest possible way, and therefore he would not attempt to add to its force; but he rose to say a few words in consequence of the general answer given by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. The general answer which he gave really came to this—that however strong the case it could not be entertained, because if it were the House would have to take away seats from places like Wolverhampton and Sheffield, or other large towns. Now, he entirely objected to that proposition. His observations alluded more particularly to an Amendment which would be moved presently; but as the right hon. Gentleman had made that general statement he felt bound to protest against it at once. He saw no magic in the number 658 as the number of Members in that House. There had been no magic used in order to add 12 to the number of Members, and it was nothing to the purpose to give a general answer to a strong case, for there was no reason why the 12 should not be made 13. He objected altogether to the proposition that if a Member could not make out a good case for taking away a seat from one constituency that that was to preclude him from getting an additional seat for another constituency. That was no answer to the argument. If a case of hardship was made out they ought to deal with it upon its merits


said, the view of the right hon. Gentleman was not in accord with his on this matter. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) did not consider that an increase of the number of Members of the House would be in accordance with the agreement which had been entered into between the two Parties.


said, he proposed to do what he believed to be his duty to his constituents in this mat- ter, regardless of what might be the opinion of the hon. Member for Southwark. In regard to the observations that had fallen from the hon. Member, he might remind him that if there had not been a very able and very Radical Bishop at Exeter they would very probably have returned two Conservatives. He had hoped that he might have conveyed the suggestion that there was an alternative besides taking a Member from Sheffield or Wolverhampton; Plymouth and Devonport would group exceedingly well, and spare a Member. He could not accept the recommendation of the hon. and learned Member for Hastings (Mr. Ince) to withdraw his Amendment; but he did not think there would be any advantage in troubling the Committee with a division, and therefore he should simply move it and allow it to be negatived.

Question put, and negatived.


said, that notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Hastings (Mr. Ince), he felt it his duty to move his Amendment, which was to leave Hastings out of the Schedule of towns which were to have only one Member. Now, he protested in the strongest manner against the doctrine that they were to leave all those matters in the hands of the Treasury Bench. When the compact was made between the Leaders of the two Parties in that House he understood that, although the general principles of the Bill were agreed to, they, as Members of the House, were still entitled to discuss the details of the Bill. He defied the Prime Minister to show a single case in which great fundamental principles had been settled by a compact between the Leaders of the two Parties in that House. He did not say that the compact might not have been desirable; but he did say that they, as Members of that House, had a perfect right to exercise the privileges conferred upon them by their constituents of moving Amendments. With regard to the claims of Hastings to two Members, he might mention, in the first place, that it was perhaps the most ancient borough in England, and he thought he was right in saying that there was never the suspicion of corruption having existed within it. He might also remind the right hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill (Sir Charles W. Dilke) that Hastings had had many distinguished Representatives. It had been represented by the Earl of Liverpool, when Sir Charles Jenkinson, by Mr. Canning, by Lord Palmeraton, and others; and, although this might be what his hon. Friend (Mr. H. S. Northcote) had called a sentimental consideration, still he thought it was a ground upon which it could be urged that they should be allowed to continue their present representation. Now, with regard to the manner in which the seats for these constituencies were to be supplied, he did not think that they, on that side of the House, were called upon to show the method in which seats were to be supplied under the scheme of the President of the Local Government Board. He believed it to be that right hon. Gentleman's measure, because he could not believe for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman who presided over the destinies of this country could be the father of such a measure as that before them. If the right hon. Gentleman would not give him his attention he would sit down.


I am very happy to listen to the hon. Baronet.


The right hon. Gentleman was talking to the Prime Minister and laughing.


said, he was very sorry if the necessary conversation which he was obliged to hold with the Prime Minister had led the hon. Baronet to believe that he was offering him any disrespect.


The right hon. Gentleman laughed.


could only repeat that there was no discourtesy intended.


I beg to withdraw my Amendment, Sir.


begged to move the insertion of Ipswich in the Schedule, and thought that in this particular ease they might make an exception to the rule that had been laid down. He ventured to think that the limits had been rather inconsiderately laid down. The limit of 15,000 population was too low for boroughs to retain one Member, while 50,000 population was not sufficient for two. He could not help thinking that if the Committee had been free to exercise its own judgment in the matter it would have declined to fix the number at 50,000, but would have raised it to something higher. He believed the proper figure would have been 75,000 or 80,000. He would not ask the Committee to raise the limit; but he would ask them not to extend any exceptional privilege to Ipswich. He was not biased in this matter. The hon. Members who represented Ipswich both represented very interesting views in that House; but he could not help believing, apart from personal considerations, that it would not be difficult to make out a case for depriving Ipswich of one Member. It was a place with a population of scarcely 50,000 inhabitants. It had seen its best days, and was rapidly declining. It had been a much more important place than it was ever likely to be again, and there was no reason to suppose that it would make a fresh start and become a centre of population. The neighbouring borough of Cambridge, which was a much more important place, had but one Member; the great City of Exeter, which they must admit was the capital of the West of England, and his old constituency (Chester), which, although a little smaller, was, at least, as important as Ipswich, and he believed more so, had only one Member each. He would like the Committee to remember that this Bill perpetuated the extreme inequalities of the system by which great towns like Birkenhead, Cardiff, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Walsall, and others, with 60,000 to 100,000 population, were still to be contented with one Member, yet which conferred upon a broken down old town like Ipswich two Representatives. He thought the Government might fairly make this concession, even if they adhered to their first rule in other matters, because it was impossible in the case of Ipswich to justify the two Members for a borough which, as he had said, was below the electoral quota for one Member. Although the right hon. Baronet who was in charge of the Bill would probably be too discreet to say that he agreed with him in this matter, he believed he did so in his heart, and he begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.

Amendment proposed, in page 15, column 1, after "Hereford" (line 19), insert "Ipswich."—(Mr. Raikes.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'Ipswich' be there inserted."


said, the line must be drawn somewhere, and Ipswich came within the limit fixed for two Members. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman was hardly fair to Ipswich, for it left in the minds of the Committee the impression that Ipswich was a decaying borough. Now that was not so at all. It was, on the other hand, a rapidly increasing place. In 1871 the population was only 42,000 odd, in 1881 it was 50,000 odd, and it was calculated that at the end of the present year it would be 54,613. Ipswich had a very much larger population than either Cambridge or Chester, and was very steadily, he might say rapidly, increasing. It was not by any means a decreasing place, and under these circumstances the Government considered it was fairly entitled to retain its two Members.


said, he did not propose to put the Committee to the trouble of a division; but he wished to point out that he had at least obtained from the right hon. Baronet an important admission. The right hon. Baronet had laid stress on the fact that Ipswich had increased since 1881, and when they came to consider the case of other towns which were growing that would be an important argument. He could only attribute the argument which the right hon. Gentleman had used to the popularity of Ipswich on the Treasury Bench. He begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said, he thought it would not be convenient for him to raise the question he was about to raise—namely, the propriety of omitting Warwick from this Schedule; but he would raise it on the 5th Schedule, which he supposed they would approach before very long.


, in moving an Amendment, said, he would ask the indulgence of the Committee while he briefly submitted for consideration the very exceptional case of the borough of Wigan. In the few observations he proposed to make he hoped to be able to prove to the satisfaction of the Committee that the population properly belonging to Wigan at the Census of 1881 considerably exceeded the prescribed number of 50,000, and that Wigan ought to be left out of the Second Schedule of this Bill. According to the Census Returns of 1881, the population of Wigan was 48,196; but the Committee must remember that the town was at that time suffering from the effects of a very serious colliery strike, which had caused many persons to leave in search of employment in other places; some migrated to Oldham, and other towns in Lancashire, others went to South Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, and North and South Wales, the result being that the empty houses of Wigan, at the Census of 1881, amounted to the large number of 1,287, being 842 more than there would have been if they had formed the same proportion as was the case at the Census of 1871. Now, if the greater part of those 842 houses had been occupied at the time of the last Census, as they would have been under any ordinary circumstances, the population would have exceeded 51,000. Again, the population of Wigan, according to the Census of 1871, was upwards of 39,000, and between the Census of 1871 and the Census of 1881 there were 2,760 new houses erected, as against only 200 that were destroyed. If the greater portion of those new houses had been inhabited at the Census of 1881, as they would have been under ordinary circumstances, the population would have exceeded 51,000. These statements were fully corroborated by an estimate which was made by the Registrar of Births and Deaths, at the end of May, 1881, about two months after the Census was taken, which clearly demonstrated that at least 3,000 persons had returned to the town, many of them to the same houses which they had occupied previous to the strike, and a large number of them had resumed work under their former employers. The Committee should bear in mind that this estimate was made in May, 1881, for the information of the local authorities. The basis on which the estimate was founded was worthy of notice. In one street, consisting of 60 houses, only six were occupied during the strike; when the strike was over every one of them became tenanted; and many other instances of a similar character were found in the districts where the colliers resided. The return of the 3,000 persons to the town brought the population to over 51,000 at the end of May, 1881. It might be stated that absentees were not enumerated in the Census of seaport towns. That must be admitted; but he contended that the two cases were not analogous. The absentees in seaport towns did not vary very materially at one Census from another; but the case of Wigan, where there was a temporary migration of large numbers at the time of the Census of 1881, the population was reduced below the prescribed limits only for a period of two or three months. In his opinion, the migration by these sturdy, independent Wigan colliers was a movement which deserved the highest commendation from Her Majesty's Government, for it showed the fixed determination of the colliers to support themselves and their families by their own exertions, rather than rely on the poor rates or on public charity in times of great difficulty and distress. Wigan was one of the three towns in Lancashire which was ordered to return two Members to the first Parliament, which was convened in the Kingdom upwards of 600 years ago; and during the whole of that period the duties and obligations attendant upon that privilege had, he believed, been faithfully performed. He himself felt very strongly upon this question, and so did all the inhabitants of Wigan, irrespective of politics. All the employers and employed were very desirous that this privilege of returning two Members should be preserved to them. They felt that they ought not to be deprived of one Member simply because the Census happened to be taken at a time when the town was suffering from a great public calamity. He appealed to the Committee to meet this exceptional case in that spirit of magnanimity and justice which was the great characteristic of our Parliamentary proceedings; and he asked them to act up to the spirit and intention of the Bill, which, as they had been assured over and over again by the Prime Minister, was one of enfranchisement. He hoped the Bill would preserve to Wigan that right of returning two Members to Parliament which it had always possessed, and to which he firmly believed it was justly entitled under this Bill.

Amendment proposed, in page 15, column 2, line. 16, to leave out "Wigan."—(Mr. Eckersley.)

Question proposed, "That 'Wigan' stand part of the Schedule."


wished, before the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) rose, to say a few words in support of the Amendment proposed by his hon. Colleague. He did not think he need speak at any great length in support of it, for he hoped it would easily commend itself to the Committee, and it appeared to him that his hon. Colleage had satisfactorily made out that Wigan had a claim, as of right, still to continue to return two Members to Parliament. It might be said by the right hon. Baronet that the Government could not go behind the Census Returns; but surely this was an altogether exceptional case. It might be said that seaport towns were in precisely the same position; but he would put it to the Committee to say whether there was not a great difference between the case of Wigan and that of the seaport towns? The exodus from Wigan was one of a purely temporary character. It so happened that there was a great strike, which emptied a vast number of houses, and, as his hon. Colleague had pointed out, after a short time those houses became full again. But it so happened that during the precise period at which the Census was taken those houses were empty. He maintained that that formed a very strong ground for some relaxation of the determination of the Government with reference to the claims of Wigan to have two Members. He based those claims not only on the fact, which was well known to everybody, that Wigan had returned two Members for upwards of 600 years, but also on the conditions and nature of the industries and trades which were carried on there. All who knew Lancashire knew well that Wigan was a sort of capital of the coal trade for South-West and also, to a great extent, for South-East Lancashire. It had been in that position for a long time. It was also concerned directly with the iron trade—in fact, it was a manufacturing and a colliery town, and worthily performed the duties of a centre of those important trades, because he believed that the only mining school in Lancashire, which was of the greatest possible value, was conducted in that town. Under those circumstances, he hoped his hon. Friend would not be met by a non possumus, for that was the only argument that could be used against him. He might be asked, "Where are you to get the Member from?" But he would humbly suggest that there was more than one place from which a Member might properly be taken. There was one flagrant case—the case of Warwick—where a Member might be obtained, for he contended that the claims of Wigan most completely outweighed those of Warwick and Leamington. On all those grounds he asked the consideration of the Committee for the Amendment which had been placed on the Paper by his hon. Colleague.


The hon. Member who has just spoken has argued the matter in such a way as to almost amount to a breach of the agreement, just as the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir E. Assheton Cross) was also going to argue a little while ago. As a matter of fact, there are two different proposals to keep the second seat for Wigan. The proposal which was made by the Corporation of Wigan, and which has been circulated generally among Members of this House, was one of a different kind from the one made now. The Corporation of Wigan proposed, by extending the boundaries of the borough, to bring it up above the 50,000 limit. I do not quite know which of the two proposals it is that I have to meet. If the proposal is to leave the borough as it is with a Census population under 50,000, and to give it a second Member, I should say that that was a great departure from the lines of the agreement; but if the proposal is that of the Corporation, to largely extend the boundaries, and give a second Member to the borough so extended by the addition of considerable surrounding districts, then no doubt we might do that and give the other Member. But that proposal, which the Corporation made and circulated among Members of the House, is open to objection upon other grounds. Committees of the House of Commons of late years have proceeded upon a very intelligible principle in regard to the extension of municipal boundaries, and they have acted in such a way as not to take in Local Board areas outside the municipality except in cases where the Local Board district desired to be so absorbed. The borough of Wigan is surrounded by an urban population. That is the case, not only of Wigan, but of the Lancashire towns generally, and you get the same thing in other parts of the country, as, for instance, in Staffordshire. The towns stretch towards one another along the roads, and almost every town is connected by rows of houses along the roads with almost every other. We have thought the best way to deal with these urban populations is by the single-Member county division system, and even before that we thought of dealing with special cases in that way. If you propose to extend the borough of Wigan you are met by the fact that all round it this urban population is in Local Board districts. There is a complete ring of Local Board districts all round the borough of Wigan, and these Local Board districts are strongly opposed to being absorbed by Wigan. They wish to remain as county divisions, and they altogether object to being swallowed up by the borough. The Mayor of Wigan says he hopes to diminish the opposition of these districts by giving them a strong pledge that no attempt will be made to extend the municipal boundaries of Wigan, but only the Parliamentary boundaries; but still the places affected express a strong preference for being left as county divisions. I am, therefore, not quite certain what is the case which we have to meet—whether it is the extension of the borough boundaries so as to get above the 50,000 limit, or leaving the boundaries alone and thus going below that limit. If Wigan were extended, it would be extended like a star-fish, with long arms all round running into different parts of Lancashire. It would certainly be more like a star-fish than an ordinary borough. If it is to be left as it is, without the necessary population, then that would certainly be a distinct breach of the agreement arrived at with regard to the 50,000 limit. There is also another question. If Wigan is to retain its second Member, where is that Member to come from. The right hon. Member for South - West Lancashire (Sir E. Assheton Cross) told us that if the House is to be increased by 12 new Members, he did not see why it should not be increased by 13. I am bound to say that that would be a breach of the agreement, because we agreed that the number of the Members of the House was only to be increased by 12, to meet the claims of Scotland. The hon. Member who has just spoken (Mr. A. F. Egerton) says we might do what is asked by taking a Member from Warwick, and other Members in the course of the previous discussions have mentioned other places from which Members might be taken. But there are 37,000 people in the new borough of Warwick and Leamington. The hon. Gentleman opposite laughs; but if he will look at the recommendations of the Commissioners of 1868, he will find that the Government were only carrying out those recommendations in regard to Warwick and Leamington. With so large a population it is clear that even if one seat were taken away from the borough, it would have to be given back again in the shape of a county district, for the boundaries would have to be re-arranged, and a county district would thus be created which would certainly require a Member to represent it. In that way Warwick and the neighbourhood could not lose a seat, so that the case is not much advanced. Under these circumstances I must ask the Committee to reject this proposal.


I am sorry to trouble the Committee again; but I would point out that no one knows the condition of this district better than the Prime Minister himself. I am not at all prepared to assent to the doctrine just laid down by the right hon. Baronet, that it would be any breach of the agreement to allow Wigan to retain its two Members. The right hon. Baronet says that the limit of 50,000 was settled by the two Parties. But it was never settled between the two Parties that this question of the 50,000 limit was to be regulated simply by the Census of 1881. The real question is whether, as a matter of equity, the borough of Wigan had not 50,000 inhabitants even in that very year? It was only by the particular accident of a particular strike that the inhabitants of Wigan were not far over the mark laid down at the time the Census was taken. The right hon. Baronet himself, when answering the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. H. S. Northcote), alluded to the increase which had taken place in certain cases since 1881, and spoke of what was the population at the present time.


That was only in answer to the hon. Member, who spoke of a particular borough as a declining place.


Well, at all events, here we have the case of a very thriving borough and a very old one, which has sent Members to Parliament for hundreds of years. It is a very thriving borough, and if the right hon. Baronet will look at the Census for several decenninal periods, he will see how it has been growing. In the Census of 1871 there were 7,000 houses in the borough. In 1881 there were 9,700 houses, and at the present time there are 10,000. Therefore, it is very largely growing, and the inhabitants were only reduced below the number of 50,000 when the Census was taken by the accidental circumstance that a strike happened at that particular moment. It is not the fact that the population of the borough had permanently decreased at all, and, as the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Eckersley) has pointed out very sensibly and properly, it was to the credit of these poor colliers that, instead of staying in the borough to rely on the relief of charity or the rates, they all went out to other towns to seek other work, and so were enabled to retain their self-respect and independence. I think the case of the borough is a very hard one indeed, and it is no answer whatever to say that the limit of 50,000 is a bargain between the two Parties, because the question is, whether Wigan had not really and practically the full number of population to carry her above the limit? Simply for a few months, owing to a particular strike, there was a sort of exodus of between 2,000 and 3,000 people; but they all came back. You cannot say that the permanent population of Wigan has been below 50,000, and therefore the answer is good as to any compact between the Parties, because in equity and fairness the borough has bad, and it has at the present moment, a population of more than 50,000. I think this is a very strong case indeed to press on the consideration of the Committee. I hope my hon. Friend will go to a division, and I shall certainly support him. The right hon. Baronet said he was not quite aware which case he had to meet—whether it was the case as presented by my hon. Friend, or the case as presented by the Mayor of Wigan for the incorporation into the borough of certain large populous districts just outside. But the case presented by the Mayor of Wigan is not the case which we are arguing now; and it is possible when we come to the latter part of the Bill, if we fail in this Motion, which I hope we shall not, there may be others submitted to the Committee as to what ought to be the boundaries of Wigan. But, taking the matter as it stands at present, the right hon. Baronet must see that the particular point which we are arguing, and none other, is that the borough of Wigan, for all practical purposes and in all equity, has not had a population of less than 50,000. Therefore, we are in equity entirely within the limit laid down in the compact between the two Parties, and it would be a very hard case indeed if the borough should be excluded from the benefit of having two Members, as it always has had, simply because of that temporary exodus of a portion of the people who went away with the intention of returning, and who did return.


The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has not, I think, added much to the strength of the case presented by the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Eckersley). The sole point he relies upon is that a certain portion of the population deserted the borough in consequence of a strike, and returned to it afterwards. Well, in what way does that differ from the case of towns which have been rapidly increasing since the Census was taken? Take the case of Hastings, for instance. Everybody knows that Hastings has greatly increased since the Census Returns of 1881, and the same principle, if adopted in the case of Wigan, would demand consideration in Hastings. My own constituency—that of Reading—affords another example. It had a population, according to the Census of 1881, of 47,000—that is to say, the Bill proposes to extend its boundaries, and when they are so extended the population of the district covered was 47,000 in that year. But everybody knows very well that the population of that district is now far beyond the limit of 50,000, so rapid has been its increase. What difference is there, then, in principle between the case of Reading and that of Wigan? The right hon. Gentleman (Sir B. Assheton Cross) says he makes this claim as a matter of equity. But what possible equity can arise in the matter? Who is the equity between? Is it between Wigan and some other constituencies? I must say that I altogether fail to understand how the term can in any proper sense be applied to the question. The right hon. Gentleman has been totally silent on the point as to whore the second Member for Wigan is to come from. Is the total number of Members of the House to be increased by one? If so, that is contrary to the agreement between the Leaders of the two Parties, and it would be very undesirable to re-open the question, because if we once break through the rule in order to meet the case of Wigan, we shall have other cases raised on behalf of other towns such as Exeter, Hastings, Heading, and others, and we might be called upon imperceptibly to increase the total number of Members of the House until that increase wont to a very extraordinary extent. The case made out for Wigan is not substantially different from that of Exeter, Hastings, Reading, and many other towns that might be named, and if we once give way to the appeal now made to us, we should be led into further changes. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. A. F. Egerton) says we might take the Member asked for From Warwick; but the hon. Gentleman did not avail himself of the opportunity which occurred a few minutes ago of proposing that the reduction should be made in the case of Warwick. The House has therefore decided the matter so far as Warwick is concerned, and has resolved that Warwick and Leamington, with a population of 37,000, shall have a Member. Even if separate borough representation were not given to these towns, you would have, as my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board has said, to make them into a county district. The towns in Lancashire, I think, have less claims than many of the Southern boroughs, such as Hastings. All round Wigan the population is practically an urban population, and Lancashire is divided into one-Member districts. The whole population there is practically urban, and therefore there is no reason for increasing the representation of Wigan itself. It appears to me that the case made out by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and by the hon. Members for Wigan is not different from that of many other places.


I must object to the speech just delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General, because he has entirely misstated the case. My case is not that Wigan has increased in population since 1881, but that it was over the limit of 50,000 before then, and it was only a temporary occurrence which happened when the Census was taken which reduced it for the moment below that limit. It is a town which for all practical purposes had been over 50,000 long before 1881. I only alluded to the increase since in order to show that it is increasing in spite of the exodus which took place then.


With what the population was before the year 1881 we have no concern whatever. Wigan in 1881 was below the mark; Wigan since that time has come above the mark; but so, beyond all doubt, have many other towns which were also below the mark in 1881, but which have since got above the mark, and are continuing to increase. You cannot, therefore, establish a distinction in the case of Wigan as against other towns by showing that before 1881 it was above the limit. That is the contention, and it is perfectly plain that you cannot deal with the case of Wigan exceptionally. It would involve the necessity of discovering a very considerable number of seats—I believe not less than eight or nine.


said, his contention was that Wigan, within two or three months of the Census being taken, was over the mark. He would draw an analogy between the case of Wigan and the case of Grenada during the recent earthquake, when a vast number of citizens left the town and encamped outside, and if a Census had been taken at that particular time, those people could not have been included within it as actually inhabiting the town. There was a strong analogy between that case and the case of Wigan.


said, he had heard the arguments of the Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre); but they did not seem to him to meet the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross), who rightly contended that the case of Wigan differed essentially from that of Reading and of the other towns mentioned, inasmuch as Wigan, only a few months—or, as he believed the actual fact to be, only a few weeks, not months—before the Census was taken, had a population exceeding 50,000, and within a few weeks after-terwards the population again exceeded 50,000. No contention on the part of the Postmaster General for Reading, or any other town, could have any value when dealing with the facts before 1881; and therefore, in making an exception in favour of Wigan, the Committee would only be doing justice to that borough, and they would not be doing any injustice to Reading or to any other place.


said, he did not wish to stand for many minutes between the Committee and a division. He thought the right hon. Gentlemen who had spoken from the Ministerial side had entirely failed to establish their contention that the case of Wigan did not present any exceptional features. If the Census of Wigan had been taken two months earlier or later in 1881 than it was, the population would have been decidedly above 50,000. In point of fact, the real population of Wigan at the time the Census was taken was greater than that of Ipswich, and the population of Wigan to-day was greater than that of Ipswich. He rose particularly, however, to refer to the extraordinary statement made by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles W. Dilke) in charge of the Bill in defending the course taken with regard to Warwick. It had been understood that grouping was not one of the principles of the Bill, and yet the right hon. Gentleman said that if the grouping of Warwick and Leamington were abandoned—


I never said grouping.


said, they would not dispute about words; it was understood by everybody that an exceptional course had been resorted to in the case of Warwick and Leamington. At all events, the essence of what the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles W. Dilke) said was that if Warwick and Leamington were not to have a Member, a popu- lation of 37,000 would be thrown into the county, and therefore the representation of Warwickshire would require reconsideration. Now, if Warwick and Leamington were thrown into the county, Warwickshire, to which four Members had been assigned, would still contain 31,000 fewer people than North-East Lancashire, to which only four Members were given. There was, therefore, no possible reason why, if Warwick and Leamington were thrown into the county, the representation of Warwickshire should be reconsidered.


said, that it had been asked, admitting that the case of Wigan was exceptional, where the Member was to be taken from. If the rules were to be applied strictly, there would be no difficulty in finding a second Member for Wigan. 165,000 was fixed as the limit of population entitled to three Members. Now, if the figures which had been quoted several times were correct, Wolverhampton had only a population of 164,332, and therefore it was only entitled to two Members. His suggestion was that one of the Members to be given to Wolverhampton should be taken away and given to Wigan.

Question put.

The Committee divided: —Ayes 91; Noes 65: Majority 26.— (Div. List, No. 73.)

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.