§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Sir Charles W. Dilke.)
§ MR. HENDERSON
said, there was a clause in the Bill which provided that where several lodgers were jointly occupying a lodging at a yearly rent of not less than £10 for each lodger, they should be entitled to be registered as voters. The meaning of that clause appeared to him to be obvious; it was perfectly clear that it applied to lodgers who were to be all equally qualified to be registered. But there was a proviso at the end which said that of such joint lodgers only two should be entitled to vote. Now that proviso he proposed to condemn. It seemed to him to be taking away with one hand the very little that was given with the other. The clause which appeared in the Bill was taken from the Parliamentary Registration Act of 1868, and it was said, as a reason for putting it in the Bill, that it placed Scotland on an equality with England in this matter. But he did not know that Scotland would derive any benefit from the clause. He had been endeavouring to ascertain whether the clause in question had been operating in England; but he had not been able to get information that any person had ever been enfranchised by the clause, or derived any benefit from it. And he was not surprised at that, because, since there might be four or half-a-dozen persons qualified to vote, there was nothing provided for the purpose of making a selection as to the persons who should vote in respect of this qualification. Therefore, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate would see his way to improve the clause I and agree to the improvement he sug- 435 gested, by which it might be made practicable. He had no doubt that the answer he should receive would be that it would then be necessary to alter the law as it existed in England at the present time; but when they knew that England had enjoyed this privilege for years, and that Scotland had not enjoyed it, he thought it was not unreasonable to say that Scotland should be placed a little in advance of England in this respect. He was at a loss to see why they should have a clause that had proved to be inoperative in England extended to Scotland without some alteration which would make it operative and give it effect, and that was the object he had in view. He could find no record at the time when the Act of 1878 was passing through the House of any discussion having taken place upon the clause. The clause appeared to have gone through the House without any discussion, and he was quite at a loss to understand why it had remained so long on the Statute Book. He begged to move the recommittal of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "now read the third time," and, at the end of the Question, to add the word "re-committed,"—(Mr. Henderson,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'now read the third time' stand part of the Question."
§ Sir CHARLES W. DILKE
said, as the author of the clause in the Bill of 1878, to which allusion had been made by the hon. Member who had just sat down, he might tell the hon. Member that it was not discussed at the time; it was passed through the House without a single word being said with regard to it. And that was because the matter had been very fully considered upstairs by the Select Committee which had the Bill before them for a long time. The clause was felt to be necessary at a time when there was not any reasonable probability of Parliament going in the direction of granting the franchise to lodgers. It was intended to cover cases of wealthy persons chumming together, such as often occurred.
§ Mr. SEXTON
said, he thought the Government could not complain of the progress they had made that evening. There had been a large number of Amendments to the Occupation Voters 436 (England) Bill, but they had all been disposed of, and the Bill had been read a third time. The proposal of the Government now was that the Scotch Registration Bill should be passed on to the House of Lords to-night; but he wished to remind the right hon. Baronet that a pledge had been given to his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork that the three Bills were to be taken side by side in regard to their several stages. He did not think that that pledge would be fulfilled if the Scotch and English Bills were sent to the House of Lords before the Report stage of the Irish Bill had been taken; and, therefore, in the name of his hon. Friend, he could not agree that the Bill should be read a third time at that Sitting.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the House of Lords would not sit again till Thursday, and he had every reason to hope that the three Bills would be in the same relative positon to each other on that day.
§ MR. HENDERSON
said, that being satisfied with the explanation given by the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade, he would ask leave to withdraw his Motion for the recommittal of the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, the Bill had reached a stage when very little remained to be done with regard to it in that House, and it could be very well taken to-morrow. The right hon. Baronet had said that the House of Lords would not sit for two or three days, and that in itself was an argument against going any further with the Bill at that Sitting.
§ MR. SEXTON
appealed to the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade, in proceeding with this Bill, to show the same regard to the convenience of Irish Members, in the matter of the Irish Registration Bill, as he had shown for the convenience of the House in conducting the Scotch and English Bills.
§ Sir CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he should probably have to press the Motion for the third reading of the Bill; but he could assure the hon. Member that he should endeavour to keep to every engagement entered into with respect to the Irish Registration Bill.
§ MR. WARTON
pointed out that the 14th clause was drawn in a very absurd manner. It would be seen that at line 10 more than one lodger was spoken of. That, of course, would mean any number; and then the proviso went on to speak of two only. The wording was most inconsistent, and some alteration of it was necessary. His object was to avoid having a clause in the Bill which set out by speaking of any number of lodgers, and ended by speaking of only two; and he trusted that in "another place," where Business was not so much hurried as it was in the House of Commons, the matter would be rectified.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Verbal Amendment made.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.