§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that its object was to 342 remove doubts which had arisen in the interpretation of the Act of 1884. The decision of the Courts had been that an employé occupying a separate bedroom could vote at an election, while an employé not occupying a separate bedroom might not do so. The result of that decision was that in the case of employés in large establishments not occupying a separate bedroom they were not at present enfranchised. The defect in the law had arisen without any intention on the part of either side, and he had brought in this Bill in order to remedy it.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Robert Fowler.)
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he hoped the hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Fowler) would adopt words in Committee which would make unnecessary any appeal to the Courts of Law to decide that only men were included in the provisions of the Act. He had himself raised the same question when the Representation of the People Bill, 1867, was before the House; and it was only after a lengthened argument that the Judges decided that women were not enfranchised by that Act. The question of woman suffrage must be decided apart from the Bill, and on the general principle. What he desired, he would suggest, could easily be effected by adopting in the Bill the same language as was found in the Act of 1867, and also in the Act of 1885, so as to prevent any doubt arising that the word "man" did not also include "woman."
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, he truly believed that the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Fowler) wished to extend the franchise as far as he could, and did not merely desire to extend it so as to help his own Party without reference to others. He would, therefore, appeal to the hon. Baronet, as another Bill was on the Paper, and would shortly be reached (The Parliamentary Franchise Bill), to terminate the discussion on this Bill, and then they could co-operate together to support this other measure, which was a real measure of enfranchisement.
§ MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said, he would also recommend the hon. Baronet, for the same reason as that stated by the hon. Member for North- 343 ampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), to withdraw the second reading of the Bill for the present, as a more comprehensive measure was on the Orders of the Day, and would soon be reached.
§ MR. LEWIS (Londonderry)
asked, why a disability should be sought to be got rid of with reference to one class of persons, and not with reference to another? This Bill was to relieve the deserving class of shopmen and warehousemen in large towns; but it seemed to him that they could not enter into the consideration of whether certain classes were more worthy than others who were excluded. Instead of the House passing a fragmentary Bill like this, and then considering another which proposed to carry these changes to a logical conclusion, it ought to leave the matter to be taken in hand by the Government, so that it might determine the extent to which the enlargement of the Franchise Act was to be carried. The proper course would be to adjourn the debate, so that the Government might have an opportunity to make up its mind as to what it was desirable to do.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
said, that if he had spoken earlier he should have appealed to his hon. Friend not to press the Bill at the present time, but to allow the Order to be discharged or adjourned for two months, as he (Mr. Childers) had already stated, in answer to a Question, that the Government considered it would be wise and necessary to introduce during the present Session a Bill to deal with the question of registration, and particularly with questions of borough representation. He had also stated on a former occasion that it was not wise to tinker with the Representation of the People Bill and the other Acts which were incorporated with it. There were, no doubt, weak points in the Act that had been brought out in the Registration Courts, and it would be desirable in due time to deal with them; but he doubted whether it would be possible to do it that Session. He should deprecate dealing with these matters in a piecemeal way as it was proposed to do, for there were many points which the present Bill did not deal with at all. It dealt with a fringe only of the subject, and left many important points untouched. He would, therefore, very 344 much prefer taking up the whole question in a Government measure. The Government, therefore, this Session would introduce the Bill in reference to registration which they were already pledged to introduce. The other Bill, dealing with the intricate question of the franchise, would be dealt with next Session, as there was not time to deal with it in this. It would be better to discharge the Order relating to this Bill; but if the hon. Member preferred it the debate might be adjourned for two months.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER
asked if it was to be understood that the Government would introduce next Session a Bill dealing with the whole question?
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER
said, that after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman he would ask leave to adjourn the debate for two months.
§ Debate adjourned till Wednesday 7th July.