§ Lords' Amendments considered.
§ First Amendment, page 7, line 10, leave out ("eight") and insert ("twelve") agreed to.
§ Second Amendment, page 13, leave out from ("districts") to the end of sub-section (2).
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES),
in moving that the House agree to the following Amendment:—Page 9, line 35, after sub-section (2), insert,—(3.) Where a Parliamentary county extends into more county quarter sessional areas than one, the local authority having power to divide the said county into polling districts shall have power to agree with any other court of quarter sessions having jurisdiction in that area for the constitution of a joint committee, to take into consideration the division of such county into polling districts and 953 assigning of polling places to such districts, and shall, after receiving the report of the said committee, make such order thereon as they may think fit,said, that since the sub-section in question was inserted on the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Heneage) representations had been made to the Local Government Board to the effect that it would increase the difficulty of making the necessary arrangements in time, and on that ground the sub-section had been struck out in the other House. Under these circumstances he appealed to his hon. Friend to consider whether they could possibly enter into a conflict with the Lords on this question, the effect of which would be to delay the Bill till after Whitsuntide, and almost render it useless. He hoped his hon. Friend would be patriotic enough to allow the House to agree with this Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, after the appeal of his hon. and learned Friend he would not press the matter, although had there been a few more days before the Recess he should have divided the House upon the question. He had as yet heard no argument why his provision should not be maintained. He did not wish to take away the power of the Courts of Quarter Sessions, but to require them, instead of appointing one committee without local knowledge, to appoint one for each district which would have the local knowledge. However, the Clerks of the Peace had triumphed over the public convenience, and he would not further press the matter.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
defended the Peers in their action, and said, that they had had a difficult duty thrust upon them, and he believed their only object was to carry out the intentions of Parliament with the least delay possible. He thought the hon. Member's remark as to the Clerks of the Peace altogether unwarranted. The Clerks of the Peace had shown every desire to facilitate this new registration, and he was sure were only actuated by a desire to do their duty to the public.
§ MR. W. GURDON
expressed his pleasure at finding the provision re- 954 I moved in "another place." There might be some convenience about it in one or two counties; but he was convinced that in the great majority of them it would have led to considerable inconvenience.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES),
in moving, in page 11, line 5, leave out ("entitled to be") and insert ("prevented by any other Act from being"); page 11, line 8, leave out from ("Cambridge") to the end of the clause, said, that this Amendment introduced by the House of Lords raised the question of the right of undergraduates to vote at elections. The House had, by a very small majority, determined that the undergraduates at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge occupying rooms in the Colleges should not be entitled to be placed upon the Register of Parliamentary Voters. I Subsequently, however, a different view I had been taken of the principle involved in the question, and, by a large majority, I it had been decided that the undergraduates of Dublin University should be allowed to be placed on the Register. He thought, therefore, that the fairest course to adopt now would be to agree with the Lords in their Amendment, by which the franchise would be conferred upon the English undergraduates. He therefore moved that the House do agree to the Lords' Amendment. At the same time, he reiterated the view he had already expressed, that this was simply an abstract question, and that unless there was an entire change in the authority and discipline of the Universities, no undergraduate could or would obtain the right to vote.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House do agree to the said Amendment."—(The Attorney General.)
§ MR. RAIKES
said, that he congratulated the Government upon their late conversion to Liberal principles in this matter. He was anxious that the House of Lords should obtain the credit, which it deserved, of being more zealous for the extension of the franchise than the Party opposite.
said, he was afraid that the Lords had acted under a complete misconception of the effect which this Amendment would have. The Amendment provided that nothing in any Act 955 of Parliament was to prevent the occupier of any College rooms from being placed upon the Register. This would have the effect of sweeping away all considerations of age and even of sex, and the duration or quality of occupation. The Amendment, moreover, while it did not open the door to undergraduates, closed it to graduates.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was glad that the Government had at last recognized the fact that undergraduates might be "capable citizens," and that education was no longer to be regarded as a disqualification for the exercise of political rights.
§ MR. HORACE DAVEY
said, he was opposed to the Lords' Amendment on the ground that the undergraduates were sent to the Universities for a temporary and distinct purpose—namely, education, and were, therefore, in a very different position from graduates. If the Bill passed as it stood, undergraduates would be at liberty to vote at municipal as well as at Parliamentary elections, and he appealed to hon. Members whether that was desirable in the interests of undergraduates themselves.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
expressed his warm approval of this Amendment which the Lords had introduced into the Bill. He took an entirely different view from that of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down. Taking part in municipal and Parliamentary elections was a better occupation for these young men than some of the amusements in which they at present engaged. In his opinion, it would be found that the exercise of the franchise by these young men would be not the least valuable part of their education.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he did not happen to be present when this matter was discussed before, and he was very much surprised when he read the report of what had taken place to find that the Liberal Party should have expressed any alarm at the prospect of these young men at College exercising the Parliamentary franchise. Here were a number of young men who had received a good amount of education, and yet he found, to his astonishment, that not only on the Conservative, but also on Liberal side of the House, a large number of hon. Gentlemen were so alarmed lest those young men should be drawn into political strife that they were prepared 956 to refuse to them political rights to which they were clearly entitled.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
congratulated his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) on his manly and straightforward utterances, and his adherence to Liberal principles. He trusted the House would not be led away by the bugbear of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Horace Davey) that undergraduates were necessarily to take part in municipal elections. Even if they were, he should not regard it as a calamity. He hoped some of the undergraduates might become Town Councillors, or even Mayors of the University towns.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he was entirely in favour of undergraduates having votes. If, however, anyone divided the House on the question that the Lords' Amendment should not be agreed to, he would support him by his vote, because this was a Bill to regulate the sending of Representatives to the House of Commons; and he did not consider that hereditary and irresponsible persons had anything to do in the matter.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he was of opinion that the Lords had adopted a reasonable and sensible course. When the question was before the House of Commons, three courses were open, two of which had some show of reason, and the other entirely unreasonable. The House could either have refused the franchise to the undergraduates in both countries, or have granted the franchise to the undergraduates in both countries. The House took the unreasonable course of granting the franchise to the undergraduates in Dublin, and refusing it to those in Oxford and Cambridge. The House of Lords had taken a reasonable course in establishing uniformity.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES),
in moving to leave out Clause 16, said, they now came to an Amendment which, of course, was one of substance. He had refrained from making any statement in regard to the position of the Bill before they reached this Amendment; but now it became necessary that he should make an appeal to those who probably at that moment constituted the majority in the House in reference to this subject. Every hon. 957 Member was aware that by the Franchise Act a new class of voters was created—namely, the county household voters. An additional class of service voters was likewise created. For the registration of the household voters in counties there really was no adequate provision in existence. Provision had been made by the Act of 1878 for the registration of household voters in boroughs; but there was no provision for the registration of such voters in counties. The Government, therefore, had to introduce a Bill for the special purpose of registering those householders, and also the service voters. They imposed on the local officers the duty of registering 2,000,000 persons under entirely new conditions. It was necessary, therefore, to define their duties clearly, and to give them as much information as possible. No time had been lost in introducing the Bill or in passing it through the House, and the Members of the Select Committee did their very best to bring back the Bill to the House at an early date. But questions of franchise were introduced into the Bill, including that which related to the receipt of medical parochial relief. It was ultimately decided that the receipt of such relief should not disqualify a voter; but the final decision of that House upon Report had now been reversed by the decision of the House of Lords. The Government had therefore had to consider what course they should take in relation to this Amendment in order that the Bill might speedily become law. Those who had charge of the Bill in the Lords had been willing to accept the proposition of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Horace Davey) and accept the clause; but the majority of the Lords had not taken that view. So far as he was concerned, and on the part of many of his Colleagues, he felt that this question on its merits had passed beyond discussion. This was a social as well as a political question affecting the community generally; but, whatever the merits of the question might be, at this stage it was impossible for the House to enter upon them, because, while aware that many Members of the House acquiesced in the view that it would have been well had the Lords not made this Amendment, yet the result of refusing to accept it would be that the Bill would be- 958 come practically useless, and that they would wreck the registration of the country for one year, for if the Amendment were now refused there could be no further dealing with the Bill until the House of Lords met again. If this House persisted in the view adopted by the majority in the last division, and the House of Lords persisted in their view, the Bill fell to the ground, and they substantially would leave the local officials without power to register the householders in the counties, who represented about 2,000,000. It was the duty of Parliament to give them this assistance, and not to take up the absurd position of telling them to register these voters without providing them with the machinery for doing so. That was a position which he did not think anyone would desire, and he would ask his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Horace Davey) to consider what advantage it would be, for the mere purpose of a protest, to send this Bill back to the House of Lords. It could not be taken there till after Whitsuntide, and the discussion would carry them to a date when the Bill would become practically useless. He therefore appealed to his hon. and learned Friend and his supporters and to the House to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment, "To leave out Clause 16," read a first and second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ MR. HORACE DAVEY
said, he extremely regretted the course taken in "another place" in regard to this Bill lie was not going to trouble the House with another speech on the merits of this subject; but he would content himself with saying that nothing he had heard or read had in any degree altered his opinion as to the justice on which the Amendment introduced into the Bill in that House was based. He objected to the course pursued in "another place," because great disappointment would be caused to a number of persons who, after being told that they were to exercise the franchise, would find that they would not be enabled to do so. If that clause was rejected now he trusted that they might look forward with hope that at some not very distant period a 959 Bill would he brought in having the same effect as the clause that was struck out. Having carefully considered the matter, he did not personally feel justified in now inviting the House to divide again on that subject. He was aware of the very great importance of that Bill being passed at once; and the Government having, as it were, got them in a corner, they must submit with the best grace they could. If any other Member moved that the House should disagree with the Lords Amendment, he should not vote against him; hut, speaking for himself, he could not undertake the responsibility of making such a Motion.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
thought that the House should take notice of the observation of the Attorney General, that that clause had not only a political but also a social aspect. No doubt, the clause did raise questions of a very important social character which required to be carefully considered. But the point was whether that was the most convenient or the only mode in which those questions could be raised. That clause introduced to a certain extent new matter into a Bill brought in for a particular purpose, without reference to that question, in order to effect an important object which everybody desired to see accomplished as speedily as possible; and whatever might be their opinions on the merits of the clause they must feel that if they reinstated the clause it would necessarily prolong the discussions on the Bill. Undoubtedly the main object they all had in view was to pass the Bill as rapidly as was consistent with the attention that was due to the Bill itself. They ought, he thought, to allow the larger and more pressing considerations, which required the Bill to be passed as quickly as possible, to have precedence over any consideration of the merits of that clause itself. He would not, therefore, now enter into the merits of the clause, on which a good deal might be said upon both sides, and which were open to a good deal of argument.
§ MR. COURTNEY
entertained a strong opinion that that clause ought not to have been introduced into the Bill at all. That Bill was merely a Bill dealing with registration, with the formalities to be observed in registration, and with the safeguards that only those who 960 were qualified should be registered. The antecedent question of the qualification for registration did not lie within the scope of the Bill; but that clause raised the question whether the receipt of medical poor relief should operate as a disqualification where a man was otherwise qualified to vote. On that ground he thought the clause, when first proposed in Committee as an Amendment, was an impertinent Amendment, and, as Chairman, he should have ruled it out of Order, if he had not felt himself precluded from doing so by the course which had been taken previously in regard to the Irish Registration Bill; but he still entertained the opinion that it was an improper Amendment. When it was discussed in Committee it was rejected by a considerable majority; and when it was brought on again afterwards in a thin House it was inserted by a comparatively small majority. Since the House of Commons itself, therefore, had shown such uncertainty in dealing with a question which ought not, in his view, to have been dealt with at all in the Bill, he thought that with all their jealousy of the other House they might allow that the House of Lords had some right to object to the introduction of that clause, and should not now insist on its re-insertion. But, especially after what had just fallen from the right hon. Member for North Devon, who appeared to waver somewhat in his opinion on that matter, he felt that he should be wanting in frankness if he did not say that his own opinion was strongly against that Amendment in principle. However plausible or benevolent the object of the clause might seem, he held that the proposal to allow a man to vote who had received medical poor relief was one of considerable moral effect, and that it would have a most pernicious tendency. It was the thin edge of the wedge of the corruption and degradation of the character of the constituency; nothing could be of more importance than that they should insist on absolute independence of parochial relief as a condition to the exercise of the elective franchise. The most mischievous things were often done on the ground of benevolence; and they should be most careful not to undermine the independence of the people whom they were admitting in increased numbers to the suffrage, by enacting that the re- 961 ceipt of medical relief from the rates was not to interfere with the full enjoyment of political rights. It was said that that had been done in the case of Ireland. He regretted that necessity; but he asked them not to apply it any further, and thus bring down the whole Kingdom to the same level. He looked with great jealousy on any proposal to reduce the independence or the moral level of the constituency of this country, and he held that they ought to guard most scrupulously against its degradation. On all these grounds, he thought the House might well give way and accede to the Lords' Amendment, even if the case had not been so pressing as the Attorney General had stated.
said, that it was rather too late to say that the Amendment was not relevant to the Bill. Having put a similar clause in the Irish Bill, the House had the right to put one in the English Bill. The question was whether the conclusion which the House had come to deliberately was to be overruled without protest. If it was, this House would be placed in a humiliating position. The Attorney General said they must either give up their right to express their opinion on this Amendment, or they must agree to an indefinite postponement of the General Election. It seemed to him not to be a matter of much concern whether or not the General Election was postponed for a few days or a few weeks.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, it was not a question of weeks or days. It was a question whether the new voters could be placed on the Register for the next year at all or not.
said, he did not think it would necessarily follow. As to the time argument, the Bill could go back to the House of Lords that day, and receive the Royal Assent on Thursday. He would not support the clause if it interfered with the sound principle that persons ought not to be electors who were not able in ordinary circumstances to maintain themselves and their families without aid from the public rates; but that principle was not violated by having recourse to such aid in cases of illness or accident. It was to be regretted that what had been called a social question had been raised in the 962 other House, for the Members of which he had great admiration; but they were persons whose position placed them above want, and most of them owed that position to the accident of birth rather than to their own exertions. The Members of the House of Commons were brought more into contact with the people, sympathized with their wants, and understood their necessities hotter than the Peers. In the constituencies there were thousands who were able to maintain their families in modest comfort, who, in case of accident or serious disease, must have recourse to the Poor Law medical officer. The clause, as it stood, was severely restrictive, and did not carry exemption from disqualification as far as it ought to do. He especially regretted the rejection of it by the House of Lords, because he wished to maintain the legislative powers of that House, and the maintenance of them was not likely to be assisted by their action on this occasion. But as the clause was rejected by the House of Commons before it was finally accepted, the House of Lords ought to have an opportunity of completing their imitation of this House by accepting the clause they had rejected.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he did not consider that the Attorney General had proved his point that if the House disagreed with the Lords' Amendment there would be no time to pass the Bill before Whitsuntide. The precepts to the registration officials did not need to be issued till the 2nd or 3rd of June, and in that case they had surely time to send back the Bill to the House of Lords. If they did send it back, they could rely on it that the House of Lords would not throw out the Bill or seek to detain it, for it had been urged by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House that the House of Lords were most anxious to consult the country, as they said they wore convinced the country would not approve of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The argument of want of time had, therefore, nothing to do with the question. Let the House of Commons disagree with this Amendment, and let them see what came of that. On the merits of the question, he did not agree with the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) that the receipt of medical relief was either corrupting or degrading. Let them take 963 the case of a poor man in the country getting 12s. a-week. That man had a child, and the child fell ill. Was it corrupting or degrading, or destructive of independence, for him to take the child to the parish doctor and obtain some medicine for it? He contended that it was not. It was in the public interest that he should do so, rather than that lie should neglect his child or obtain unskilled advice. They were really calling upon the poor man to choose between sacrificing his child and sacrificing his political, rights. He considered that it was highly important that there should be a system of public medical relief throughout the country. In his opinion, it was quite as necessary—in fact far more necessary—to have Government officers to give medical aid gratis than officers to give spiritual aid gratis. If he had to choose between the two kinds of aid, he should certainly prefer the medical aid. Education was paid for out of the rates, and surely physical well-being must come first. The recognition of that fact led to the discussion of the expediency of giving penny dinners. With regard to the action of the House of Lords, they ought to let the country know what its real meaning was. Its object was practically to disfranchise with one hand a large number of persons to whom they had given the franchise with the other. [Cries of "No!"] He was told that in North Somersetshire one-quarter of the whole of the new constituency would be disfranchised by the rejection of the clause. Let the country thoroughly understand the tactics of the Conservative Party in that matter. They did not say very much in the House of Commons because they had a majority in the other House. When the Bill went up there, the Lords threw out such clauses as they thought would tend to enlarge the constituencies, and then the Leaders of the Party came down to the House of Commons and said that this was not the time to discuss the principle of the matter. Well, the country should understand that the House of Commons had given them votes, and the Conservative Party in the House of Lords had taken them away. The Conservatives even were ashamed of their own action, for they put up a Scotch Nobleman to oppose the clause. Why, the Bill did not affect Scotland, so he could not see what possible interest the 964 Scotch Nobleman (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) could have in it. Let them fix the responsibility upon those who had really rejected that Amendment, and then see if they would stand to their guns.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
observed that not only would the whole registration of the country be thrown into confusion unless this Bill were passed before Whitsuntide, but in order to produce even the postponed General Election, about which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Gorst) spoke, special legislation would be necessary; and, as a matter of fact, it was very doubtful whether they could get a Register of voters for the next Election constituted at all. Although many Members might be glad to shorten the Whitsuntide holidays in order to obtain a full settlement of the question, he was not so hopeful as they might be with respect to the possibility or probability of obtaining the Royal Assent before Whitsuntide. The re-discussion of the question on the merits was to be deprecated. It had already been discussed fully on four occasions—once on the Franchise Bill, twice on this Bill, and once on the Irish Registration Bill. The discussion on the Irish Bill might, perhaps, not be reckoned, because it involved side issues. But in Committee, and on the Report of this Bill, the clause had received fuller consideration than could be given to it on this occasion, when nothing had been said about provident dispensaries, clubs, friendly societies, and the like. There were a fuller discussion and a larger majority in Committee when the clause was rejected than there was on the Report, when the clause was inserted; and, therefore, the Government, desiring to pass the Bill as quickly as possible, concurred in what was done in Committee rather than incur any risk of delay. The Government had gone as far as they could in making this a Government question in the House of Lords, and they were taking that action now not so much on the merits of the question, but because of the necessity that this Bill should pass as rapidly as possible, and with as little amendment as possible. Was it wise that they should jeopardize the Bill by pressing this clause, especially in view of the difference of opinion which had been shown in this House on the subject, and in view of the smallness 965 of the division with which the proposal had on the last occasion been carried? He hoped the Bill would not be jeopardized by insistance on this proposal.
§ MR. R. T. REID
said, they were asked to agree to the Lords' Amendment on some ground of convenience; but he did not know the ground of convenience, and he did not see the necessity of the convenience. Supposing the House were to disagree with the Lords in their Amendment, ho was not aware of any reason why the Amendment should not go back to that Chamber either this afternoon or to-morrow. He could not admit the necessity of acquiescing in the disfranchisement of many men merely because the House of Lords did not want to meet on Thursday. It was humiliating to the House of Commons to be placed in the position of being asked to agree to the Amendment merely to consult the convenience of the other House.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, it was unfair to the other House to hold it responsible for the situation. This House had sent the Bill to the other House at the last moment, and required that it should be passed within a week. He objected to the hon. Member for Northampton attempting to make political capital out of their action. On two occasions some of the Conservative Party supported the Government in resisting this Amendment, some on principle, and some because the Amendment was foreign matter. He should feel very deeply the responsibility which would rest upon the House if, by their vote that afternoon, they should upset all the arrangements by which alone the newly enfranchised voters could exercise their privilege at the next General Election. As a Member of the Select Committee on the Bill, he believed that the re-insertion of the clause would jeopardize the carrying through of the Bill in time for the Election; and on that ground he hoped the Government would now be supported.
§ MR. CROPPER
said, that the clause would not relieve all the grievances of disqualification which was complained of. A man would still be disqualified, if he accepted the smallest medical com- 966 fort, such as beef tea or gruel. He thought it a little hard to throw the whole responsibility in this matter upon the House of Lords, and to blame them respecting it, considering the action of the House of Commons in dealing with it, and that the Committee had decided against it. He, therefore, supported the Lords' Amendment, not merely as a matter of convenience, but because the change in the law ought not, in his opinion, to be made without further consideration, and which consideration must be given to something more than medical relief. Therefore, it was not worth while raising the question again on this Bill, for it ought to be decided on a much broader issue than that raised by the Amendment.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
observed that if a working man were run over by a vehicle in the street and taken to a public hospital ho would not be disqualified, although he would be attended to by the surgeons gratuitously and would pay nothing for his food and physic. If, however, a man to whom such an accident occurred were visited at his own home by the parish doctor ho would be deprived of his right to vote. He could not see the justice of this distinction, and trusted that the Lords' Amendment would be rejected. Why should not the House of Lords sit to-morrow, or Friday or Saturday if necessary, to consider this matter? He held that the responsibility would lie upon the Lords if they did not do so.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he hoped the country would understand that the House had been "cornered" by the action of the House of Lords. That branch of the Legislature had inserted in the Bill a most important Amendment, which would have the effect of disfranchising large numbers of the people; and they had done it in circumstances which, according to the occupants of the Ministerial Bench, rendered it quite impossible for the House of Commons to reverse the decision of the other House. He objected to the mutilation by an irresponsible body of an important Bill passed by the Representatives of the people.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
argued that if the decision of the House of Lords were reversed and the clause re-inserted in the Bill the result would be to create great confusion in the registration ar- 967 rangements. The clause contained no provision determining what kind of medical relief should act as a disqualification and what should not so act. The result would be that the overseers, in the first instance, and then the revising barristers, would take different views of the question and pronounce varying decisions.
§ MR. HENEAGE
hoped that the House would refuse to be "jockeyed" by the House of Lords. The difficulty in which they were was attributable to an unnecessary desire to consult the convenience of the other Chamber.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
contended that the House of Lords did not deserve the blame which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) and others had cast upon it.
§ MR. CAUSTON
said, that he should certainly vote in opposition to the views expressed by the Attorney General. The Lords' Amendment did a great act of injustice to those who had been looking forward to receiving the franchise, and it was also a bad precedent to say that because the House of Commons happened to send a Bill to the House of Lords at a comparatively late period the House of Lords might turn the Bill inside out, and the Government then say—"Really it puts the House and the country to so much inconvenience that we must at once submit to the action of the House of Lords."
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that the hon. Member had spoken as if the Lords had acted all through to suit their own convenience; but the fact was that the Lords acted on the representation of urgency made to them by the Government. They read the Bill a first time on Friday, a second time on Monday, without debate, passed it through Committee yesterday, waiving the Report stage, and read it a third time to-day, meeting for the purpose not only on Wednesday, but at the exceptionally early hour of half-past 11, in order to enable the House of Commons to consider the question without delay. He would not now discuss the merits of the question, about which there might be differences of opinion; but he would remind the House that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member which the House of Lords had rejected had been also rejected in the House of Commons by a large majority when proposed in Committee, and that it was only 968 accepted on Report by a small majority in a thin House.
§ MR. SEXTON
denied that the Lords had been "cornered" or that they were entitled to special deference because they sat at half-past 11 that morning, for in that case they must be considered as superior to all duties and obligations. The question was between the holidays of a few score men and the enfranchisement of thousands of voters. The original plan of the Government was that the Bill should receive the Royal Assent on Friday. That plan could be still carried out if the Amendment of the Lords was rejected, because the Lords could reconsider the matter that evening or to-morrow, and the Royal Assent could be given on Friday as originally proposed. This matter was so grave, and concerned the rights of so many thousand Englishmen, that the House would show a grievous lack of moral courage if it did not insist that the responsibility should be fixed where it was incurred. When the Bill left that House it did not contain that disfranchising clause, and the House would be guilty of the grossest cowardice and dereliction of duty if it submitted to this change. He hoped the Motion would be carried to a division, and he should then be curious to see whether the Amendment would be supported by the Conservative Party, who were going to confront the working men of the country at a General Election.
§ MR. PICTON
opposed the Amendment of the Lords on the ground that the question involved interests for which the Representatives of the people were specially responsible, and that carried practical consequences, particularly in country places, where there were not the same opportunities of obtaining medical aid as in towns.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
urged the House to abide by its own decision, as the question was one which did not affect the House of Lords, while it did affect the House of Commons.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, it would be a pity if they were forced to divide without receiving a plain answer to the question whether there was any real practical difficulty in giving the House of Lords an opportunity of reconsidering this matter, and of getting their answer and receiving the Royal Assent to the Bill before the end of the 969 week. He believed the House of Lords had not adjourned, and that there was no practical difficulty in adopting this course. He did not believe that in an important matter of this kind anyone would put a little personal inconvenience against the public interest; and he, for one, did not believe the House of Lords would do so.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
said, he was sure that members of his own profession, who had seen much of the poor, would hold that there was an essential difference between ordinary poor relief and medical relief. They knew that sickness came unexpectedly, and laid a heavy strain on the narrow resources of families with incomes of from 10s. to 12s. a week; and it was intolerable that poor persons in that position, who had perhaps taken relief of this kind for a short time, should be disqualified. He would also remind the House that there was in country districts no bridge, so to speak, between medical pauperism and the payment of medical attendance. In large towns they had great hospitals which wore always open to receive all comers on easy terms; and, therefore, in London, for instance, they knew that a large number of people on the verge of pauperism were able to go to these hospitals and get medical relief without disqualifying themselves. But in the country there was nothing of that sort. The poor man must either pay his country doctor's fee, which was necessarily heavy because of the distances they had to go, or go on the parish for relief. Therefore, there was no bridge for the humble and industrious man to obtain such relief as would not put this heavy disqualification against him. In spite, he thought, of the dangers which they had been told would arise from the possible rejection of this Amendment of the Lords, ho would feel it his duty, if the opposition were pressed, to support it.
§ MR. WARTON
supported the Amendment of the Lords on the ground that it was in accordance with the deliberate judgment of the House of Commons, as in Committee by a large majority it rejected the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Christchurch, which was accepted on Report only by a small majority.
§ MR. PELL
said, he understood the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) to rest his argument on the 970 injustice which would be done to the labouring classes if the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Christ-church did not become law. But, how was it, if the hon. Member for Northampton had the interests of the working classes so much at heart, that he was absent on both occasions when the question was before discussed? He (Mr. Pell) appealed to the House not to reject the Amendment on account of the difficulty in their way with regard to time. He would remind the House that the only effect of the Lords' Amendment would be to keep off the Register for one year a person who received medical, relief. In the name of the provident working men of England, he protested against their being put upon the same footing with those who were infinitely below them in the social scale. The difficulty that had been referred to in country districts should be got over by the establishment of medical village clubs, which would come within the reach of the class to whom the provision applied.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 107; Noes 66: Majority 41.—(Div. List, No. 199.)