§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
, in rising to move—That this House, while desirous of facilitating in every way the Registration of Voters, is of opinion that, inasmuch as the preparation of the Register for Parliamentary Elections is a matter of National rather than local concern, 1655 the expenses connected therewith should not be imposed on ratepayers in counties and boroughs, and levied in respect of the occupation of a single description of property,said, he had placed this Notice on the Paper, as he thought the subject was very important and would probably give rise to serious discussion. He had purposely given the Government some days to consider their response; but the response of the Attorney General the other day was eminently unsatisfactory. It amounted to this—that because some injustice was perpetrated on the boroughs in 1867 a much larger injustice should be imposed on the counties in 1885. This did not appear to him to be either legal or equitable. It was virtually saying that, in the view of the Government, injustice, frequently repeated, became justice, and that a wrongful act, if it was only repeated, established a right to do wrong. He did not think he could admit that principle. Circumstances had very much altered since 1867. In that year the local rates for England and Wales only amounted to £16,000,000, whereas in 1884 they amounted to £30,000,000. This was an increase of 87 per cent. The rates for the United Kingdom amounted in 1867 to £20,000,000, and in 1884 to £35,000,000. This was an increase again of 74 per cent. The debt was now becoming almost as formidable as the National Debt. In 1872 it amounted to £74,000,000, and now it was £170,000,000—an increase of 150 per cent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day made an appeal to the House, and referred to the great difficulty he had in providing for increased National Expenditure. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether ratepayers were not also taxpayers, whether they did not pay their fair quota to Imperial taxation, and whether local burdens were not something beyond and beside what they had to pay for Imperial taxation? He would also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what the justification was for imposing further burdens upon real property? There never was a time when there was so much difficulty for all who were connected with the land in paying ordinary rates and taxes. There were thousands of acres in this country at present uncultivated, and not likely to be cultivated again. There were thousands of acres to be had with- 1656 out the payment of any rent, but simply by the payment of rates and taxes. Liberal Governments had always been in the habit of relieving Imperial taxation by imposing additional local charges for national objects. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had imposed an Income Tax of 8d.., and he must be aware that an 8d.. Income Tax on real property meant a 1s. Income Tax. The First Minister of the Crown told the House in 1853 that a 7d.. Income Tax was a 9d.. Income Tax to the owners of real property. The owners of real property—that was, of houses and lands—paid at least 25 per cent more than the owners of any other description of property, whether personal, or trade, or professional. This was a matter which ought to be taken into consideration. The owners of real property paid upon their gross rents and not upon their net receipts. He had no hesitation in saying that there was no owner of real property—certainly no owner of land-—who ever received 75 per cent net; and sometimes it was far less than that. The First Minister of the Crown stated the other day that it was not the duty of the Government, in considering a Registration Bill, to take into account the incidence of the particular charges which such a measure involved, and he declined all responsibility. That was an extraordinary doctrine. It amounted to this—that the Government was to submit measures of reform, and, at the same time, to ignore the Ways and Means by which those measures were to be carried out. It was quite true that most of the social and moral reforms of the 19th century had been handed over to the local rates; and the Prime Minister did not think it necessary to provide for those things from Imperial taxation, but thought they should be charged on real property. The right hon. Gentleman also said, the other day, that the Consolidated Fund was supported, in a great measure, by the labour of the country. He maintained that that was a fallacy and a delusion. It might be a very specious and plausible argument; but it had no foundation. Was it not a fact that the labourer— namely, the poor man—necessarily paid no indirect taxes at all? If he chose not to drink beer or smoke tobacco, there was scarcely any tax that the poor man paid. He might evade and escape 1657 almost all such taxes, but if he lived in a house or a hovel he could not escape local rates. That might not be right; but it was a fact that he could do it; and it was a great injustice that he should be called upon to maintain pauperism, to pay for roads he scarcely ever used except to walk upon, and to make provision for police, and so on. As to the Amendment, he would ask the House to consider whether the exercise of the franchise was a national or a local responsibility? If, as he contended, it was a matter of universal and national benefit, surely it was not just that the owners of real property should be called upon to pay the expenditure consequent upon it. The expense was a legitimate charge upon Imperial funds. With regard to the cost of Parliamentary registration, he found that the charge in England and Wales was first imposed upon the rates in 1843. That was previous to the abolition of the Corn Laws, and land then enjoyed exceptional privileges. In 1845 the expenses amounted to only £20,000. In 1868 it rose to £39,000, and the effect of the new registration under the Franchise Act of 1869 brought it up to £71,000 in that year, an increase of 82 per cent. This was a very good criterion of what would probably be the increased expenses under the Bill now before the House. At present the cost of the registration of voters was £102,000, besides a charge on the county rate of £ 13,000. It would be difficult to estimate what the cost would be under the present Bill. It must certainly be far greater than it was in 1869. He had no hesitation in saying that, what with the expense of the Clerks of the Peace and other charges, the cost on the English rates alone would be nearly £100,000, and in Scotland and Ireland a corresponding amount. The registration in boroughs was comparatively an insignificant matter, and simply involved journeys from house to house, as the population was concentrated within a small area. But it was a much more difficult task in the country, where long distances had to be travelled, and frequently on horseback. Nearly every Session of Parliament brought additional duties to the officers, and especially to Clerks of the Peace engaged in registration. He had been informed by a Clerk of the Peace in Devonshire that with his present staff it 1658 would take about three months of hard work, up to 10 or 11 at night, to complete the Register. There were now 29,000 on the Register, and his friend calculated that the number would be from 75,000 to 80,000 under the new Act. The work could not be done without extra assistance of a good and reliable character. He had no doubt that in many other counties the increase would be just as considerable. They had been told that the addition to our local charges would be infinitesimal; but it was not so much a question of amount as of principle. It should be borne in mind how the rates had increased. There was, for example, the education rate, which they were faithfully promised should never exceed 3d. in the pound. He believed that the average in England and Wales was 1s. in the pound, with a prospect of becoming greater and greater. That was why they opposed any addition to the rate, because they had had many promises, none of which had been fulfilled. He would recapitulate some of the promises which had been held out to them during the present Parliament. In 1881 the Government said—"We are about to consult Parliament on the whole subject of the incidence of local taxation in a comprehensive manner." In the Royal Speech of 1882 they were told that Parliament would be invited to consider the proper extent and most equitable form of contribution from Imperial taxes in relief of local charges. In 1882 the Government again pledged themselves in the most solemn manner, upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Mid Somerset (Mr. B. H. Paget), to deal with the whole question. On that occasion they only saved themselves on a division by five votes. In 1883 the hon. Member for South Leicestershire urged that no further delay should take place, and then the Government only had a majority of 12. The House would not forget that 31 Liberal Members, on the following morning, signed a Memorial to the Government to do precisely what they had voted against being done on the night before. Two of those Gentlemen were the present Under Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler), and the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. George Russell). On that occasion the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert 1659 Grey) moved an Amendment that relief should be given by the transfer to the Local Authorities of revenue proceeding from particular taxes. They all agreed in that. It was an excellent way of giving relief; but when were they going to get it? Nothing more had been done by the Government, who had merely trifled with the House. The hon. Member for South Northumberland said, on that occasion, that if the Government should not have solved the question before the termination of the present Parliament, Liberal candidates would not meet with a very cordial reception from their constituents at the next General Election. On a subsequent occasion the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) moved a Resolution deprecating further delay, and obtained a majority. But, notwithstanding their defeat, the Government had ever since ignored and disregarded the whole question. It was trifling with the House of Commons to treat it as the Government had been doing, shunting the matter from one Session to another. They had given the most solemn promises and the most sacred pledges that the question would be taken in hand by them; but the ratepayers, instead of getting any alleviation of their burdens, had had fresh burdens imposed upon them. They were to have an increase in the Death Duties, which was the only indulgence they had had. In bringing this question forward, he wished to include Scotland and Ireland as well as England. The question was one which affected not land only, but house property also; indeed, the latter more than the former, inasmuch as houses were rated at £125,000,000, whereas the assessment on land was only £66,000,000. The question was all the more important, as those who lived on the land were never in a more depressed condition than at the present time. He felt it to be his duty, as strenuously as he possibly could, to urge that demand, and protest in the strongest manner against any addition to the local rates. He should most unhesitatingly take the sense of the House upon this subject, because he thought it was only right that ratepayers in counties and boroughs should know who were in favour not only of perpetuating, but of aggravating, a grievance which the House of Commons and the country had admitted to be unjustifiable, unreason- 1660 able, anomalous, and indefensible. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice. MR. PELL said, he had great pleasure in seconding the Amendment, and was glad that his hon. Friend (Sir Massey Lopes) was going to take the sense of the House upon it. It had been said that these charges fell upon the occupier; but he (Mr. Pell) was prepared to prove that they could be shifted from the owner to the occupier. If the owner of a house, foreseeing the increase in local charges, should attempt to raise the rent in order to enable him to meet that increase, the answer might be that the tenant could not afford to pay the increased rent and would leave the house. When an owner of property contemplated the erection of houses he was forced to consider what rates might be levied on it; and when they were likely to be heavy he either built inferior houses or charged such a rent as would cover the rates. The result to the tenant was that he had either to pay a larger rent than would have been imposed but for the rates, or that he had to live in an inferior house. The poor man was thus affected injuriously by every charge added to the rates by that house. The Government appeared to be in a temporizing mood. They had not asserted that the charge was peculiar to real property, and that, therefore, it ought to be met by real property; but, frightened by the action taken by the House upon the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for Galway, they proposed to aid the local rates in what they called the worst possible form —namely, by a subvention of 2d.. a voter. Upon what principle were they acting? Was it only their intention to give a sop to Cerberus, or did they really wish to proclaim the opinion that the local ratepayers were not fairly treated, and that the Exchequer ought to bear some portion of the charge? Whichever might be the case, they must take the consequences of their act; and he trusted they would be such as the Government would remember. It was a curious thing that in dealing with this question the Legislature appeared never to have been guided by any principle. The 6 Viet., one of the leading Registration Acts, gave effect to the notion existing at the time that a person who claimed the vote should pay for his claim— 1661 in other words, that the vote was not, as the President of the Board of Trade might say, a natural right. One shilling was accordingly paid to the overseer by the claimant upon every claim. Afterwards, however, the Legislature got into the easy way of putting every charge upon the rates and relieving the individual, and this portion of the Act was repealed. The Government had stated that in connection with the Death Duties they intended to impose upon the successor to every owner of real property, who would necessarily be a ratepayer also, a very large and rather terrible charge. The present, therefore, was a very fitting opportunity for striving to obtain justice for the ratepayer in a diminution of the burdens now imposed upon him. He regretted that the question of local taxation, as compared with Imperial taxation, had not been settled calmly and coolly before then, and that it should be necessary to raise it when time was so valuable; but the subject had so often been postponed that it would not be right to let the present opportunity pass by. If this question was not settled now, Members below the Gangway opposite, who were so desirous of posing as philanthropists, would be encouraged in their demand that expenses of all kinds should be paid out of the rates. One of those hon. Gentlemen had, he believed, a Bill before the House which went beyond the proposition to put voters on the Register for nothing, while another was desirous of paying the candidate's expenses entirely out of the rates. He doubted, however, if hon. Gentlemen would stop even there; and he should not be surprised some day to see it proposed that the Members of the Cabinet should also be paid out of the rates. He hoped that those hon. Gentlemen who by their speeches in the House last year appeared to give some support to the views of his hon. Friend, and who, when they reached the country, went still further, and expressed such warm admiration for those who desired to relieve the ratepayers, would stand by the opinions they then expressed, and record their votes with his hon. Friend; thus rendering a great service to the ratepayers as well as obeying honestly the convictions within their breasts. He trusted that his hon. Friend would press his Amendment to 1662 a division, and that those upon the Register would notice how they were treated by their Representatives.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, while desirous of facilitating in every way the Registration of Voters, is of opinion that, inasmuch as the preparation of the Register for Parliamentary Elections is a matter of National rather than local concern, the expenses connected therewith should not be imposed on ratepayers in counties and boroughs, and levied in respect of the occupation of a single description of property,"— (Sir Massey Lopes,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that the hon. Baronet who moved the Resolution had raised three distinct questions, which were outside the question before the House. In the first place, he raised the question of the general incidence of local taxation; in the second place, the relationship of taxation as between capital and labour; and, lastly, the question as between taxation on real and on personal property. These questions might be brought to bear more or less, no doubt, upon the question immediately before the House; but they did not touch upon the Resolution of his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, nor had they shown that that proposition was not a fair and adequate one to make under the special circumstances of the ease. He did not feel disposed to accept the figures which the hon. Baronet had given to the House as being strictly correct. The incidence of local taxation between real and personal property, he quite agreed with the hon. Baronet, was most unjust and most unfair. There was no part of our local and social administration which was more radically unsound than the incidence of our local taxation. He did not mean to say that it did not press most unfairly upon occupiers of land; but what he contended was that it pressed more unfairly upon tradesmen in the towns. So far, he was perfectly agreed that it was the duty of the Government and of the House to take up this question at the earliest possible time, and to take it up broadly and boldly, and not in a nibbling sort of way, which would have the effect of 1663 relieving one class and not touching the larger class of residents in the boroughs, who had just as much right to complain. The hon. Baronet stated that the local taxation of this country some few years ago amounted to £16,000,000, and that now it was about £30,000,000. He did not know from what statistics the hon. Baronet had cited; but he would give the House statistics from the latest published Returns of the Local Government Board. Those Returns showed that the local taxation of this country now stood, in round figures, at £28,000,000, and that 10 years ago it stood at £18,000,000, giving a clear increase of £10,000,000. The years to which he had referred were 1872–3 and 1882–3. How was that taxation apportioned? From the debate in that House it would seem that it was levied exclusively upon the occupiers of land. Of the taxation of last year, £5,500,000 was raised by the Metropolis; £10,500,000 in the municipalities, £10,000,000 in mixed urban and rural districts; and only £2,000,000 in purely rural districts. Of the increase of £10,000,000 which had taken place in the last 10 years, £6,500,000 had fallen upon the urban ratepayers; £1,250,000 upon the Metropolis; £1,250,000 upon the urban and rural ratepayers; and the only addition to the purely rural taxation of this country in the last 10 years had not been much more than £500,000. Under these circumstances, whatever grievance there might be in the rural districts, it was far stronger in the municipalities and towns of this country. With reference to this special grievance, which was always occupying the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite, there was one rate which they regarded with peculiar disfavour— the School Board rate. But what were the facts? That rate last year produced £1,750,000, of which amount £700,000 was raised in London, £550,000 in the municipalities, and the balance of the entire amount was charged upon the rural districts. In dealing with this question of local and Imperial taxation, and of the unfair extent of local taxation, they must recollect that the large amount of the latter was levied upon towns, which were subjected at the present time to Imperial taxation, the amount of which hon. Gentlemen opposite were entirely and absolutely ignorant. The average county rate in 1664 England last year was not quite 3¼d. in the pound, and the average poor rate was only 2s. in the pound. He should like to know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite were familiar in the rural districts with local rates of 7s., 8s., and 9s. in the pound, with which people in the town were familiar? Where was there a large rural district paying a rate of 7s. 6d. in the pound? Then the hon. Baronet also raised the question of the relative proportion of taxation as between property and labour, and he told the House that no labouring man in this country need pay any indirect taxation at all. Of course, if they reduced the labouring man to a mere machine, if he was to have no enjoyment in his monotonous life, and to be deprived of the enjoyment which others so lavishly partook of, he might escape the great bulk of taxation. But it was too late to say that a labouring man must not drink tea or beer, and must not smoke tobacco, and that he must live upon bread and water, and pass the day in one unvarying round of toil, and be content to live in that state of life to which it had pleased a wise Legislature to call him. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen were not aware of the fact that one of the most frequent purchases at the present time was the purchase of a pennyworth of tea. The largest business which some grocers did was the selling of pennyworths of tea to working men's wives; and for every penny a labouring man's wife put down upon the counter she put down a halfpenny for the Imperial Exchequer; for every shillings-worth of tobacco purchased by a labouring man 10½d. went to the Government. Of course, the labouring man ought not to smoke—[laughter] —he was quite aware of that. Then, again, 2d. out of every 1s. which he paid for his beer went to the Exchequer; and that was now to be increased. He was quite prepared, when the proper time came, to prove that the Imperial taxation of this country pressed unfairly upon the industrial population, that property did not pay its fair share of taxation, and that the reforms in our future fiscal system would have to be conducted on the principle of placing further burdens upon property and less taxation upon industry. Another question was raised by the hon. Baronet—namely, that of the taxation which should be levied upon real as contrasted with that 1665 which should be placed upon personal property. That was a very broad and wide subject, and, as the hon. Baronet had intimated, it would be fully and fairly discussed when the whole question of the Death Duties came before the House. Some of them thought that real and personal property, as far as Imperial taxation was concerned, were not upon the same level, and that real property ought to be put upon the same level as personal property. So far as local taxation was concerned, personal property did not bear its full share. A calculation had been made upon this subject, which calculation he thought was too unfavourable so far as the working classes were concerned, and by giving it to the House he would be rather quoting against himself; but he would read the figures in order that the House might see the relief given to local taxation and the expenses of Imperial taxation as they affected the working man. It was calculated that of Imperial taxation two-fifths fell upon industry and three-fifths upon property, and that of local taxation five-sixths fell upon property and one-sixth only upon industry. If, therefore, they transferred payment from the local to the Imperial taxes, they would relieve the working man to the extent of 3s. 4d. in the pound and put upon him a burden of 8s. in the pound. How did these questions practically affect the question before the House? The hon. Baronet admitted that the legislation in 1867 did wrong in putting the expense upon the boroughs. That legislation was the legislation of the Conservatives, and there was no proposal at that time to charge the expense upon the Imperial fund. The action taken by the hon. Baronet implied that the Government were making a new proposal, and that they were for the first time imposing new burdens upon the local rates. The fact was that the cost of this legislation had never been borne by the Imperial Exchequer but by local rates, and the Government were simply proceeding upon a principle which they found in force. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had the courage of their convictions they should propose that all the cost of registration should be taken off local rates and put upon Imperial funds. Somebody, however, must pay the Imperial taxes; and the more they subsidized the local rates, 1666 the more they increased the Imperial taxation. The number of county voters was to be increased by something like 1,000,000, the numbers being raised from 1,000,000 to 2,000,000. At the present time the only item that appeared in the accounts locally published as representing the cost of registration was the item of £12,572. That, the only item which the counties paid for this purpose, was something like a rate of one-tenth of a farthing in the pound. That was not a great grievance to begin with. He should be told that he had forgotten the overseers, and that they and their expenses were paid out of the poor rate. But what was the work that was now to cost so much? The overseers had practically to make out but one new list. The ownership voters would remain as they were before. The £50 voters would remain precisely as before. The £10 voters were precisely as before. The list of householders would be the new list. The overseers made out that by simply copying the rate-book. There was no difficulty about it, if only the rate-book itself were properly made out to begin with. It was simply so much copying work and nothing else. If Local Authorities were lavish and extravagant in paying overseers, the Government could not be held responsible for that. The additional labour would be thrown upon Clerks of the Peace, who would have to arrange and classify the lists, to send them to the printers, and to correct them. He admitted there would be an increase of the work thrown upon the Clerks of the Peace. All the labour in respect of the existing registration of voters was paid out of the £12,500 a-year he had named. Assume the works to be doubled, and there would be a claim for £25,000. The Government had proposed to make a grant of £20,000. At present the expense was something like 3d.. per name. At this rate the new list would cost £28,750. As the Government were proposing to give an extra £20,000, the cost would be instead of £12,500 only £8,750. Therefore, the Government grant would be equal to a contribution of £3,750 in aid of the rates. The Committee took some evidence as to the expenses incurred. A Clerk of the Peace in one of the largest counties said that the work was done, including the printing, at a cost of 6s. 6d.. per 100 names. It was proposed to 1667 allow 1d.. per name, or 8s. 4d. per 100. It would be a strong measure to import this question of the incidence of local taxation into so small a matter as the registration of English county voters, and practically to throw out the English Registration Bill, and so produce a state of things in which the work could not be done within the limited time. Admitting that there was a strong claim for some relief of local taxation, it would be admitted that the boroughs were entitled to their share of the relief, and that there would have to be an investigation of their claims. This was a premature and unfair way of raising the question. It did not enable the House to come to a fair and just decision. They were fighting one issue, and talking about another. He did not believe the House would be prepared to interfere with the work of registration for the purpose of dealing with the question of local expenditure and taxation, and, therefore, he hoped they would decline to support this Motion.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he had listened attentively to the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. H. Fowler) who had just sat down, and it was a fresh proof that everybody connected with the Government was always ready with all sorts of excuses for not dealing with the question of local taxation, as it affected local rates. The hon. Gentleman stated that it was a very inconvenient time for bringing on the question; but he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) thought that they should avail themselves of every opportunity to call attention to the vast importance of the whole subject. The Government had always put them off with evasive answers on the question of local taxation, and when the Conservatives had won a victory on the subject, the Government had treated them with sovereign contempt. The Under Secretary, who had just spoken, stated that the sum asked for registration was only a farthing, or a trifle in the pound.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
, continuing, said, a Friend near him had stated that the new registration would cost £200,000, and the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had estimated the cost at £102,000, and, if that was so, he (Sir 1668 Walter B. Barttelot) had a right to complain of the aditional burden that was being placed upon local rates. He knew that the rural districts had suffered most severely, the small towns as much if not more severely than the rural districts, from local taxation; and they were always asking when the promised relief in local taxation would take place. The Prime Minister, in a speech to his tenants, had said that the question of the Death Duties would not be dealt with until that of local taxation had been settled, and put thorn as a set-off against relief to be given to local taxation when Local Boards were introduced.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he would try if he could not find it. The right hon. Gentleman always asked for a reference. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) recollected the speech very well. It was the speech in which the right hon. Gentleman recommended the growth and production of jam, that more dairies should be established, and that more milk should be produced. It was a speech the right hon. Gentleman made at Hawarden. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the question of the Malt Tax. [A laugh.] The right hon. Gentleman laughed, and, therefore, he saw that he recollected it.
was understood to say that he had not made any reference to the Death Duties in the speech referred to.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman were always kept preserved, and it was, so far as he remembered, in a speech delivered to his tenants, and, if he chose, he could find the speech that he referred to; and if, after having made the search, it was proved that he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was mistaken, be would apologize to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman. But accepting the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as he had given it, they were to have, in the dying days of this Parliament, the Death Duties put upon real property; while, with regard to this question, local taxation was only to receive temporary relief, and the permanent solution of the question was to be left to the new Parliament. If such a question was to be left for the new Parlia- 1669 ment, how much more expedient would it be that the new Parliament should be left to deal with the graver questions of the Death Duties? That would be more rational than legislating upon them at the present time, simply because the Government were in pecuniary difficulties, and were compelled to increase taxation. The new list of voters would greatly increase the labours of the overseers, and they would not like to do it without special remuneration. A Parliamentary election was an Imperial question, and ought to be treated as such. The hon. Member might be returned for Wolverhampton, but he was a Member of the Imperial Parliament. To-day the hon. Member had spoken only for the Government, but on this question he would yet have to speak as a Member of the House of Commons. A great cry was now raised in the country in favour of encouraging the class of small proprietors of land. Only that day he had found that in Wales, through the inclosure of commons, there had been a large number of persons who had, out of their savings, purchased little properties, and every additional halfpenny of taxation put upon that class would be so much to their detriment. They were a class who were endeavouring to do their duty as responsible citizens honourably; and surely they ought to be relieved as much as possible from the extra local taxation placed upon them by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. He believed that the £20,000 proposed to be given for this year was wholly inadequate to the requirements of the case. When he remembered how many men there were rolling in money, and having investments in this and in foreign countries, who paid little or nothing to the taxation of the country, but who were fond of propounding nostrums as to the land, he said lot them purchase a largo quantity of land, and they would see what the burdens upon it were. Then those who were interested in land might feel that they had advocates of their cause, and it would be recognized that the burdens now pressing on land were very hard to bear.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he felt great sympathy, as the Under Secretary for the Home Department also said he did, with the Motion before the House, and agreed that it was certainly to a large 1670 extent an Imperial matter. But the hon. Baronet opposite had not the courage of his opinions; he ought to take that burden off the inhabitants of towns, about which he was so solicitous, if it was to be taken off those of the counties. They might by that Resolution stop that Bill, but they would not alter the law; and there was no clause in the Bill in regard to boroughs at all. If the proposal before them raised the whole question, he should have considerable sympathy with it; but he thought that the money which the Government offered would provide what was required for the present year, leaving the matter to stand over till another year, when the whole question of local taxation would be dealt with. Therefore, while thinking it was a great hardship that local burdens should be placed almost entirely on one class of property, he considered that the House ought to pass that Bill and to accept the offer of the Government.
§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD
said, it was because he believed that the present system of local taxation as injuriously affected the owners and occupiers of property in towns as it did those in the country that he felt a sympathy with the proposal of the hon. Baronet (Sir Massey Lopes). If anyone looked at the Doomsday Book they would find that a very largo proportion of the owners of land consisted of men who owned less than one or two acres. Therefore the landed interest did not simply comprise the great proprietors, but a large struggling class, on whom they ought not to impose unjust burdens. It was urged that that was a very small point on which to raise the question of local taxation; but if they did not call out when a small additional piece of injustice was piled on their backs, they would never have an opportunity of raising the main question. They were told to wait till Ministers brought on the question of county government; but if they did that they might wait one, two, or three years before they received any redress for a crying grievance. In the United States of America he was informed that every citizen was assessed, an account was taken of his income from all sources, and local taxation was levied on that income just as they levied Income Tax for Imperial purposes. In passing the present Bill they might as 1671 well have a measure of justice done; and he did not see why an injustice should be permitted to go on even in that particular instance.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, that if the Government had intended to throw the whole expense on the rates he should have gone entirely with his hon. Friends opposite; but he thought that the Government had now, by their proposition, met the question very fairly. That was not an expense which, to the same extent, was likely to rise again before the question of local government and local taxation was dealt with; and he did not think that any Government could stand even for one year in another Parliament if it did not seriously undertake to deal with that question. If he were returned to the next Parliament, he should himself, if necessary, press it upon their attention. But the point now to be considered was whether the proposition which the Government had made was a fair and adequate one. No one had tried to tackle the figures of the Under Secretary, and he thought that the proposition of 2d. per name was a very fair one. Of course, if Quarter Sessions increased the salaries of their clerks, there might be an additional sum to pay, and there was the danger of magistrates not taking the same trouble to keep down expenses if everything was paid by the State. It must also be remembered that the people of boroughs had to pay towards Imperial taxation as well as other people, and not having a subvention, they did not get anything towards their own registration. As a matter of fact, the boroughs were really paying towards the registration of the counties. Under all the circumstances he hoped that the House would accede to the proposition of the Government, which he would, for his own part, support as a fair and adequate one.
§ MR. E. H. PAGET
said, that the idea of subventions leading to extravagance was an erroneous one. Such an assertion was, in his opinion, utterly destitute of truth. He thought that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) in his speech had considerably underrated the extra amount of work that would be thrown upon the overseers. The hon. Gentleman had seemed to fancy that it would be a mere bagatelle, that they would merely have to write down the names. He would ask the hon. 1672 Member whether he had consulted the Attorney General upon the subject as to his view of the extra trouble given to the overseers by this Bill"? It was serious and difficult work, and, in addition to that, in some ways, it would be new work, and the overseers would certainly be entitled to ask for additional remuneration which would represent a considerable sum. That was an amount which they could not leave out of their calculations. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton had in his figures called attention to what he had considered the smaller amount of additional taxation which had been laid upon land in comparison with that laid upon house property. But had the hon. Member considered that it was all a matter of assessment? From year to year the rentals of land were becoming reduced, while, on the other hand, those of house property were increasing. That circumstance ought clearly to be taken into consideration in connection with this comparison. The Under Secretary in giving them his figures as to the incidence of the education rate had entirely forgotten the voluntary schools subscriptions. Speaking from memory, he thought he would not be far wrong in putting this amount down as exceeding £600,000 a-year, which was really a burden on the land, because the moment these subscriptions ceased, down would come the Authorities and tell them that they must have a School Board. The money had to be found from one source or another, and these voluntary subscriptions must, therefore, not be left out of the account. With regard to dealing with the whole question, he thought that the Government had repeatedly neglected to carry out the wish of the House, disregarding the majorities which had been again and again given against them on this question. The difficulties of agriculture were greater than last year; and it was no exaggeration to say that at the present moment there was more inquietude among the farmers of England, despite of reduced rents and all that had been done, than there had been for years past.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, it was his duty to inform the House that the debate had 3hown a tendency to wander from the immediate question, which was the preparation of the registers with respect to Parliamentary elections. With this ob- 1673 servation, he should leave the hon. Member to conclude his speech.
§ MR. E. H. PAGET
said, there was a difficulty in confining the discussion to the narrow points raised by the Resolution. The remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had extended to the larger field of local taxation, and it had been his (Mr. R. II. Paget's) object to show that this was a proper moment for partially redeeming the promises of Parliament with regard to relief from the burdens of local taxation. They asked that no further expenses for registration should be imposed on the local rates. The Government had come down with £20,000; but he wished they had been a little braver, for it was necessary that this entire subject should be dealt with broadly and widely.
§ MR. CROPPER
said, he thought that there was a material difference between the present demand and the previous occasion when the House had affirmed the principle of granting relief from local burdens. The general principle of relief was affirmed on former occasions; now the Government had met the demand by offering to provide a subvention as compensation for the extra amount of work required from county districts. The real grievance rested with the heavily-rated boroughs, which would not receive the subvention. However, he should vote against any further extension than was proposed by the Government.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he had not intended to take any part in this debate; but after what had fallen from hon. Members opposite, he felt compelled to say a few words. He more particularly referred to the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler). He hardly thought that the Resolution could have been read by hon. Members opposite, who said that it proposed to relieve counties and did not affect boroughs. The Resolution affected both equally. It sought to grant relief to boroughs by declaring that these burdens should not be imposed on ratepayers in counties and boroughs and levied on a single description of property. A rich or a poor man who held property in land and houses paid all the cost, while certain wealthy persons in the same neighbourhood whose means were drawn neither from land nor from 1674 houses paid nothing at all. That was what they were fighting against. This was a national and not a local concern, and it had already been recognized that where it was a national concern the ways and means should be found out of the national income. What did the Resolution propose? That the expense of this national concern should not be imposed on the ratepayers. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) seemed to say that the expense of the whole registration was so great that the Government could not listen to the proposal for a moment. But the hon. Member tried to show that the expenditure was only one-tenth of afarthing.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, it was the increase that was objected to. The injustice of the existing state of things was admitted, and the burden ought to be thrown on the national funds. It was the only way to make the burden fall equally on all. Where was the remedy to be found? Whenever this question was brought forward someone of more or less authority on the Government Bench was always ready to get up and urge that this was only a part of a larger question which the Government would deal with, and that the question must wait until the larger subject was dealt with; but the larger question had never been approached. The present Government had been in Office for five years, and the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War had made local government one of the great questions in his speeches when contesting North Lancashire, and yet matters seemed exactly where they were five years ago. But the ground taken by his hon. Friend was a very intelligible one; it was that if the Government could not find time to remove the grievance, at least no new national charges should be thrown on the local rates. Then it had been urged that the Resolution would stop the Bill; but he altogether denied that. Of course, there was no saying what the Prime Minister would do if it was passed; but there was nothing in the Rules of the House which would make the Resolution any impediment to further procedure with the Bill. In conclusion, he would implore the Government not to leave the question in its present state. In his 1675 opinion, the £20,000 offered by the Government was a mere sop, and would leave the boroughs untouched.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had said that this was a question in which boroughs were as much interested as counties. He thought the Under Secretary for the Home Department had proved that boroughs were a great deal more interested than counties. The right hon. Gentleman opposite supposed that borough Members were not alive to the extraordinary charges made upon real property in the boroughs. They were alive to it. They could present a case to the House as strong as, if not stronger, than county Members could present for relief, because there had been a depreciation of property going on for many years in the boroughs as well as in the counties. But borough Members held that this was not the opportunity to raise or satisfactorily settle so large a question as that of local taxation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had been discussing a sentimental grievance, because the burden upon the counties was not to be increased under this Bill; but, in consequence of the compromise proposed by the Government, it would be in all probability some thousands of pounds less. He was curious to understand how it was the Tory county Members took so much interest in the burdens on the boroughs after having been silent upon the subject since 1867. He believed, speaking as the Representative of a large constituency, and as knowing something of the feeling of a group of boroughs within a few miles of his own constituency, having jointly an assessment as large as that of the counties of Devon and Sussex, that they were opposed to its discussion on an occasion so altogether inadequate as the consideration of the Registration Bill. Let the counties bear the burden for 18 years, as the boroughs had done, before they cried out. He thanked the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) for the speech he had delivered, and he warned hon. Gentlemen connected with the landed interest of the inexpediency of raising questions in regard to local taxation. Hitherto the landed interest had had great authority, and almost a monopoly of power, in both Houses, and they had framed loans and imposed taxes as suited themselves, re- 1676 gardless of the interests and feelings of the ratepayers. A great change had come over the feelings of the people of this country. It was likely that in the next Session of Parliament a good many of these questions would arise, and it was a policy of great shortsightedness on the part of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to anticipate the coming day by raising these discussions.
§ MR. HOULDSWORTH
said, that if any apology were needed for his addressing the House he thought he should find it in the expression of surprise by the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) that no Member representing a borough had spoken in support of the Motion. He was not concerned to deal with the Motion at large, and he would be ruled out of Order if he attempted to speak on the larger question of the incidence of local and Imperial taxation. He was not even concerned after the speeches already made to deal with the question of the counties. He desired to represent the condition and the claims which boroughs had upon the Government, especially in view of this Motion. They had before them the proposal of the Government. That proposal seemed to proceed on two assumptions. One was that there should only be relief where additional expense was incurred, and the other was that no additional or special expense was put upon the boroughs at the present time. He maintained that both of these propositions were unsound. It was not only in cases where additional expense and additional work were thrown upon the officers charged with the duty of registration that relief should be given from Imperial taxation, and additional expense was thrown by the present Re-form Act upon the boroughs. He was very glad to hear the sympathetic remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Department, with regard to the incidence of taxation in boroughs; and he thought he might take his figures and his arguments to show that the incidence of taxation was quite as severe upon the inhabitants of boroughs as it was upon those in the counties. He was very glad that the principle, at any rate of relieving taxation for a purpose of this sort, was affirmed by Her Majesty's Government in the proposal which they had made. There was evidently nothing in principle 1677 against assistance to taxation for the purpose of registration; and it would seem to him strange if any principle opposed to such relief could be stated, for this certainly was an Imperial question. He had heard some remarks made with regard to the importance of local expenditure being under local control, and he thoroughly subscribed to that principle; but this was not a question where much difference could be made in expenditure in differents places. He could understand that argument being used when the representation of localities was more unequal; but the ground was completely taken from that argument now, when the great mass of the people were voters, and when they had very nearly approached to equal electoral districts. He would put before the Government the fact that they in boroughs had under this Reform Act some additional work and expense as regarded registration. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might suppose it was not a very large increase, still it was very substantial. He would remind the House that' most, if not all, boroughs had enlarged boundaries, which drew a number of county voters into the boroughs, thereby causing additional work and expense. If relief were to be given at all in this matter it ought to be given permanently and not temporarily. In every borough it would be found that a very large proportion—some 10 to 20 per cent—of those who appeared on the overseers' list had no business to be on the Register at all. It was, no doubt, very desirable that work of this sort should be done economically; but the first thing to be considered was that it should be done as perfectly as possible. He had heard it argued that if the expenses of registration were transferred from the locality to the Imperial Treasury there would be a great deal of extravagance. He did not quite see why this should be the case, and he did not think that extravagance would take place. It did not appear to him that, if the Local Authorities did their work properly, they would have very much control over the expenditure. They might, of course, give their officers a large amount of salary; but if the latter did their work perfectly there would be a certain sum which could be easily ascertained paid per voter, and this sum 1678 might be granted by the Treasury to the various boroughs. The Government had proposed 2d.. per vote in counties; and he would undertake to say that it would be easy in boroughs of different sizes to form a scale of the sums necessary for registration from year to year, and that sum could be transferred from the Imperial Treasury. On these grounds he ventured to urge strongly upon the Government the case of the boroughs. The time had arrived when, both in counties and boroughs, the expenses connected with this important work of registration ought to be transferred to Imperial taxation, and thus the political Parties who were at present doing a great deal of that work for the country would be relieved of it, while there would be no longer an opportunity afforded of giving one-sided registration to a political Party.
§ MR. DUCKHAM
, said, that he should support the Motion of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Massey Lopes) on principle. He considered that there could be no object more completely national than that of electing Members of the House of Commons, whose duties were to deal with the whole interests of the Empire; that being so, he felt that the cost of registration of voters should be treated as a national question, and not be imposed upon the already overburdened ratepayers. It had been argued by the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) that, hitherto, the registration foes had been paid exclusively by the boroughs; and, since it was not objected to by the ratepayers in the boroughs, upon the passing of the Reform Bill of 1867, no alteration should now be made. He (Mr. Duckham) felt that it was not a question for the rural more than the urban ratepayer; both had hit her to borne their share of the burden; it had not fallen exclusively upon either. But about the year 1867 the poor rate appeared to be considered as the most elastic means of raising money, and almost every conceivable burden was placed upon it; but that did not justify its continuance. He considered that the time was come when real property should be relieved from burdens for national objects. Hon. Members had talked as though the lists of borough electors having been made out, no further expense was incurred; but that was not 1679 so, there was an annual heavy expense incurred. He was glad to know that the Government admitted the principle for which he contended, by their offer of 2d.. per head registration for the counties; but he failed to see how such an arrangement would satisfy the ratepayers in boroughs. He would instance that there were now many old boroughs disfranchised, and many new ones constituted. The disfranchised boroughs were added to the county electorate; their registers would not be altered, beyond corrections; yet they would be entitled to receive from the National Exchequer a registration fee of 2d., whilst the fees for registration in other existing boroughs and the newly enfranchised boroughs would be borne by the ratepayers. He argued that such an anomalous state of things could not be considered to be a fair and equitable adjustment. It was not the case that subventions were extravagantly spent. He was himself Chairman of the Boss Highway Board, and could assure the House that the expenditure was now quite as economically conducted as before the main road grant of £250,000 was paid. He therefore earnestly appealed to the Government to treat the question on the broad principle, and make such an adjustment as would be acceptable, because equitable to all alike.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, he could not have believed that any borough Member in the House, on whichever side of the House he sat, could vote against the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon, for if ever there was a case which interested those who were Members of boroughs, he ventured to think it was the Motion which had been brought forward so ably by his hon. Friend, and there had been no answer to the argument which his hon. Friend had brought forward. The only argument which had been advanced had been the old argument of delay. He would be very willing indeed to rest the case of the boroughs on the speech they had just now heard from the Under Secretary for the Home Department. On that speech he thought he proved the position that whatever might be the position of the counties the boroughs lay under a great disadvantage. Everyone who was acquainted with boroughs would know that local taxation had in- 1680 creased in every way, and must be of opinion that what followed in the great towns was closely connected with the increase of local taxation. At the present time, in his own city, which was divided into nine divisions, there was an immense amount of property that paid taxation. There was, undoubtedly, a lot of property occupied, so that people paid rent without rates. It was one of the most fertile subjects which could well occupy the attention of the statesmen and philanthropists of the future; but he wanted to know why the House should not avail themselves of the present Bill, in order to bring their grievances before the Government, and in order to impress upon the Government the great importance of forthwith giving whatever measures of relief they could in the position they were placed in? He thought they were very hardly placed indeed. The Government opposed the course suggested by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Sheridan), because the country was not granted relief in 1869, and put that forward as a reason why they should not have relief now. He might point out that much had occurred since 1869. Local taxation had increased, and had increased very much, and what was a slight increase at that time had become an intolerable burden at present. How were they to deal with these things unless they took advantage of the present Bill? Government proposed to make some relief—small and quite inadequate. They proposed to give relief to Ireland, and at the same time acknowledged that the burden of taxation pressed most heavily on cities and boroughs, and yet they refused to boroughs the relief they proposed to give to counties. Let him refer to the speech made the other day by the President of the Poor Law Board, that they would meet the case by giving relief to Ireland, that they would give a certain measure of relief to towns, but not to boroughs. The only reason was this, that it was an old taxation, and that it was an old borough, and therefore upon that ground alone he justified the refusal to give to boroughs any relief at all. Would that bear investigation? If, upon the statement of one of the Ministers that night, the burden of taxation was heavy on boroughs—if they 1681 had been long-suffering and patient, was that patience and long-suffering to be thrown in their teeth, and were they to be told on that account that they were to have no relief at all? "But," said the right hon. Gentleman, "I believe the boroughs will not unfairly have an increase of taxation." He (Mr. Whitley) was sure his right hon. Friend and those who sat opposite were entirely in error. There would be a very large amount of increase of taxation. Look at the divisions in Liverpool. There was one division almost entirely taken out of the county, and why should they not have some measure of relief in that division? It was a totally unfair position that they, as Members for boroughs, and their constituents were placed in if the Government would not give way, and grant them some measure of justice. They complained that they were unfairly treated by the measure now before the House by the relief the Government had proposed, and he could not conceive it possible that any Member for a borough could fail to agree with him that in the course the Government had taken they had taken an unfair course with regard to the boroughs. He believed this question of local taxation was a very important one. The Speaker had ruled—and properly ruled—that the House could not, on an occasion like this, go into another subject than that before the Mouse. That was the old, old story— that in the far future some remedy might be applied; but why should they defer it to a future day? They had been promised long, long ago that liberty which they claimed at present, and they had a right to claim it at the hands of the Government. The Government were going to increase taxation. They professed to do all in their power to reduce their local taxation. They admitted that it was a great and a growing evil. In every speech they heard from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the grievances of local taxation. Boroughs were growing in every direction; and yet, whenever the opportunity came, and whenever there was any hope given of obtaining some relief, they were always met by the old, old cry, "We are not able." That was the position they were in. They had heard of the large increase of taxation that had taken place, especially in the towns, 1682 and it was going on to an intolerable extent. The case which he brought under the notice of the Government was—"While you are endeavouring to offer some dole, some slight relief, to the counties and to Ireland, you deny to the boroughs of England, the cities of England, and the villages of England, that relief which they thought they have a right to demand at the hands of the Government." He had heard, from time to time, most touching speeches from the other side with regard to the increase in the number of peasant proprietorships. He represented a city where the working classes held by far the largest portion of the land in the city. Their holdings extended in every direction. Were the Government going to free these working men, and yet ruin the working classes by giving them proprietorships in name only, and by imposing upon them this oppressive amount of local taxation? He did hope and trust that when the right hon. Gentleman opposite rose he would be able to say that the Government had reconsidered their position, and that they were not prepared to sit still and hear their Colleagues admit the very facts he was endeavouring to press upon them, and yet to refuse that relief which they had a right to demand. If they did not do so he trusted that all the borough Members would have the courage of their convictions, and, no matter on which side of the House they sat, come forward and carry the Motion by a large majority.
§ MR. HARRIS
said, he rose to support the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon. The speeches that had been made from the opposite side of the House contained no arguments, and were it at the power of the hon. Baronet to exercise a right to reply to them, he would have but little trouble in doing so. In the first place, he imagined that his hon. Friend would say that the proposals of the Government were totally inadequate; and, secondly, he would argue that as these registration charges were recurrent that a small grant for this year only was no proper attempt to meet the case. It was quite true that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had endeavoured to persuade the House that the temporary subvention now proposed was, in fact, more than the extra cost of the registration would be; 1683 but if that were so, how easy was it for the Government to grant all that the hon. Member who proposed this Amendment had asked for. Then we should know how we stood. At present it was all doubt and uncertainty, and the calculations of this side of the House were widely different to those of the Government; in fact, hon. Members on this side of the House regarded the offer as simply a sop preceding a General Election—a sop which would not give offence to the supporters of the Government, but at the same time would by no means meet the case. He admitted that this grant ought to be made to boroughs as well as to counties. Most of the previous speakers had laid stress on the heavy burdens incident to the agricultural interest, and he agreed to the fall in all they had said. Agriculture in this country was undoubtedly burdened in a manner that no other business would for one moment allow. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton had given statistics which would go out to the country, by which he maintained that the amount of local taxation incident to purely rural property was only about £2,000,000 per annum; but this was totally illusory. The mixed urban and rural property was admitted by the hon. Member to bear a further burden of £10,000,000 per annum, and some land used for agricultural purposes likewise fell into the category of "urban," being within the limits of boroughs. Careful calculations had been made by agricultural experts as to the amount of local taxation borne by the agricultural land of England and Wales, and these resulted in an almost unanimous agreement that the proportion belonging exclusively to farms amounted to £7,000,000 sterling per annum; but this was not all, for in hundreds and thousands of parishes the school rate, instead of being included in the assessments, had been made a voluntary rate which did not enter into the published accounts of local rating. Then, again, the land had to bear the support of that most useful institution called the National Established Church—an institution which he trusted would long fulfil its useful functions, but whose benefits were certainly not confined to the farming interests. These charges, added to the Imperial charges, such as land tax and other Imperial burdens, brought up the taxation 1684 on the produce of land to such a point as no hon. Gentleman opposite, who was not directly concerned in the cultivation of land, would believe possible. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) said, in his speech, that landowners had much to learn and much to unlearn, and that it was dangerous for them to approach these subjects seeing that the feeling was to place much heavier burdens on agricultural land than it now bore. He was not at all afraid of the threats of the hon. Member for Bradford. He would be only too glad as a yeoman farmer, which he was, to compare his position as to taxation with that of the hon. Member for Bradford. The hon. Member for Bradford bought his raw material—wool —free from all duties or taxes of any sort. He (Mr. Harris) as a farmer got his raw material by the employment of labour and science upon the soil; but by the mode of rating adopted in this country this raw material was taxed up to the hilt. Again, he, as a yeoman farmer, had to compete with men in the United States, who had the advantage of the raw material extracted from rich virgin soil comparatively free from taxation or burdens of any sort. From statistics which he had most carefully collected in the United States he could assure hon. Members that the taxes on corn production in the United States did not amount to one fourth part of what the burdens other than rent in this country amounted to. Seeing, then, what a fierce competition was now going on between the farmers in the two countries, could it be wondered at that the Representatives of the British agriculturists should band themselves together as they were now doing to resist all increase in their burdens? Comparing, then, his position with that of the hon. Member for Bradford, he would first say that the manufacture of food should not be put in a worse position than that of cloth; in fact, if the two be considered, that the food was the more important of the two. Secondly, if the hon. Member for Bradford enjoyed legislation which gave him his raw material of manufacture free of taxation, the farmer ought to enjoy the same benefits. Thirdly, the raw material which the farmer used being English raw material, while the raw material of the Bradford manufacturer was almost all produced abroad, was an additional 1685 reason why the home produce should be freed from taxation. He knew well that hon. Gentlemen opposite would reply that there would be a danger of such relief going to the landlord. He (Mr. Harris) had no landlord, and he failed to see why he should be unfairly taxed because other persons chose to have landlords, or because landlords chose to have tenants. The fact of the matter was that landlords, tenants, and labourers were all interested in this matter. What affected one affected all. The burdens had now advanced to that extent on the industry that land was being abandoned, and the poorer land of this country would rapidly go out of cultivation. The industry was, in fact, being strangled. He had read a most interesting speech a short time since, made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain), where he compared the taxation of himself and that of the agricultural labourer. The right hon. Gentleman had discovered that he was only paying 3¾ per cent in taxation on his property, which evidently consisted mostly of personalty, whereas he tried to prove that the agricultural labourer was in an indirect manner paying 7 per cent. Other investigators had, however, conclusively shown that the agricultural labourer was only paying 4½ or 5 per cent. He (Mr. Harris), as a farmer, thought hon. Gentlemen would be rather surprised when they heard what he was paying. Taking his profits by agriculture for the last 10 years, and reckoning no rent for his land, he found that he had paid more than 30 per cent on the net income which he had received. What agriculturists asked for was that such wide anomalies should be promptly rectified. In France, although local taxation on land was less than in this country, the farmers had found that they could no longer succeed against foreign competition with such exceptional burdens, and they had induced the French Government to return to Protective duties on corn and meat. He did not suppose that many Members in that House would support the same policy in England; but if we were to be without Protection, it was all the greater reason for our being placed in such a position as to be able to hold our own against the foreigner. As far as the principle was concerned, the boroughs 1686 had an equal claim with the counties for relief; but the agricultural interest being far more necessary to the country than any other, the counties had really a superior claim.
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. Member that the House was not discussing an abstract Resolution, but an Amendment upon a specific point in the Registration Bill.
§ MR. HARRIS
said, he was sorry if he had offended against the Rules of Debate. What he intended to show was that agriculture could not bear any additional burdens at the present time. The responsibilities of the owners of agricultural land in this country at the moment were unusually great. The system of agriculture was undergoing great changes, and the outlay required for new buildings and various other improvements was very large. Any proposal of an increased taxation was, therefore, most impolitic from a national point of view. Speeches such as they had heard from the hon. Member for Bradford were too common. They induced a want of confidence which prevented the outlay of money in our own country. Was it likely that men of property would chose to sink their money in improvements at home if they knew that these improvements when made were to have heavier taxation put upon them? Would they not naturally prefer to invest their capital in countries that had some regard to the maintenance of the industry of agriculture? In conclusion, he regarded this proposal of the Government as the last straw which break's the camel's back. It might not amount to a very large percentage of additional burden; but he set himself against all additions to the burdens falling on industry from a national as well as a farmer's point of view, and he heartily supported the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon.
§ MR. ROUND
said, that he desired not to give a silent vote upon the question under discussion, but to add his protest to those of other speakers on the Conservative Benches who resisted the proposal of the Government to throw even a portion of the expenses of registration upon local ratepayers. He knew the amount in question was not considered large; but he contended for the principle, that charges of a national character 1687 should not be imposed upon one description of property only—namely, houses and land. He was glad to hear the hon. Member the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department say that the general incidence of local taxation was most unfair, as, indeed, many other hon. Members and right hon. Members on the Government side had frequently declared; but what he wanted was to see those hon. Members act up to their words and vote that the present system of local taxation was unfair. So long as new charges were imposed upon the rates, and such expenses as those of registration were continued to be charged, so long were they perpetuating a system which they admitted to be unfair. The whole community—and not one portion only—should bear the expense of such charges as registration. He represented an agricultural district which had suffered as much as any other county from the continued depression, and though other causes had mainly contributed to bring about the serious losses which occupiers of land had sustained, the incidence of local taxation had pressed most heavily upon them, and they felt it more keenly as it was an evil which the Legislature could have done much to remedy. Large landowners might be represented on the Government Benches; but he believed that small landowners and occupiers were specially interested in this question of local taxation, and it was on their behalf he appealed. The Under Secretary of State for the Home Department had admitted the large increase in local rates which had taken place in the last 10 years; and though he (Mr. Round) was well aware the large proportion of this was due to the towns, he reminded the House that the increased burden of the rates fell very heavily upon occupiers of land in agricultural boroughs; they often had to pay 3s. or 4s. or more per acre, and for matters from which they derived very little benefit. He well remembered the Resolution passed by the House of Commons in 1870, when a large number of Liberal Members assisted Sir Massey Lopes. He could not understand why such a different feeling should animate the Liberal Party now, when those who suffered from recent continued agricultural depression put in their just claims, and he hoped that some at least would, upon the present occasion, help by 1688 their votes to bring about the desired result.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he would call the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the tendency of the proposal before the House. The Amendment had a tendency in the direction of manhood suffrage, for if the expenses of Parliamentary elections and registrations, and other similar expenses were to be charged upon the National Exchequer, it might well be argued that it was no longer fair that the possession of a vote should be dependent upon the possession of property or a connection with it. It was well known that the main part of the work to be done under the Bill would affect counties, and, therefore, he regarded the inclusion of boroughs in the proposal before the House as somewhat delusive. He feared that if such a proposal were agreed to, the cost of registration would be increased. That would be the probable result if the cost were for the future defrayed out of Imperial funds. The only way to insure economy in connection with the expenses of elections was to make the localities defray them. If the House were to proceed to impose charges connected with Parliamentary elections upon Imperial taxation, the day might not be far distant when there would come a demand for the payment of Members. Hon. Members opposite, by their action that evening, were paving the way for the making of such a demand. He hoped that the expenses of Parliamentary elections would in the future be paid by the localities themselves.
§ MR. ECROYD
said, that there was no desire on the Conservative side of the House to obstruct any measure for the registration of voters; but if they had not raised this question they would have lost an opportunity of protesting against an injustice, and would have provided some excuse for the continuance of that injustice. The vote to be taken that evening was one which would greatly affect taxpayers, for it related to an important matter of principle. The growth of local burdens not only threatened the prosperity of owners of property, but also the success of our industries. If they found that in a matter of this kind, which was national in all its bearings, the charges were to be paid out of local taxation, Members would be neglecting their duty if they did not try 1689 to prevent it. He regretted that so much of the debate had been spent in drawing a distinction between land and other kinds of property, and between dwellers in the towns and in the country. He thought that to-night they were fighting the battle of the ratepayers, not only in the agricultural districts, but equally in the boroughs. The county of Lancaster was cut up into 23 divisions, and all knew that 15 or 20 of these were urban and industrial in character. Yet they were as much concerned in the matter of the debate as the most purely rural districts in the Kingdom. The Under Secretary for the Home Department had told them that the incidence of local taxation on land and buildings was most unjust. He thanked the hon. Member for that admission: but it would be much more satisfactory if the Government, who were so slow to relieve them of this injustice, would abstain from increasing it. The tendency of all their legislation this Session was directed to its exaggeration, and not to its remedy. The pressure of charges of this kind was a most serious matter. So far from the agriculturists feeling it in the heaviest degree, he believed the Under Secretary for the Home Department was correct when he said that those engaged in the industries of urban and suburban districts felt the pressure still more heavily. This was one element in that system of handicapping our own industries for the benefit of foreigners, which had already been carried in this country to the verge of ruin. Unless those who made large fortunes in connection with foreign trade, such as bankers, merchants, and speculators, were made to pay their share of Imperial charges, it would be impossible for our industries to survive. He was sincerely thankful to his hon. Friend for having introduced this proposal, and was glad that it would be carried to a vote, so that the country might have an opportunity of seeing who were endeavouring to serve its industries, and who were throwing them over.
§ MR. STORER
contended that this question of the cost of registration was more a matter of local than Imperial concern. Members living in counties and boroughs could see that this was an opportunity not to be missed of bringing before the Government the fact that a check must be placed upon the imposi- 1690 tion of more burdens on the rates, and that those burdens should be placed not upon real property alone, but also upon personal property. It was all very well for the Government to dangle before the House, year after year, the promise that they should have a Local Government Bill shortly; but that Bill never came, for either they were engaged in a war, or there were rumours of war, or they were employed in evading war, or other things, that they had no time for passing such a Bill. He hoped the ratepayers would see that their interests were better attended to in future Parliaments than they had been in the past, and he thought they would probably desire to have a different Government to carry out their wishes. This was the last straw on the camel's back. The agricultural labourer was at present the victim of a new tax, the education tax, which ground many of them to the dust, and he had no doubt it produced a similar effect in the boroughs. And now the labourer was to have another new tax imposed on him, in the shape of an additional beer tax. He considered that the time had arrived when a protest should be made against such a proceeding.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, that he disputed the statement of the Under Secretary for the Home Department that this was an inopportune occasion for bringing this matter before the House. If the Government had acquainted themselves with the principle upon which those who represented the interests of the ratepayers invariably acted, they would have known that whenever local burdens were about to be increased by any Bill, they threw themselves into the battle. The Under Secretary had made what he might call an academical admission; he had said that the present system of local taxation was radically wrong. Well, they were tired of academical admissions and academical Resolutions of the House. Twice during the present Parliament the House had passed a general Resolution that relief should be given to the ratepayers; but they had obtained no relief at all. Now was an opportunity, not for making a profession of faith, which, without works, was vain, but for actually granting a means of relief. By that test the sincerity of the Government was to be proved; but the Under 1691 Secretary declared that they should wait for a more convenient season, that the wrong they complained of was "but a little one," and, availing himself of the plea of the old sinner, he excused himself from applying a permanent and effectual remedy on the ground that it was an "old" wrong. The old and sound foundation of their argument was that the incidence of taxation on land and houses had for a length of years been disproportioned to the incidence of taxation on other classes of property. By the last Return of the Local Government Board placed on the Table of the House, the yearly expenditure derived from rates on land and houses was £50,000,000, and the debt secured on that property was £160,000,000. Such figures spoke for themselves, and needed no comment. How were they to deal with that tremendous sum total, which had grown to its present dimensions in the present generation? Why, by reducing it in the same way as it had been accumulated, by degrees. The householder and the freeholder had been overtaxed by burdens gradually imposed. Let them gradually reduce or remove them. The townsman, not less than the countryman; the shopkeeper and the artizan, not less than the farmer; the labourer and the freeholder were the parties interested in that reform. By the compromise they had offered, the Government admitted the principle of their contention. But was the compromise a fair one? Ireland was to receive £10,000, England only £20,000. The "capable citizen" of England was to be registered at 2d. a-head, the "capable citizen" of Ireland at 5d.. a-head. Was that fair? Instead of £20,000, £200,000 was required for England alone. He would wish, however, to say a word not only against the paltriness of the amount, but against the manner in which partial relief was proposed to be granted. If a subvention was to be resorted, lot the Government give a good round sum like £500,000. But he objected altogether to subventions. They caused extravagance, and they tended towards a dual control. If, as was admitted, the business of registration was an Imperial business, let the Government take the whole thing into their own hands, let them do it wholesale through the agency of the Local Government Board. He would 1692 say one word in conclusion, not on the relative incidence of rates and taxes on one class of property or another, but on the actual, visible, and notorious effect of the increase of the rates upon the social condition of the people. Heavy rates meant high rents, and high rents meant the overcrowding of the dwellings of the poorest, and heavy rates meant also diminished wages, or, in other words, a smaller loaf for a hungry family.
§ MR. ACKERS
supported the Amendment, and said he would not have done so had it not embraced boroughs as well as counties, a fact of which the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) did not seem to be aware. He would read a resolution which had been passed that day by the representatives of 58 local Chambers of Agriculture at a meeting of the Central Council. That resolution declared that the offer of the Government to vote £20,000 was altogether inadequate, and therefore the Council supported the Amendment now before the House. Other resolutions bearing on local taxation were also passed, and would be laid before the House on the discussion of the Budget Resolutions. He rejoiced that Ireland had been treated more generously, he would not say with full justice; but that was no reason why England should not have fair play. It was not the original intention of the Government to give anything at all. The subvention having been offered, the question was whether it was adequate or fair, and he submitted that it was neither. There would not be the slightest difficulty in making payments to overseers through the Clerks to the Unions. To do that would not be giving the Local Government Board any more trouble than they had now. The excuse given for not attempting a permanent settlement of this question now was scarcely becoming in the mouth of a Government who could ask Parliament for £100,000,000; a Government that was equal to that might very well have dealt with this question of local taxation. It was not the power but the will that was wanting. The President of the Local Government Board had stated that it was impossible to say what the charges were; but the Under Secretary for the Home Department had no difficulty in stating that they would be £12,500 a-year 1693 That estimate, however, he believed to be very much under the mark. It comprised only one portion of the expenses. Did it not mean simply the expenses of the Clerks of the Peace? He believed that that was all the hon. Member meant. If that was all, it was a small proportion only of the expenses which had to be borne. The £20,000 promised might be better than nothing, but it would not stop agitation. It seemed to have always been an inconvenient time for the Government to deal with the question of local taxation, and the Parliament would expire while the ratepayers were starving. The Government would have to go to the country without one of their pledges on this subject being fulfilled. Let the question be treated, not as a question between town and country, not as a question between one class and another, but let it be put upon the broad principles of equity and justice, and then the time might come when, instead of speaking for the future, they might act for the present.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, it had been assumed that the proposed subvention of £10,000 to Ireland was a liberal one which would be accepted gratefully. Of course, it was a large sum as compared with that proposed to be given to England; but it would not be accepted as a settlement of this question or as a sufficient relief to local taxation. They were told that it was inconvenient then to bring the question of local taxation before the House; but it seemed to him that every fair question which they on that side brought forward was inconvenient to the Government from some cause or other, and it was exceedingly difficult to find a subject with which to confront them affecting local rates or the welfare of the industrial classes which the Government did not attempt to shelve in favour of foreign policy, of which during the present Parliament they had had more than enough. The House was told that it was a very small sum of money that was involved in the present case; but, even if that were so, it was necessary that they should be wary and watchful to prevent any addition being made to the local imposts that were now crushing to the ground not only the rural population, but the working men of the towns.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
observed that the hon. Baronet the Mem- 1694 ber for South Devon had laid down the principle involved in that Motion very simply and distinctly. He had shown that the registration of Parliamentary voters was an Imperial matter, and that it ought to be paid for out of Imperial funds. The charges connected with the elections of Boards of Guardians or of Town Councils, being local in their character, were defrayed out of the rates; but the charge which the House was now discussing was properly a national one, and it ought not to be thrown on the local rates. If any justification were needed, apart from the importance of the subject, for the Motion of the hon. Baronet, it would be found in the speech of the Under Secretary for the Home Department, who spoke for the Government. For the hon. Gentleman admitted frankly and generously the grievous injustice of this local taxation on real property, and he had heard very different language used from that side and from the Treasury Bench, where every sort of argument had been used to put aside the settlement of the question. But when the Under Home Secretary went into facts and figures—he hoped the hon. Gentleman would excuse him for saying that he seemed to get beyond his depth, for he told the House that in purely rural places the amount was only £2,000,000, and had increased by only £500,000 in 10 years. Well, that was 25 per cent. But did the hon. Gentleman know how many purely rural Unions there were in England that were unmixed with urban districts? Why, not more than about one quarter of the whole number, those being where the assessment was the lowest. Therefore, like many others, he had given these statistics without the practical knowledge, and naturally he had been misled. Then he said—"But in urban districts the rates are sometimes 7s. in the pound, whereas in rural places they are seldom half that. "Why, they never contended that this was a rural question. They had uniformly insisted that the town ratepayer was equally taxed unjustly and grievously; but, whereas the town ratepayer was paying on one-sixth of his income, the farmer was assessed at double, and that was where it fell so heavily on him. Then the hon. Gentleman said if a poor man bought a pennyworth of tea he had to pay half that in taxation. That was a mistake. He 1695 only paid a farthing, or one quarter, in taxes, as the tax on tea was 6d.. in the 11b. But the point immediately before the House was the injustice of charging an Imperial purpose on the local rate. If this were for local or municipal purposes it would be different. It was the principle they were contending for that night, not the amount, and just let the House consider the tendency of these things. For years, until the question was taken up in this House, it was the custom of Chancellors of the Exchequer to lighten their Budgets by throwing charges on the rates. He remembered, for instance, in his own county an attempt of the Government to charge Militia infirmaries on the rates, and when it was successfully resisted the answer was that they had induced other counties to do so. If they allowed this additional sum to be imposed upon them now, they would have the President of the Local Government Board some two or three years hence pointing to what they had sanctioned in that case, and making it a precedent for further action in the same direction. It was, moreover, very impolitic to leave the question of local taxation unsettled. He did not know if such a course as deliberately disregarding a vote of the House on this question, as the Government had done, was unconstitutional and unparalleled; but he was certain it was very inconvenient for any Government, and they would probably find it so, in getting the fag end of the Session turned into a local taxation debate. Such Bills as this would be disturbed and aggravated by the question. Such questions as the Budget would be disturbed, or perhaps upset by it; and such questions as police superannuation would probably be dropped altogether on this account, as the Rivers Conservancy Bill had been. Ministers told them they were going to give them a Local Government Bill, when matters of that kind would be settled; but the House might have to wait four or five years longer before such a promise was fulfilled, and meanwhile the oppressive burden of local taxation would be continued, and probably increased. Last year a Government of London Bill was brought in which was to be the basis for county government, and the whole question of relief to local taxation was sedulously and deliberately excluded from the pro- 1696 visions of that Bill. How could they believe in the sincerity of the Government after that? Then they were told by a Cabinet Minister of a plan for creating large Provincial Building Societies, and that was to take the place of giving the ratepayers representation on the County Board. And that was the way they were put off. The House and the Government must not be surprised if they found themselves now beset by this question, nor if the forecast of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) came true, and they found this question settling for them some of the elections next autumn.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he thought that in the discussion which had taken place upon this subject the real question had been lost sight of. This was not exactly a question of local taxation, but a question whether the cost of registration should be thrown upon local funds. It was a question of national, and not of local concern. In the great Reform Bill of 1832 provision was made for the revision of voters' list by Revising Barristers and their payment by the House; but no provision was made for the overseer, who in connection with electoral lists had very important work to do in connection with the Revising Barrister, and. in fact, had to act as his assistant. The overseers made the returns to the Revising Barristers upon which the electorate was founded, and surely the preparation of these returns was a matter of national concern. Many hon. Gentlemen had, no doubt, mounted to-night the hobby of local taxation, which was a very good one on the proper occasion. Local taxation was a fair topic for discussion and consideration indeed. It had been admitted by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) that local taxation was at present on a very unsatisfactory footing. He (Mr. Gregory), however, considered that the present question was one which should be treated upon the larger and broader ground; it was a matter involving Constitutional principles and election of Representatives to Parliament, and it was, therefore, a matter for Imperial consideration. On that ground he would venture to support the Motion of his hon. Friend. He thought that, in his able speech, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had underrated the duties and responsibilities which were thrown upon the overseers by the 1697 Registration Bill. It had been said that in making out the new lists an that overseer would have to do would be to turn to his Registers. But that was by-no means all that he would have to do, because he would in many cases have not only to see who was already registered, but who was the occupier in possession to be brought upon the Register. The questions of the lodger and service franchise, again, could not be settled by merely looking at the Register; the overseer would have to make inquiries as to who were entitled to vote. In rural districts there would be many houses rated to the farmer, but occupied by his servants, and all this would have to be found out by the overseer. It was, however, upon the larger Constitutional questions that he proposed to support this Motion.
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
maintained that in the case of both the lodger and the service franchise claims must be made by the persons who wished to be put upon the Register; and, therefore, it was not the case that the overseer would have to ransack the whole of his parish. He thought that the political activity of the people themselves would be amply sufficient for this. Hon. Members opposite had always prided themselves upon being opposed to centralization in matters of local government. There was a serious danger involved in putting these expenses upon the Imperial Exchequer. Those who had to pay the money must finally have the appointment of those who were paid; and if they gave effect to this Resolution they must recognize that the appointment of these officers must come into the hands of the Central Authority. The appointment of the overseer, and, where necessary, of an assistant overseer, was now in the hands of the ratepayers in vestry, and in many parts of the counties the people clung to this right, and considered it a matter of the greatest importance. They made it a matter of local Party contests and Party interest. If they were now going to place the charge on the national taxes they were putting it in the hands of the central political government; and he thought that it was unwise that this matter should be put in the hands of officers who were to be appointed as well as dismissed by the Central Authority. That was not his idea of local 1698 self-government. In the case of prisons and Ponce, where hon. Members on the other said of the House had clamoured for State am, State control and State regulation had followed. With regard to the question of trying to shift the burdens from the ratepayer, he entirely sympathized with those who thought that the present area of taxable property was not wide enough for local purposes, and he would be glad to see it extended. There was a strong democratic movement in favour of increasing taxation on land. Those who were in favour of the Amendment had treated the question as an occupiers' question, and not as an owners' question. But they would lose a great deal of popularity with the farmers if they adopted that tone in the country, and would only tend to increase the feeling which was growing up in favour of reviving the old Land Tax of 4.s. in the pound.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, he must protest against the idea that land was not sufficiently taxed already. There was no class in the country which had felt the increase of local burdens more than the landowners. If some of the Gentlemen opposite were to invest their money in land they would soon change their tone. Burdens ought to be fairly distributed among owners of property of all kinds, and an undue proportion ought not to be laid on the shoulders of landowners, as would be the case if the Amendment were not carried.
§ MR. HICKS
said, he failed to discover that any valid reasons had been adduced by the Government or their supporters for resisting the hon. Baronet's proposal, especially as no demand was made for the reduction of taxation. Had the proposal included such a demand there would be some force in the arguments of hon. Members opposite; but such was not the case— they were simply resisting an increase of local burdens. In 1883, 31 Members opposite who had voted with the Government afterwards petitioned in the same sense as the Amendment. If he was not mistaken, the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) was among them. Prom the first time he had attended meetings of the Central Chamber of Agriculture this question had been a subject which engaged their attention. He had contended that it had been not only a question for coun- 1699 ties, but for boroughs also, and not for ratepayers in England only, but for the whole of the United Kingdom. He hoped that hon. Members would, regardless of Party, vote against the proposed increase to the local burdens not only of England, but of the United Kingdom at large.
MR. P. A. MUNTZ
said, that hon. Members had heard many statements which were intended to lead the House to believe that the Opposition only recognized the agricultural interests of the country, and that the landed interests paid scarcely any taxes. He could but attribute those statements to an absence of knowledge on the part of Gentlemen who had used them. He contended that agriculture was more highly taxed than any other industry in the Kingdom. There were great quantities of land which were wholly unproductive, but upon which the taxation, amounting to 3 per cent, was levied. That was a hardship to which the manufacturing interest of the country would not be willing to submit. The question was whether they should permit any increase of burdens already too heavy. As for himself, he was glad to support the reduction of local taxation as far as possible. He had the greatest sympathy with all local taxpayers, whether they were in the boroughs or in the agricultural districts; and hon. Members might rely upon it that in the coming elections this question would have a very important bearing upon the results.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
said, he wished to call the attention of the House to a form which had been received by the inhabitants of St. George's Hanover Square, but which no one could understand. It was stated on the form that those failing to fill it up would be liable, under the Representation of the People Act, to a fine of 40s. In the House itself he had not been able to find a single Gentleman who knew how the form was to be filled up; and he, therefore, asked how were the people to whom it was addressed to know what to do?
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
said, he thought it strange that they had had no expression of opinion on this subject from the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke). They had heard a very able speech 1700 from the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler), who, he was sure, every Member of the House would congratulate upon having a seat on the Ministerial Bench. But he did not think that the Office held by the hon. Member enabled him to speak with sufficient authority on behalf of the Government proposal. This question had been discussed in a very different frame of mind from that in which it was discussed upon the Irish Registration Bill the other night, when the Prime Minister appeared to elevate it to the highest regions of Constitutional importance, appealing to hon. Members, as guardians of the Constitution, to aid the Government in resisting the proposal of the hon. Member for Galway. The right hon. Gentleman said that proposal was one which would lead to the corruption of the House of Commons, and that it was illegitimate in principle; but this evening all that had been forgotten, and the Government had accepted the principle that some of the registration expenses should be defrayed by the Treasury. They had, therefore, to discuss, not a great question of Constitutional principle, but whether the proposal of the Government on this matter was, as it had been stated to be by the Under Secretary of State, a fair and adequate proposition for the settlement of this question. The hon. Gentleman told them that they were contending about a sum no larger than one-tenth of a farthing in the pound upon the assessment of the county ratepayers in England. Was that, he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) asked, a fair and adequate proposition for the settlement of this matter as far as England was concerned? Upon the first blush of the case it was not, because, whereas the Government intended to grant £10,000 to Ireland, they only proposed to give £20,000 towards the same kind of expenditure in England, in spite of the enormous excess of work to be done owing to the larger population. He did not say that £10,000 was enough for Ireland; but he did say that if it was not more than enough, £20,000 could not be a fair and adequate proportion in England. His hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) had explained that under the provisions of this Registration Bill, coupled with those of the Franchise Act, a very 1701 large amount of extra work must necessarily be thrown upon the overseers and assistant overseers, for which work it was only just and fair they should receive adequate compensation. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board suggested the other evening that it was impossible to give that compensation, because the remuneration of the officials for this work was mixed up with other kinds of payments for the preparation of jury lists and other matters, and one class of payment could not be separated from another. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) wished to point out that in every Local Government Board Report there was a heading setting out what the registration expenditure amounted to for the whole Kingdom during the year. That Return was composed of certain items, and it would be perfectly possible for those who sent the items in to state what would be a fair charge to make for this registration work. He did not think, with some hon. Members, that the payment out of national sources for registration work would interfere with the independence of the officials. He submitted that the proposal of the Government was neither fair nor adequate, and he was astonished that it merely applied to Clerks of the Peace in counties, and gave nothing whatever from national sources for boroughs in respect of similar work to that done in the counties. What he thought one of the best parts of the Motion of his hon. Friend was this— that he looked at this question fairly as regards both boroughs and counties. That raised the question whether the whole of the expenditure, or only the increased expenditure which was thrown on the rates by the registration of this year, was to be borne by the Treasury? He was not contented with the argument that this expense had always been on the rates, as he believed it had been thrown on the rates from the carelessness or idleness of the House of Commons of the day. It had been stated that the Government were following the principle adopted in 1867. He did not think it necessary to go back upon that time. He was not one of those who were responsible for the Act of 1867, as he had only then the responsibility of a private Member. But if an injustice were done in 1867, that was no reason why it should be repeated now. It seemed to 1702 him that the payments in respect of registration ought in justice to be made a national charge, and not a local one. He did not know whether they would be told that they ought not to raise so large a question on this Bill, which only professed to apply the existing Registration Law to those who were entitled to the franchise under the Act recently passed. It should be borne in mind, however, that Her Majesty's Government had not scrupled to deal in the Irish Registration Bill with a matter of at least as great importance. The point of difference was not a very large one as between Her Majesty's Government and those who sat on that side of the House. The principle was conceded to them, for the Government had agreed that a certain portion of these expenses should no longer be charged upon the rates. When that principle was conceded, the question of how much was merely a minor affair. Their contention was that the registration of voters who were to return Members to that House, being, as his hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex said, a national affair, the expenditure for it ought to be paid for from national sources. They asked Her Majesty's Government to deal justly and fairly with this question. They did not ask the Government to give them a shilling more in England in proportion to the work to be done than it was proposed to give in other parts of the United Kingdom. He hoped they would not hear from the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board a repetition of some words which fell from the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, to the effect that if this Amendment were carried it would destroy the Registration Bill. Her Majesty's Government had not paid such attention to the votes of the House on questions of local taxation as to lead them to believe that they would take such an exaggerated view of the carrying of an Amendment of this kind. He trusted that if the Amendement were carried the Government would postpone further proceeding with the Bill until they had reconsidered the matter; and that, after having reconsidered it in a spirit of fairness, they would inform the House that they were prepared to accede to the Vote which had been given, and to pay from na- 1703 tional sources that which was justly a national charge.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he would admit to the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) that this Amendment was one which was to be expected, and that the debate which had taken place upon it was one which they might reasonably think hon. Gentlemen opposite, with their opinions upon this subject, would raise on a Bill of this kind. He would go further, and would thank right hon. Gentlemen opposite for having given them, in Committee on this Bill, Notice that they intended to raise the question. The Amendment, however much it might be regretted by those who did not agree with the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, was, he admitted, one which it was quite fair for them to bring forward. He knew that there was no desire on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to obstruct the Bill; but if he excepted the speech of the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), he must say that, in his opinion, a great deal of the debate had been of a thoroughly discursive kind. Indeed, much of it had been in the nature of a reconnaissance in force on the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, just as if some hon. Members had been rehearsing in advance the speeches they intended to deliver in the course of a few weeks' time on the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The speech of the right hon. Baronet was, however, of a different kind, as he had dealt closely with the subject. The right hon. Baronet complained that the Government had treated Ireland on a different system and in a more liberal manner than they were treating England. But, as the right hon. Baronet was aware, Ireland possessed a wholly different system of registration to that which existed in England; and it was impossible to apply, in the case of Ireland, the same proposals that were applicable in the case of England and Scotland, though they greatly desired to do so. However, he might point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, in 1868, the Conservative Government made a proposal with regard to Ireland, and gave money for registration purposes in that country, while they made no proposal whatever in regard to England and Scotland. Therefore, he thought it hardly lay in the mouth of 1704 the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends to reproach the Government with treating Ireland more favourably than they had treated England and Scotland. At the same time, when that matter of greater favour being shown to Ireland was mentioned, he might observe that no speaker had reminded the House how very large the increase of voters in Ireland was. It was even greater in the Irish boroughs than it was in the Irish counties. To estimate the total increase of the voters in Ireland was rather difficult, but it would certainly be over 500,000; and that was a consideration which ought not to be lost sight of in the comparison which hon. Members opposite had instituted. The consideration of the Irish case from the Government point of view led them to the result which they had arrived at, and which hon. Gentlemen opposite failed somewhat to appreciate. They had to look to the fact, in the first place, that additional labour and the additional charge would be caused in the course of the present year by the Bills now before Parliament. In the case of Ireland, there was no doubt that additional labour would be caused, and additional charge occasioned. He thought that the language of the right hon. Baronet was a little strong in relation to his political Friends beside him, when he spoke of the apathy, and used similar epithets respecting the conduct of Parliament in 1867 and 1868. In those years an enormous increase was made to the cost of registration; and the right hon. Baronet's political Friends made no grant whatever for the increased charge occasioned in respect of registration in England or Scotland—the only thing they did was to give a grant of some £5,000 or £6,000 to meet the additional cost of registration in Ireland. That was a fact they were bound to comment upon and to remind the House of. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) was very wrath with the Government of that day for its neglect, although, to some extent, he was a sharer in that neglect, as he had a seat in the House. So great was the increase in 1868 as to double the charge for registration, yet no contribution was made except to Ireland, and that only of a temporary character. It was now said that Her Majesty's Government was repeating the 1705 injustice committed against the boroughs in 1868. But the proposals now made involved no increase in the expenditure in boroughs, the increased expenditure was only in counties; while, on the other hand, in 1868 there was a large increase in the expenses of registration in boroughs. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon, as well as the right hon. Baronet who had just sat clown, had argued that registration was a national question and not a local question, and ought to be dealt with entirely out of national funds. For his part, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had never been able to see how hon. Members opposite drew the line between what they called "national" and what they called "local" charges. He had heard nearly every charge called "national" which at the present time pressed upon the rates. That description applied to highways, to poor rates, and other charges of a like character; and he failed to see what were local charges in the opinion of hon. Members opposite. He agreed with the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) that it was impossible for the State to take upon itself all these charges they called national, without entirely breaking down the fabric of local self-government of which they were so proud. He would not discuss this part of the question further, but would only ask hon. Members belonging to the Conservative and Constitutional Party whether it was not an old Constitutional doctrine that the return of Members was a local question, and whether the history of representation of communities in Parliament did not show that throughout the history of this country representation had been looked upon and treated as a local matter, so much so, indeed, that in former times Members were paid wages by their several constituencies? The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon had proposed, and the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), who spoke with so much knowledge and authority on this question, had seconded, the proposal, now made for the first time, that the whole charge of registration should be borne by the State, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire had now given his countenance to that proposal. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) thought he was right in saying that was 1706 the first time that that proposal had been brought before the House in a formal shape. It had been contended that the proposal made by the Government to give a subvention conceded the principle for which hon. Members opposite contended; but that argument told both ways, and the hon. Baronet should be satisfied with the victory he had gained, and that, for the first time, Her Majesty's Government was proposing to make any contribution by the State towards the expenses of local registration in England and Scotland. Her Majesty's Government made the proposal, vainly thinking that it would meet the views of hon. Members opposite; but, unfortunately, it had been rejected with something like scorn. He should have thought that the hon. Baronet would have been satisfied that the principle for which he contended had been, to a certain extent, conceded, although in a temporary manner, and that he would have contented himself to treat it as a precedent on which to base similar proposals on a future occasion. Very wide questions had been raised by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Ecroyd), who had argued with very great ability that the charges on local rates ought not to fall upon one description of property only. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) could only say that, on that side of the House, they also agreed in that view. They had distinctly stated that they agreed that there should be a division of these charges, and that the tax ought not to fall upon one description of property alone; and there was not, therefore, any difference of opinion between the two sides of the House on that question. But hon. Members said that they had never been able to introduce Bills to give effect to these principles. He would only say that, in their opinion, if legislation were now allowed to progress at the same rate as legislation did in 1869, 1870, and 1872, those Bills would have passed into law a long time ago. The House was aware that the Government had actually framed, and put into shape, a Bill embodying their proposals on the subject; but it was a Bill of such magnitude that, in their opinion, at the present rate of progress it would take a whole Session to pass the Bill. How the last three Sessions had been consumed the House was aware, and it was 1707 unnecessary for him to speak. The hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) had told them that in lieu of a Bill the Government might grant a subvention of £500,000 until they were able to introduce the Bill. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was bound to say that the knowledge they hitherto gained of the effect of subventions in swelling and augmenting local charges did not make them regard subventions with any favour. He could not conceive any practice more calculated to swell the amount of local charges than the assumption of them all by the State. If that proposal were accepted, and if all these charges were assumed by the State, they would grow in a very short time to the large sum which had been mentioned by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Massey Lopes). The right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) said that the proposal made did not meet the case of the overseers' expenses. In making that statement, the right hon. Baronet only followed the words of his statement. He said that the Government proposed to contribute something approaching to the whole county cost which was incurred by a small number of officers easily known and got at. These officers were accustomed to render accounts; and it was towards their expenses it was proposed to contribute a sum very considerably exceeding what those expenses had been hitherto, and falling not far short of what they would reach in the future. As he stated yesterday, the Returns of the expenditure lumped together the expenses of Parliamentary registration and municipal registration, and the printing of jury lists, and it was exceedingly difficult to separate these items. Up to that time he had found the difficulty insuperable. Passing that by, the main position of the Government was, that they could not be parties in the last year of this Parliament to propose to take the whole charge of registration on the State as a permanent charge. Therefore, they could not accept the proposal now made. If they were to make a temporary proposal now with regard to overseers, it was his belief that the acceptance of this proposal would plunge the State in a very large expenditure indeed, and that the proposal was one which was almost, if not entirely, unworkable. There were between 700 and 1708 800 parishes in which there were hardly any voters at all, the numbers varying from one to five. There were between 1,100 and 1,200 parishes in which there were from 6 to 15 voters. There were between 2,000 and 3,000 parishes in which there were from 15 to 25 voters. There were between 4,000 and 5,000 sets of overseers who would have each of them to deal with fewer than 25 voters. There were 16,000 sets of overseers in all. In a vast number of parishes it would be necessary to deal with these sets of overseers in respect of a small number of names and absurdly trifling sums. Consider what would be the cost and trouble attending that proceeding. At present the expenses were certified by Revising Barristers who, in many cases, had insufficient data to go upon. There was uniform system of certifying that expenditure, and the methods varied in an extraordinary degree. Any attempt to make direct payment to the 15,000 or 16,000 sets of people would involve enormous labour. They would have to be paid by means of orders on the Postmaster General. Many of them kept no banking account, and they would have to get their orders paid through a banker or directly in London. It had been said that they might be paid by ordinary Post Office order; but the difficulty was that in many cases receipts would never be returned, and without receipts the accounts could not be audited. Therefore, the difficulty of dealing with 16,000 sets of people was one which the House could hardly realize, however simple it might appear to be. By the plan of the Government all these difficulties were avoided. Each parish contributing to the county rate would have to meet a precept for a less sum. In his belief, if the State mot all the expenses, the result would be great extravagance; but in any case the Government objected to putting the charges upon the State in the last year of this Parliament, and they had made a temporary proposal which was workable, and which would afford a certain measure of relief. If the State assumed all these charges, they would fall upon Imperial funds, to which it had been shown the labouring classes contributed in an undue degree. They were not prepared to take that responsibility in the last year of this Parliament. They believed they had met 1709 the Opposition half-way in making this temporary proposal. They had gone far beyond any proposal previously made to the House, and they could not go beyond it.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, that the conclusion he drew from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and indeed from the proposals he had submitted to the House, was that until these later days of the present Session the Government had paid no attention whatever to the difficulties that lay before them and the country in regard to this Registration Bill. When he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) first saw the measure, it was his opinion that such was the case; and though the right hon. Gentleman now said that it was fair on the part of the Opposition, and was only to be expected on their part, that they should raise this question, it was clear that the Government had never faced the question, and had never expected that it would be raised, and that it was owing to indolence, carelessness, and forgetfulness that they had put aside the subject of the registration of the new voters, a subject, he ventured to say, of great difficulty, and which was as worthy of the attention of the Government as the admittance of the new voters to the franchise. The right hon. Gentleman had at the last moment, in consequence of what had recently occurred, made a proposal which very fairly met the expenses incurred by County Authorities through the agency of the Clerks of the Peace in making up the Poll Books, and he trusted that the precedent would be followed on future occasions. He was not prepared to say that the £20,000, or whatever the sum was that was to be repaid to the County Authorities for making up the Poll Books, would not be an adequate sum; but the registration of these new voters would involve very serious and difficult duties on the part of the officials, and he thought that the Local Government Board, if any Department of the State should have known that to impose duties on unpaid officers without providing statutory remuneration for their services was to run their heads against a stone wall, and to take a course which was certain to result in confusion and disappointment when it came to actual working. He was satisfied that it was too late now to do much, if anything; and he had no doubt that the registration of the new 1710 voters in the year now coming would be a chaotic mass of confusion, and that it would take many years to set right. It must be remembered that overseers, as a rule, were persons of very mode rate business capacities, and that in all important places their duties were performed by assistant overseers—officers who were paid for their services. In the larger parishes, where the duties were performed by paid officials, some capacity might be reckoned on; but even as regarded this system of officers, he would point out that there were duties provided for under this Bill which ought never to have been placed upon such persons by Parliament without a statutable right to recover from the State a remuneration for the duties. It was not merely the preparing of a reprint or a copy of the Bate Book that was required of the officers; but they were required to ascertain the names and residences of all the voters, a most difficult and laborious subject of inquiry, and one which, he ventured to say, ought not to be left at the hazard of the more or less perfunctory discharge of duties by unpaid officers, but which should be entrusted to Clerks of Guardians or some officials appointed for the purpose. Then there were most elaborate Returns to be collected from owners of property and occupiers. He hoped that hon. Gentlemen would take the trouble to look at the Notice Paper on Thursday next. They would there see some questions propounded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) which would show the absurdity of providing for the enfranchisement of a large number of new voters without taking timely and sufficient measures for their registration. The Registration Bill, as it came down from the Select Committee, was very much improved from the condition in which it was when it originally went before that body. It contained a power to call for Returns. If the Bill contained those absurd proposals, he contended that it was not a proper measure on which to base the initiation of this enormous mass of new voters into the electorate of the country.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, there were very many provisions in the Registration Bill of equal perplexity and 1711 difficulty. How were the electors to be got at in county districts, and how were the electors in the service franchise to be registered? Most of those matters had been dealt with in the Bill in a haphazard manner. They should all have been properly provided for by the establishment, not only of a system by which the overseers should do the work, but of means for remunerating them and providing solicitors and others to aid them. The duties of Revising Barristers would be as nothing compared with the duties which this Bill would impose upon the officers; and sufficient funds ought to have been provided to enable the overseers to obtain the assistance of solicitors to aid them in their work, and to get on the Electoral Boll the enormous mass of people admitted to the franchise by the County Franchise Bill. Nothing of the kind had been attempted. The Bill was an attempt to introduce into the framework of the law a new measure, by means of numerous references to obscure and antiquated Statutes, which probably no overseer had ever seen or heard of. The methods of reference observable in the Bill were resorted to by draftsmen when they had not the time or means of framing a new project applicable to the new circumstances under which they found themselves. He would do the Select Committee the justice to say that they had done their best to improve and elaborate the framework of the Bill which he said was so antiquated; but they had been unable to make it perfect. They had added to it a series of instructions to overseers which he was afraid would only result in making confusion a thousand times more confounded. How the overseers were to carry out the instructions given to them in the Bill he was really at a loss to conceive. He wished to discriminate between the charges thrown on the rates through the agency of the Clerks of the Peace, and those thrown on the localities by the agency of the overseers. As to the first, he was satisfied with the proposal of the Government, provided it was understood that it was to be a precedent to be followed till Parliament should devise some different manner of registration. As to the second, it touched an inherent blot in the registration of the people, and it was impossible to say so late in the clay how it was to be 1712 remedied. Why had not a money clause been incorporated in the Bill, providing for the expenses of this new, and complicated, and difficult process of registration, which were certainly not in justice to be imposed upon the overseers? Why had not the Government provided for the expenses that would be incurred in respect of the overseers? It was quite evident that the Government had paid no attention to the Registration Bill until the last moment, and that they had not had time to frame a new provision of law which would be satisfactory and would meet the case. It was evident that now, at the last moment, having been unexpeotedly defeated on this point when it suddenly arose in connection with the Irish Bill, they had awakened to the difficulties of the situation, and endeavoured at the last moment by a sop in the shape of £20,000 to throw dust in the eyes of the House, and make it appear that they had done all that was necessary to meet the justice of the case. He was not at all concerned with what had occurred in 1868. The question now raised had assumed a much more acute form since those days. It was not until the year 1872 that his hon. Friend the Member for South Devonshire (Sir Massey Lopes) obtained his well-known and famous majority; but since that time, and within the last three or four years, the question of rates had assumed a much more acute form. His hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had shown very clearly, in a way that he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) had very often shown himself, that the burdens on land in the aggregate were not increasing in a rapid ratio, but were, in fact, almost at a standstill. But a charge of an equal amount in actual money upon land, valued and rated as it now was, was five times as great as it was in 1868. If everyone would study the Ruturns in Schedule A of the Property Tax they would see that, whereas 20 years ago the value of land was half as much again as the value of house property, the reverse was the case now, and house property was worth 25 or 30 per cent more than land in England. That reduced the apparent injustice of the rate on landed property; but it did not at all follow from that that a similar rate on landed property was not very much heavier than it was in those days. At 1713 all events, be that as it might, the question had now fairly come before them; and they had an opportunity of resisting, however small an increase, still an increase, upon the rates—of resisting the proposal to throw upon the rates a charge for public services. It might not be a serious charge in itself, but taken in the aggregate those charges came to a serious amount, and even this charge might prove to be a much greater one than the House thought. He thought the House was justified in taking the opportunity presented to it of putting its foot down upon those charges. The matter evidently had not been sufficiently thought out, and was one which ought to have received much greater attention from Her Majesty's Government.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, that he must apologize to the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) for interfering in the debate, as this was an English Bill. But he should like to recall to the memory of the House—and he thought that word was permissible in debate at the present time—how Ireland had been mixed up in this Bill. They were told that the fate of the Irish Bill very largely depended upon that of the English Bill, and therefore Irish Members had a great interest in this English registration measure; and he thought he (Colonel Nolan) had put a question to the President of the Local Government Board after that announcement had been made, as to whether this money for Ireland would cover the cost, not of registration, but of the expenditure defrayed by the Poor Law Unions? The answer was that that was a question to be discussed on the Bill itself, and not at the present time. That being so, he did not see how an Irish Member could help recalling this matter, and putting a few facts before the House. The first fact he would put before the House was the extraordinary statement of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had opened the debate that night. He had said that they were only disputing about a 10th of ¼d.. in the pound upon burdens imposed upon the rates. He (Colonel Nolan) had distinctly heard the hon. Member say that, and he should like very shortly to put one or two figures before the hon. Member to test the accuracy of his statement. The Union to which he (Colonel Nolan) belonged had a valuation of £70,000, 1714 and 1–10th of ¼d.. on that valuation would only amount to £8. ¼d.. was only a 1,000th part of £1, so that 1–10th of ¼d.. would come to £8 on a valuation of £70,000. Did the hon. Gentleman mean to say that in a Union, with a population of 40,000 people, £8 was sufficient to do the whole work of the registration? It was impossible, and utterly absurd.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
What I said was that the present cost for registration expenses is £12,500, which is only l-10th of ¼d.. in the pound on the county rates. I made no reference to Ireland at all.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he did not believe the hon. Member had been so particular in his statement in his speech. It was true, the hon. Member had been speaking upon the English Bill; but he had not specially confined himself to the English counties. There could be no doubt of what the hon. Member had in his mind; but, at any rate, he (Colonel Nolan) did not think that would affect his argument. He wanted to show that the hon. Member had based a large part of his argument on the fact that this rate would be so small that it would not amount to more than 1–10th of ¼d.. In Ireland it would amount to a good deal over ¼d.. in the pound, which was an appreciable amount. It was not a large sum in itself, but taken together with other rates ¼d.. became an appreciable sum. He could give further statistics to show that there was a stronger case even than that. Let them take the case of Clifden Union as an average case. There there was a valuation of nearly £14,000, and a population, he thought, of some 30,000. The rate would there, of course, be very much more than ¼d.. in the pound. Probably ¾d.. in the pound would be required, so that the question was really of much greater importance than the Under Secretary's statement would appear to make out. He would not say that the hon. Member had fallen into a mistake; but he had omitted to point out that his statement did not apply to Ireland. The fact was that in England five-sixths of local taxation was paid by property, while in Ireland it was just the reverse, five-sixths being paid by occupiers, or, if not five-sixths, at least considerably more than three-quarters. The hon. Member, he thought, had rather undervalued in his argument the relief which would be 1715 afforded by the removal of these burdens of Imperial taxation to the ratepayers, because he had said that the poor people paid to the Imperial taxation, and the rich people paid to the poor rates. The very reverse was the case in Ireland. A great many people who contributed to the poor rates in Ireland were poor—as poor as they could be without being actually paupers. He had no hesitation in saying that if they called together 100 people paying £7 or £8 rent everyone would say that he would rather pay the Imperial taxation than local taxation, because they could avoid paying Imperial taxation. They could, for instance, avoid drinking the very dear whisky, and therefore avoid paying the old taxation and the new impost which it was proposed to put upon that article. He did not say that they would do it— he did not believe they would—but they were not bound to pay this taxation on whisky, because they were not bound to buy that commodity. They were bound to pay poor rates, however—they could be prosecuted if they did not. fie had another objection to putting those charges upon the poor rates, and it was that they were converting an unpaid body of officials into tax-gatherers. Those officials ought to be paid. He had great respect for the Poor Law Guardians, and he did not think that those gentlemen, who took the trouble to attend the Poor Law Board for the benefit of the locality with which he was connected, and of the poor, should be turned into tax-gatherers. It was found necessary, from time to time, on Boards of Guardians to prosecute poor people for not paying the poor rate. He need not say that that was a most troublesome and disagreeable duty; but it was one which they undertook, because they knew that if they did not compel each person who was liable to pay, a much greater burden would be imposed on other poor people. But now the Government were taxing them not only for medical relief and relief of other kinds, but also for gathering the taxes. He did not think a volunteer body, as the bulk of the Poor Law Guardians were, should be called upon to perform this duty. If they were called upon to discharge it, it would make them dislike their work, and the result would be that it would not be possible to secure the best men on the Boards of Guardians. Those gentlemen 1716 did not wish to be tax-gatherers for Imperial purposes. As to calling this money a subvention, for his own part he would not use any such phrase. He looked upon it as an Imperial tax that they were forced to collect. The Government were forcing an Imperial burden upon them, and were not rating them for a local purpose. The purpose was strictly an Imperial one. He did not wish to delay the House very long; but before he sat down he wished to say this one thing to the Prime Minister— that he congratulated him on having refrained from taking up an inflexible attitude on the subject. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had shown the good sense of the great statesman in reconsidering the matter, and in showing that he could bend to the popular voice, and to an expression of an opinion on the part of the House. Whichever way hon. Members went, he thought they ought to be obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and to thank him for having taken the first step towards helping them to throw off those local burdens, which were not for local, but for Imperial purposes.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, he quite agreed with what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) earlier in the evening, that this question might be kept within a small compass, and it was only in the way of endeavouring to bring it within a small compass that he ventured to address the House on this occasion. The point to which they should direct their attention in regard to the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir Massey Lopes) was, first of all, whether the registration of voters was of National or Imperial importance. On this they were told from the other side that they, on the Conservative Benches, ought to consider that their representation was local rather than national. He begged to say that he entirely differed from the hon. Baronet who said that; and he could not consider that the localization of the Member rendered the representation itself, and consequently the registration, other than a national matter. Taking it that registration was of national, rather than local importance, he would ask what it was that they had now to discuss? It was simply the quantum which was to be paid by the nation; it was 1717 too late now to discuss the question of principle. They, on the other side of the House, had entirely conceded the principle. They had conceded it when they said—"We will give you £20,000." If they said they were going to give away only as much as 1d.. for the registration of voters, the principle was conceded-—the raising difficulties as to how overseers were to be paid, and how receipts were to be taken from them and given in as vouchers, was beside the mark, because the Government, by granting this sum, had said —"We consider the registration of voters of national rather than local importance; and we will, therefore, give you £20,000 towards the cost of it; and we believe you will be able so to distribute this money that we can take from you who receive it the proper vouchers." The whole argument as to the difficulty of fixing the amount which was to be paid by the State, therefore, fell to the ground. The Conservative Members were, consequently, right in their contention that the justice of the case demanded that the sum paid by the State should not be fixed at £20,000, but should be either more or less, as the case might be—should be absolutely the sum the registration of voters cost. Supposing in regard to any other matter a claim was made for an allowance of money, the Government examined closely into the claim to see whether a certain sum was required. If more was required it was given, if less the amount was reduced. Why not do the same in connection with this matter of registration? Why should a lump sum be paid—why should not an exact claim be made—why should they not ascertain the precise cost and pay it? The right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) said—"Oh, but we are only making this allowance for this occasion, and we do not want, in the last year of an expiring Parliament, to tell you what will be the sum you will have to pay in future." But that was precisely the time at which payment should be claimed from the Government, there being a great expense about to be incurred in respect of a great national requirement. The Government admitted the requirement to be a national one—this enormous extension of the franchise. The Conservatives agreed that this extension should take place, and as registration 1718 had to be provided for, and as the operation would be extraordinary and expensive, they said, fairly enough—"Pay the ratepayers not a limited sum, but the exact sum that this registration will cost." The principle being admitted, and the question being simply as to the amount of detail to be got over, the Conservative Party in all justice said—"Do not put in the way difficulties as to the amount of money to be allocated; but, on proper proof made to you of the amount expended, allow it, and do justice to the ratepayers."
§ MR. WARTON
(who was received with loud cries for a division) said, it was not his fault, but his misfortune, that he rose at this period of the evening. For at least two hours he had endeavoured in vain to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. He had risen many times earlier on, knowing the subordinate position he held in the House as a mere back seat Member, and not wishing to obtrude himself amongst the mighty ones who generally wound up important debates. But even though he was only a back seat Member, he must say that observations had been made by hon. Members opposite which had reached his Bench, and one of the hon. Members to whose speech he particularly wished to refer was the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth). That hon. Member had committed—if he might say so with great respect—a contrary error to that he (Mr. Warton) had himself committed. He had risen too early in the debate. He had said that the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir Massey Lopes) was not supported by any borough Members. Now, if the hon. Member had waited a little longer he would not have been able to say that, because, after he spoke, they had had the hon. Members representing the very important boroughs of Manchester, Liverpool, and Preston all joining in the prayer uttered by the hon. Baronet. It was easy for an hon. Member to get up early in a debate and say that no borough Member had spoken; but no doubt the hon. Member for Bradford would now be prepared to withdraw what he had said when he heard such important Members as the Members for Manchester, Liverpool, and Preston urging the case as strongly from the borough point of view as county Members had urged it from the county point 1719 of view. Another hon. Member who sat on the opposite side—the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) — had used most extraordinary arguments until he was checked by Mr. Speaker—the arguments that the Motion before the House had a tendency towards manhood suffrage and the payment of Members. If Mr. Speaker had not checked the hon. Member, no doubt he would have gone through all the other points of the Charter. But one important argument the hon. Member used was that representation was only connected with one species of property. For his own part, he held, and he had always been of opinion, that if any kind of property made a man better than his fellows as being of more intelligence, that property should confer a vote; and that had been the opinion of the Liberal Party until, he was sorry to say, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), by the adoption of the phrase "fancy franchise," destroyed that very sensible proposition. But he (Mr. Warton) would not take up further time by alluding to the speeches of those hon. Members. He would confine himself to the proposition before the House. Now, he thought the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), in that pretentious style which was so often adopted by Ministers now—and against which he (Mr. Warton) begged leave most heartily to protest—said,"I think it right that you should bring this matter forward; I do not complain of the language you have used; I think you are very good little boys." He (Mr. Warton) must protest against the spirit which dictated such words as those. He held that it was not right, nor proper, nor decent in a Minister of the Crown to tell the Opposition that, forsooth, he did not complain of what they had done. It was not for the right hon. Baronet to criticize what they had done. As to the Motion before the House, it was a matter of the greatest importance—it was a matter of importance for the reason that it was laying down a broad general principle which was only just beginning to be acknowledged by the Government. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had said that this was a national question; and if they only looked at the first few lines of the 1720 Amendment they would see that that idea of a national question was the most prominent idea in it. But when they looked at the last line, which said that the rate was to beLevied in respect of the occupation of a single description of property,they saw that there was admitted into the debate the question what kind of property it was on which the rates were levied. What kind of property? ["Divide!"] When they considered that it had been held by all competent judges that real property had now far more burdens upon it than it ought to bear, and, moreover, when they considered that under the Budget which was put before them the other day real property was to have an additional burden never yet imposed upon it—and one which had been hitherto kept away from it because it was considered it ought not to bear it —added to its existing burdens, it was imperative that this new rate should be levied on personal property. They had had the usual excuse—if it was an excuse—which the Government put before them. They had had the scheme of County Government put before their eyes. With the tremendous majority the Government had had — a majority commencing with considerably over 100— they had not been able in the course of five years to bring in a County Government Bill. He believed that no such Bill had yet been drafted; he believed there was no scheme for County Government in the archives of the Government. But it suited the Government to make the excuse that a Bill would be brought forward, and that was the excuse with which hon. Members had been met. That was the argument of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board. The argument as to the overseers—that it would be impossible to get receipts from them—was an unworthy argument. He would ask whether it was or was not the custom of those who received money by Post Office Order to signify the same by signing their names at the bottom of them? He should have thought that that fact would have been within the knowledge of the right hon. Baronet, and that that receipt would be held sufficient for all practical purposes. It seemed, however, that that was not enough to satisfy the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Gentleman had argued very feebly; for, 1721 after all, what did the right hon. Baronet's argument come to? They were told that the rate would be 2d.. per head. Well, he had heard of a weak argument being described as "twopenny-halfpenny argument;" but here the argument was no more than a "twopenny" argument. As a matter of fact, he did not think the Government were right as to the 2d. per head, for the £20,000 was not to apply to the whole 2,400,000 new electors to be admitted to the franchise, but only to the new electors of Great Britain; therefore, the amount would be something more than 2d. per head. They were told by the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Cropper) that there was always a great deal of extravagance attendant upon what were called subventions. It was possible that there might be extravagance in connection with some subventions; but he would ask with confidence whether it was possible for there to be extravagance in this case? Was it possible for the overseers to increase their claims? It seemed to him impossible for them to do it. The Government knew very well what the charges ought to be. [Cries of" Divide, divide!"amidst which the hon. and learned Member resumed his seat.]
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 240; Noes 237: Majority 3.1725
|Acland, C. T. D.||Buchanan, T. R.|
|Agnew, W.||Burt, T.|
|Allen, H. G.||Buxton, S. C.|
|Allen, W. S.||Caine, W. S.|
|Arnold, A.||Cameron, C.|
|Asher, A.||Campbell, Sir G.|
|Ashley, hon. E. M.||Campbell, R. F. F.|
|Baldwin, E.||Campbell-Bannerman, right hon. H.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. J. B.|
|Barclay, J. W.||Cartwright, W. C.|
|Baring, Viscount||Causton, R. K.|
|Barnes, A.||Cavendish, Lord E.|
|Barran, J.||Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.|
|Bass, Sir A.||Cheetham, J. F.|
|Biddulph, M.||Clark, S.|
|Blennerhassett, R. P.||Clarke, J. C.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Clifford, C. C.|
|Brand, hon. H. R.||Cohen, A,|
|Brassey, Sir T.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Brassey, H. A.||Collings, J.|
|Bright, J.||Collins, E.|
|Brinton, J.||Colman, J. J.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Courtauld, G.|
|Brogden, A.||Courtney, L. H.|
|Brooks, M.||Cowen, J.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C.||Cowper, hon. H. F.|
|Bruce, hon. R. P.||Creyke, R.|
|Bryce, J.||Cropper, J.|
|Cross, J. K.||James, C. H.|
|Crum, A.||Jardine, R.|
|Cunliffe, Sir R. A.||Jenkins, Sir J. J.|
|Currie, Sir D.||Jenkins, D. J.|
|Davey, H.||Jerningham, H. E. H.|
|Davies, D.||Johnson, E.|
|Davies, R.||Jones-Parry, L.|
|Dickson, T. A.||Kinnear, J.|
|Dilke, rt. hn. Sir C. W.||Lambton, hon. F. W.|
|Dodds, J.||Lea, T.|
|Duff, R. W.||Leake, R.|
|Earp, T.||Leatham, E. A.|
|Ebrington, Viscount||Leatham, W. H.|
|Edwards, H.||Lee, H.|
|Edwards, P.||Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S.|
|Egerton, Admiral hon. F.||Lloyd, M.|
|Lubbock, Sir J.|
|Elliot, hon. A. R. D.||Lyons, R. D.|
|Evans, T. W.||Mackie, R. B.|
|Fairbairn, Sir A.||Mackintosh, C. F.|
|Farquharson, Dr. R.||Macliver, P. S.|
|Ferguson, R.||M'Arthur, Sir W.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro-||M'Arthur, A.|
|Ffolkes, Sir W. H. B.||M'Coan, J. C.|
|Findlater, W.||M'Intyre, Æneas J.|
|Firth, J. F. B.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord E.||M'Laren, C. B. B.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W.||Maitland, W. F.|
|Flower, C.||Mappin, F. T.|
|Foljambe, F. J. S.||Marjoribanks, hon. E.|
|Forster, Sir C.||Martin, R. B.|
|Forster, rt. hn. W. E.||Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story-|
|Fowler, H. H.||Mason, H.|
|Fowler, W.||Meldon, C. H.|
|Fry, L.||Mellor, J. W.|
|Fry, T.||Moreton, Lord|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.||Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.|
|Gladstone, H. J.||Morley, A|
|Gladstone, W. H.||Morley, J.|
|Gordon, Sir A.||Morley, S.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Mundella, rt. hn. A. J.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Noel, E.|
|Gower, hon. E. F. L.||O'Beirne, Colonel F.|
|Grafton, F. W.||O'Shea, W. H.|
|Grant, Sir G. M.||Paget, T. T.|
|Grant, A.||Palmer, G.|
|Grant, D.||Parker, C. S.|
|Grey, A. H. G.||Pease, A.|
|Gurdon, R. T.||Peddie, J. D.|
|Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V.||Pennington, F.|
|Philips, R. N.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Picton, J. A.|
|Hartington, Marq. of||Playfair, rt. hn. Sir L.|
|Hastings, G. W.||Portman, hon. W.H.B.|
|Hayter, Sir A. D.||Pulley, J.|
|Henderson, F.||Ramsden, Sir J.|
|Heneage, E.||Rathbone, W.|
|Henry, M.||Rendel, S.|
|Herschell, Sir F.||Richardson, T.|
|Hibbert, J. T.||Roberts, J.|
|Hill, T. R.||Robertson, H.|
|Holden, I.||Roe, T.|
|Holland, S.||Rogers, J. E. T.|
|Hollond, J. R.||Roundell, C. S.|
|Holms, J.||Russell, Lord A.|
|Hopwood, C. H.||Russell, C.|
|Howard, G. J.||Russell, G. W. E.|
|Illingworth, A.||Russell, T.|
|Ince, H. B.||Ruston, J.|
|Inderwick, F. A.||Rylands, P.|
|James, Sir H.||St. Aubyn, Sir J.|
|James, hon. W. H.||Samuelson, Sir B.|
|Seely, C. (Nottingham)||Trevelyan, rt. hn. G.O.|
|Sellar, A. C.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Shaw, T.||Vivian, A. P.|
|Sheridan, H. B.||Waddy, S. D.|
|Shield, H.||Walker, S.|
|Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.||Walter, J.|
|Slagg, J.||Watkin, Sir E. W.|
|Smith, Lieut.-Col. G.||Waugh, E.|
|Smith, E.||Webster, J.|
|Smith, S.||West, H. W.|
|Stafford, Marquess of||Whitbread, S.|
|Stanley, hon. E. L.||Whitworth, B.|
|Stanton, W. J.||Willis, W.|
|Steble, Lieut.-Col. R. F.||Wills, W. H.|
|Stevenson, J. C.||Wilson, Sir M.|
|Stuart, H. V.||Wilson, I.|
|Stuart, J.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Summers, W.||Woodall, W.|
|Tavistock, Marquess of||TELLERS.|
|Tennant, C.||Grosvenor, right hon. Lord R.|
|Thomasson, J. P.|
|Thompson, T. C.||Kensington, rt. hn. Lord|
|Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury-|
|Ackers, B. St. J.||Compton, F.|
|Alexander, Maj.-Gen. C.||Coope, O. E.|
|Allsopp, C.||Corbet, W. J.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Corbett, J.|
|Archdale, W. H.||Corry, J. P.|
|Aylmer, J. E. F.||Cotton, W. J. R.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Crichton, Viscount|
|Balfour, A. J.||Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A.|
|Baring, T. C.||Cubitt, right hon. G.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Curzon, Major hon. M.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Dalrymple, C.|
|Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks-||Davenport, H. T.|
|Dawnay, Col. hon. L.P.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Dawnay, hon. G. C.|
|Bective, Earl of||Dawson, C.|
|Bellingham, A. H.||Deasy, J.|
|Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C.||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Biddell, W.||Dickson, Major A. G.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Digby, J. K. D. W.|
|Birkbeck, E.||Dixon-Hartland, F. D.|
|Blackburne, Col. J. I.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Boord, T. W.||Duckham, T.|
|Bourke, right hon. R.||Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W. H.|
|Broadley, W. H. H.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Eaton, H. W.|
|Brooks, W. C.||Ecroyd, W. F.|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Egerton, hon. A. de T.|
|Bruce, hon. T. C.||Egerton, hon. A. F.|
|Bulwer, J. R.||Elcho, Lord|
|Burghley, Lord||Elliot, Sir G.|
|Burrell, Sir W. W.||Ellis, Sir J. W.|
|Buxton, Sir R. J.||Elton, C. I.|
|Callan P.||Emlyn, Viscount|
|Cameron, D.||Estcourt, G. S.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Ewart, W.|
|Carden, Sir R. W.||Feilden, Lt.-Gen. R.J.|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Fellowes, W. H.|
|Chaplin, H.||Finch, G.H.|
|Christie, W. L.||Fifz-Wygram, Sir F.|
|Clarke, E.||Fletcher, Sir H.|
|Clive, Col. hon. G. W.||Floyer, J.|
|Close, M. C.||Folkestone, Viscount|
|Coddington, W.||Foster, W. H.|
|Commins, A.||Fremantle, hon. T. F.|
|French-Brewster, R. A. B.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Miles, Sir P. J. W.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S.||Mills, Sir C. H.|
|Milner, Sir F.|
|Gibson, right hon. E.||Monckton, F.|
|Giffard, Sir H. S.||Moss, R.|
|Giles, A.||Mulholland, J.|
|Goldney, Sir G.||Muntz, P. A.|
|Gorst, J. E.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Grantham, W.||Newport, Viscount|
|Gray, E. D.||Nicholson, W. N.|
|Greer, T.||Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Gregory, G. B.||Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.|
|Gunter, Col. R.|
|Halsey, T. F.||Northcote, H. S.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G.||O'Brien, W.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||O'Connor, J.|
|Hamilton, I. T.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Harris, W. J.||O'Donnell, F. H.|
|Harvey, Sir R. B.||O'Gorman Mahon, Col. The|
|Hay, rt. hon. Admiral Sir J. C. D.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Healy, T. M.||Onslow, D. R.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||O'Sullivan, W. H.|
|Hicks, E.||Paget, R. H.|
|Hill, Lord A. W.||Parnell, C. S.|
|Hill, A. S.||Patrick, R. W. Cochran-|
|Holland, Sir H. T.|
|Home, Lt.-Col. D. M.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Hope, right hon. A. J. B. B.||Pell, A.|
|Pemberton, E. L.|
|Houldsworth, W. H.||Percy, rt. hon. Earl|
|Jackson, W. L.||Percy, Lord A. M.|
|Kennard, Col. E. H.||Phipps, C. N. P.|
|Kennard, C. J.||Phipps, P.|
|Kennaway, Sir J. H.||Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.|
|Kenny, M. J.||Power, P. J.|
|Ker, R. W. B.||Power, R.|
|King-Harman, Colonel E. R.||Puleston, J. H.|
|Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.|
|Lacon, Sir E. H. K.||Rankin, J.|
|Lalor, R.||Read, C. S.|
|Lawrance, J. C.||Redmond, J. E.|
|Lawrence, Sir T.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Leahy, J.||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Leamy, E.||Ritchie, C. T.|
|Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.||Rolls, J. A.|
|Legh, W. J.||Ross, A. H.|
|Leigh, R.||Ross, C. C.|
|Leighton, Sir B.||Round, J.|
|Leighton, S.||Salt, T.|
|Lever, J. O.||Sclater-Booth, rt.hn.G.|
|Levett, T. J.||Scott, M. D.|
|Lewisham, Viscount||Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.|
|Lindsay, Sir R. L.|
|Lloyd, S. S.||Severne, J. E.|
|Loder, R.||Sexton, T.|
|Long, W. H.||Sheil, E.|
|Lopes, Sir M.||Small, J. F.|
|Lowther, hon. W.||Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|Lowther, J. W.||Smith, A.|
|Macartney, J. W. E.||Stanhope, hon. E.|
|Mac Iver, D.||Stanley, rt. hon. Col. F.|
|Macnaghten, E.||Stanley, E. J.|
|M'Carthy, J.||Storer, G.|
|M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J.||Strutt, hon. C. H.|
|M'Kenna, Sir J. N.||Sullivan, T. D.|
|Makins, Colonel W. T.||Sykes, C.|
|Manners, rt. hon. Lord J. J. R.||Synan, E. J.|
|Talbot, J. G.|
|Marriott, W. T.||Thomson, H.|
|Marum, E. M.||Thornhill, A. J.|
|Tollemache, hon. W. F.||Warton, C. N.|
|Tollemache, H. J.||Whitley, E.|
|Tomlinson, W. E. M.||Wilmot, Sir H.|
|Tottenham, A. L.||Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|Tremayne, J.||Wolff, Sir H. D.|
|Wallace, Sir R.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Walrond, Col. W. H.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Warburton, P. E.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Thornhill, T.||Winn, R.|
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
After the division which has just been taken, I would venture to express a hope that Her Majesty's Government would reconsider this matter before proceeding with the Bill. We have no desire, as was very fairly admitted by the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board, to interfere with the progress of this measure; but I think that the vote which has just been taken is one of very considerable significance. It shows that there is a very inconsiderable majority against the proposition of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon; and surely it is a case in which, under all the circumstances, Her Majesty's Government might make some concession to what has been shown to be the opinion of so very large a minority of this House.
Sir, with respect to concession, I may say that there never was a case in which a Government went to a greater length, considering the views it entertained, in order to meet the views of those opposed to it. We have made our concession; we have failed to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and we have failed also to obtain from them any concession in return. The Government having made its concession, the House has sanctioned the course they have taken.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, the position which the Government has taken up is one which, no doubt, they consider to be fair and reasonable; but, on the other hand, it has not satisfied— I will not say hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House—but those who take an interest in the question of local taxation and the burdens cast upon the localities. The right hon. Gentleman cannot conceal from himself the significance of the very narrow division which has just been taken; and it is only fair, I think, that the Government should reconsider the position in which that division places them, and that they should 1726 consider what course they will take in regard to further proceedings in relation to this Bill.
Sir, I have no further announcement to make upon this subject. What has fallen from the right hon. Baronet would be perfectly appropriate if the majority had been reversed.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 (Alteration of dates).
§ MR. H. G. ALLEN
said, the object of the Amendment he was about to move was to prevent loss of time in the Revising Barristers' Courts, occasioned by wrangles over the sufficiency of claims and notices of objection in respect of the names of divisions of counties which were likely to take place if the Bill did not contain a provision of the kind which he proposed.
In page 2, after sub-section (1), to insert the following sub-section:—"Where, under 'The Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885,' any division of a Parliamentary county or borough shall have received any alternative name, it shall be sufficient, under sub-section (1) of this Clause, that any notice of claim or objection should refer to one only of such alternative names."—? (Mr. H. G. Allen.)
§ Question proposed, "That the subsection be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, there were two objections to the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal. In the first place, there was no such statute as the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, as that Bill had not yet become law, and they could not, therefore, legislate upon it. Secondly, if the hon. and learned Gentleman chose to treat that Bill as an Act, there was in it already a clause which would make the Amendment entirely unnecessary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Motion of Mr. R. H. PAGET, the following Amendment made:—Page 3, line 5, leave out "sections nine and eleven," and insert "section nine."
On Motion of Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, the following Amendments made:— Page 3, line 5, leave out "eleven," and insert "nineteen;" line 9, after"occur,"add—
And the first fourteen days after the said twenty-fifth day of August shall be substituted for the first fourteen days of September.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 4 (Amendment as to revision).
§ MR. R. H. PAGET
proposed to leave out "and seven," in line 13, and insert—But in the case of a Parliamentary county not less than ten.Seven days' notice would be quite insufficient in the case of counties, because all papers were not of daily circulation. Many of the chief county papers were only of weekly circulation; and, therefore, it would be impossible to give any adequate notice if it were confined to seven days. He had been strongly urged to move the Amendment, and he did so with the only view of insuring that there should be an opportunity for sufficient publicity.
In page 3, line 13, to leave out the words "and seven," and insert the words "but in the case of a Parliamentary county not less than ten."—(Mr. R. H. Paget.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words' and seven 'stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, this matter was mentioned in the Select Committee, and the conclusion arrived at was that seven days' notice was preferable to 10. The Revising Barristers only wished for seven days, and the Clerks of the Peace were satisfied with such a notice. Notice was given to the Clerks of the Peace in advance, and they, of course, would take care to give sufficient notice. It was wished to economize time as much as possible, and all those who had practical knowledge of the subject were content with seven days' notice.
§ MR. E. H. PAGET
said, he would not put the Commiitee to the trouble of dividing if the Attorney General was satisfied that seven days' notice was sufficient.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WARTON
proposed to omit the word "each" in line 13, and insert "such." "Each" implied a choice between one or more; but here there was only one Court mentioned, and, therefore, what was the use of employing that word?
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 13, to leave out the word "each," and insert the word"such."—(Mr. Warton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'each' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
preferred the word "each," as it would cover every Court. "Such" would refer to nothing.
§ MR. WARTON
remarked, that if the hon. and learned Gentleman would condescend to note the meaning of the word "each," he would find it implied that they had already a reference in the same sentence to more than one Court. "A" would do just as well as "such;" but "each" was not sufficient. If he withdrew the Amendment, would the Attorney General accept "a"? "A Court" appeared in line 12.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ On Motion of Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, the following Amendment made: —Page 4, lines 4 and 6, after "lists of," insert "voters for."
§ MR. E. H. PAGET
proposed to leave out "consecutively," in page 4, line 26, and insert "continuously." His object in proposing that alteration was to make it clear that in the enumeration of the numbers in each polling district the numbers should be made "continuous" throughout. "Continuously" had been suggested as a more correct definition of a series of voters.
In page 4, line 26, to leave out the word "consecutively," and insert the word"continuously."—(Mr. M. H. Paget.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'consecutively' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, this was really a matter of taste. He had always understood that "continuously" was applied to time rather than to material subjects. He thought that "consecutively" would be the better word to use, but he had very little feeling in the matter.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. E. H. PAGET
proposed to leave out the words "to be entered," in line 1729 34. The object of the Amendment was to make it obligatory upon Revising Barristers to erase duplicates.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 34, to leave out the words "to be entered."—(Mr. R. H. Paget.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. E. H. PAGET
wished to know whether the expression "Revising Barrister" included one or more Revising Barristers? The clause provided, he apprehended, that there might be several Revising Barristers working within a division; and he would point out that the name of a voter might in that way be placed on a Register three or four times
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that that question did not bear upon the matter under discussion, and he was not aware of any such cases as the hon. Gentleman referred to. When a case of double entry was brought before the notice of the Revising Barrister, he would take care that the name did not appear on the Register more than once.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, that the Revising Barrister would be assumed to be carrying about with him all the lists revised at previous Courts, and that would cause a considerable amount of delay. He thought that the Revising Barrister should send a list from each place he visited as soon as possible to the printers, so that it could be printed. If he did not, and if he did not refer to printed lists, it would involve his carrying a large number of papers about with him. If the Bill remained as it was, he was afraid confusion was very likely to arise. He had had communications on this subject with gentlemen of practical experience, and he was informed that what was proposed in the Bill would cause great confusion and delay.
In page 4, line 36, after the word "same," to insert the words "polling district in a."— (Mr. Tomlinson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."1730
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he must remind the hon. Gentleman that they were endeavouring to assimilate county registration and borough registration, and that the law which it was proposed in the Bill to apply to counties was simply the law now in operation in connection with the boroughs. The object was to prevent a man from being on the Register more than once. At a revision, when the attention of the Revising Barrister was called to the fact that a man's name was on the Register in one polling district, he ought not to be allowed to remain on in another polling district. The Revising Barrister, according to the Bill, would not have to do more than he had to do now. He would only have to strike names off, if it appeared that they were on twice. He would not have to make a thorough inquiry, and to take round the lists from all the other revisions, and to compare one list with another, in order to see that a name was not twice on.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, it was obvious that there was a great difference between revising in counties and revising in boroughs. The revision of boroughs would take place in one place, subject to certain Amendments it was proposed to make in the Bill requiring the Revising Barrister to hold at least one Court in each division of a borough. At present the Revising Barristers usually held the revision in one place in the borough; but in counties he necessarily had to go about from place to place, and he (Mr. Tomlinson) could not see any escape from the necessity of his having to carry about the lists from place to place, and being unable to send them to be printed until the revisions of a division were completed. If they could obviate that, it would be advisable.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that the Revising Barrister would not carry his lists about with him from place to place; and if they left the clause as it was, he would not be in any worse position than he had been in before. In fact, he might be in a better position, because persons would come to him and say that they were already registered in another district, and could show him their names on the list. It would not by any means be necessary to go exhaustively 1731 through all the lists in the case of each name.
§ MR. WARTON
said, they had already provided for the question being put to the voters as to whether or not they had votes in more than one division, so that there was not much danger of a person voting twice over; and he should think there would be agents representing both Parties at each revision sharp enough to see that voters' names did not appear in more places than one. If they read this by the light of the next sub-section (b), they would see that it was throwing on the voter an amount of trouble which ought not to be thrown upon him.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he wished to move, in page 4, line 36, to omit the words "Parliamentary county," in order to insert "county division." He wished to point out that they had counties at large and divisions of counties, and both were Parliamentary counties. There was no limitation in their description, although the word "Parliamentary" was to apply only to county divisions, keeping up that difference between counties at large and Parliamentary counties. He apprehended that what was meant in the clause was county divisions.
In page 4, line 36, to leave out the words "Parliamentary county," and insert the words "county division."—(Mr. Warton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'Parliamentary county' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that the hon. and learned Member was somewhat late in bringing forward this Amendment, because the form and description to which he took exception had already been adopted 12 times. It had hitherto escaped the vigilance of the hon. and learned Member; and it was, therefore, now too late. He would point out to the hon. and learned Member that these phrases were mentioned in the Par- 1732 liamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill.
§ MR. WARTON
In what section? He had read the Bill as carefully as the hon. and learned Attorney General, and he did not remember the expression "Parliamentary county" at all in it. As to his not having noticed this expression in any previous part of the Bill, it was not his fault that it escaped his vigilance. It was not his duty to amend the form of the Bill. The Attorney General himself should have noticed the matter before. It was not his (Mr. Warton's) duty to correct the Bill.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
It may not be the hon. and learned Member's duty to correct the Bill; but it is my duty to see that we use consistent language in it. We have used this phrase to which the hon. and learned Member objects over and over again.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, that he would draw attention to the fact that there was a definition of these terms. "Parliamentary county" was a term clearly defined in page 11 of the Bill to mean—A county returning a Member or Members to serve in Parliament, and where the county is divided for the purpose of such return means a division of such county.It was a term of art, and he did not at present see any better phrase.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he must only confess that he had not seen the definition the hon. Gentleman referred to; but at the same time he did not think it made the expression any more convenient. He thought they should put in the Bill exactly what they meant. There were no Members to be returned for counties except those who represented county divisions.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he thought that this would be a convenient time for reporting Progress. They were in the House until 3 o'clock that morning, or rather yesterday morning, and he and others had been at work on 1733 Committees; and had commenced at 12 o'clock; and he thought it would be working them a little too hard to attempt to make further progress with this Bill at 25 minutes to 2 o'clock.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.—(Sir Walter B. Barttelot.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, that he thought it had been understood that they should finish the clause they were on and Clause 5 before reporting Progress; but as the hon. and gallant Baronet had made the Motion he would not propose to go any further.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
The intention at present is to proceed with this Bill first, and after that with the Report of the Irish Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be deferred till tomorrow."
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Upon that I would take the opportunity of asking the noble Lord opposite (Lord Richard Grosvenor) if he can tell us what arrangements will be made as to Business for the next two or three days? I understood the Prime Minister to say that the discussion on the Vote of Credit might either be taken on Thursday, in which case the Army Estimates will be taken on Monday, or on Monday, when the Army Estimates will be taken on Thursday. We think it would be more convenient to take it on Monday. In the event of that arrangement being made, I think, as the Prime Minister said, the second reading of the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill would be taken first on Monday. That would afford an opportunity for the discussion mentioned the other day.
§ LORD RICHARD GROSVENOR
The Orders of the Day to-morrow will be very much in the same position as they were on the Paper to-day; and on Thursday, in accordance with the arrangement made, and with the right hon. Gentleman's wish, we propose to take the Army Estimates. The Business 1734 of Friday must depend upon the way we get on with Business in the meantime.
§ MR. HEALY
In case the Irish Bill is not finished to-morrow, when will it come on? The English Bill will take a great deal of time.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
No; not as first Order. If it should be convenient to finish it on Thursday night we should be very glad to go on with it then.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
When do you expect the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill to come on?
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
On Friday or Tuesday. It will depend, to some extent, on the progress made tomorrow.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.