§ Clause 2 (Composition and election of Council and position of chairman).
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
said, the Amendment which he had to propose was a very simple one; its object was to assimilate the method of retirement and eletcion of County Councillors to that already adopted in the case 1835 of Town Councillors under the Municipal Corporations Act. He need hardly remind the Committee that under the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act one third of the Town Councillors retired every year. If the words he proposed to omit were omitted, then the election of County Councillors would take place in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act—one-third would retire in each year, instead of the whole body retiring every third year. He had not heard that any objection had been raised to the present method of the retirement of Town Councillors; he believed there was no demand for any change in that respect. On the other hand, there was a system of triennial election in the cases of the school boards throughout the country. Under the Education Act, the members of school boards retired every third year. He had heard many complaints in respect to the retirement of the whole school board every third year. It was alleged that in many cases it resulted in a want of continuity of administration and policy. It not unfrequently happened that the majority of the school board was changed at an election, not in consequence of objections to the board's general policy, but on account of some objection to a detail of management on some special subject. There were many people who thought it would be a great advantage in the case of school boards if the elections could take place in the same way as the election of Town Councils did. On the whole, therefore, it appeared to him that the system adopted under the Municipal Corporations Act was a better one than that provided in the Bill. The Government themselves did not seem to be very clear as to which was the best system, for he observed that in Clause 43 it was proposed that in the case of the District Councils the elections were to be conducted upon the plan provided by the Municipal Corporations Act—one-third of the members were to retire every year. County Councillors, therefore, were to retire in a body every third year, while a third of the District Councillors would retire every year. It appeared to him it was desirable there should be one system for Town Council, County Council, and District Council; and that the 1836 best system was that one-third of the members should retire each year. It had been said by the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) that annual elections might result in the turmoil of a General Election each year. But the Committee ought to bear in mind that under the Bill there would be only one representative for each district. Therefore, there would only be the turmoil of an election in one-third of the districts in each year. Under the circumstances, he thought the system of election provided by the Municipal Corporations Act was the best, and that it should be applicable to the different authorities. He begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 23, leave out all after "years" to end of sub-section (b).—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he hoped the Government would see their way to accept this Amendment. It seemed to him there were two strong arguments in its favour. The first argument was that in this matter they were following the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act, which the President of the Local Government Board said that, as a rule, he should endeavour to follow throughout the Bill. That, alone, was a strong argument in favour of this particular proposal. The other strong argument was that they would not get continuity of policy, which they should get on Councils of this kind, if all the members retired at the same time. He should prefer that we should elect these Councillors for six years and that one-third of them should go out of office every two years. If they could have agreed to that he would have been perfectly prepared to have dropped the Aldermen altogether. That would have been a very great improvement in the Bill. However, they had decided to keep the term of election three years. He earnestly hoped the Government would adopt this proposal, and let one-third of the Councillors go out every year.
MR. POWELL-WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)
said, he hoped the Government would see their way to accept the Amendment of the right hon. 1837 Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). There was a financial side to the question of which it was desirable the Committee should take note. It was a side of the question which had come under his notice, as he had the honour for five or six years at one time to be the Chairman of the Finance Committee of a large Corporation. The proposal of the Government was to throw the cost of the election of the whole of the County Council on one particular year. Under the system of the Municipal Corporations Act the cost of elections was distributed over three years, and, looking at the fact that the rates were to bear a considerable portion of the cost, it became a serious question. Reference had been made to school board elections. The school board election in the borough of Birmingham cost the ratepayers about £1,000, and that sum was quite sufficient to compel the Corporation to raise an additional rate of ½d. in the £1. The practice and the law was to levy the rate as near to the amount necessary as a ½d. rate would give, and the custom was not to levy for any small balance there might be. But if the balance was increased by the sum of £1,000, such a Corporation as that of Birmingham was obliged to levy a ½d. rate which they would not otherwise levy. Therefore, he begged to point out to the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) that the system which he proposed was one which would, in all probability, inflict on a particular year a heavier ratal than would otherwise be inflicted. That was a point which he thought told strongly in favour of adopting in regard to the County Councils the system which applied to Municipal Corporations, under which only one-third of the Councillors retired annually, and under which there was no necessity for Corporations to alter the unit of ratal.
§ MR. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, he trusted the President of the Local Government Board would accept this or some similar Amendment. The system by which one-third of the members of Municipal Corporations retired each year had, he understood, worked very well. It had given to the Corporations a continuity of work, and he could not help thinking that the wisest course would be to adhere to it. In the case 1838 of the London School Board a totally different system prevailed. The whole body retired every third year, and he understood that at each election there was a complete change in the composition of the Board. He certainly thought it would be very much better that the system of election provided by the Municipal Corporations Act, which had worked well, should be carried out in this measure. But he did not think that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman would effect the object in view. It did not make it clear that for the first three years the individuals elected should retain office; it did not make it clear that one-third should retire each year after the first three years. Therefore, whilst agreeing with the principle of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, he did not quite see that the Amendment would carry out the views of its mover.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
asked the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for information as to the election of the Borough Councillors?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that as far as the Town Councils in the boroughs which were to be made counties in themselves were concerned, they would practically be County Councils. Of course, he did not imagine there would be any alteration in the name. There certainly would be no alteration whatever with respect to their election. It seemed to be supposed that there would be two Councils in these boroughs. Nothing of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) who moved the Amendment, said that the Government were somewhat departing from their principle in having a different system for election for the County Councils from what they had in boroughs. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in that observation; but although they had gone on the lines of the Municipal Corporations Act in setting up County Councils, there were material differences between County Councils and Town Councils. They did not propose, therefore, to adhere strictly to the proposal in the Municipal Corporations Act with reference to annual retirement. The right hon. Gentleman was aware that the area over which the Town Council ruled was divided into three-membered areas. There was an 1839 annual election in every area. The result of that was that every elector in every part of the borough was able to record his vote annually. The material difference in the proposal of the Government was that they suggested that single-membered areas should be set up. It would not, of course, be in Order for him to argue as to the advantages or disadvantages of single-membered areas; he would have an opportunity of doing that, he imagined, later on. Single-membered areas would, of course, increase very materially the difficulty of adopting the provision in the Municipal Corporations Act with reference to annual retirement. He did not mean to say that some arrangement could not be made by which there should be annual retirement even in the case of County Councillors; but the result would be very different from that which obtained in towns. They might set up groups of single-membered areas, and they might say that A should elect its member this year, that B should elect its member next year, and C should elect its member the following year. But by that arrangement no constituency in the country would be able to return a member more than once in three years. No voter would be able to give his vote for a member oftener than once in three years, so that there was that which was a most material difference between the position of Town Councils and of County Councils. They had proposed the system of election every three years; firstly, because they suggested single-membered areas, and, secondly, because they believed it would cause considerably less cost both to the candidates and to the counties. Looking to the charges which would devolve upon County Councillors, the latter was a very material consideration. He had always contended that although they generally adopted the principle of the Municipal Corporations Act, they departed occasionally from the exact stipulations of that Act. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine that there was no other elected local Body except the school board, which was elected en bloc every three years. There were, however, numerous cases in which Boards of Guardians were elected every three years. Upon an application made to it, the Local Government Board might sanction an election triennially instead 1840 of annually, and there were many Boards of Guardians the members of which were elected every three years. Speaking of the system of election in the case of school boards, the right hon. Gentleman said that, on the whole, it was not considered satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman might be in possession of information which he (Mr. Ritchie) did not possess, to show that such a mode of election was unsatisfactory; but there was a material difference between the school board and the Council set up by the Bill. The Committee had agreed to the proposal of the Government with reference to selected Councillors or Aldermen. There was, therefore, an element there which was not in existence in school boards. There was to be an aldermanic Body which was to be elected for six years, so that they would always be able to secure that continuity which he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman it was extremely desirable to secure. On the whole, and especially looking to the fact that one of the main principles they wished to insist upon was single-membered areas, he hoped the Committee would assent to the proposal made by the Government on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman had laid stress upon the fact that the members of District Councils were to be elected annually, while the members of County Councils were to be elected triennially. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman would see that District Councils possessed in a greater degree than County Councils the characteristics of Town Councils. What they were setting up throughout the country were, first of all, County Councils having jurisdiction over the whole county, and then they were setting up a series of Town Councils, although they did not call them so, with smaller jurisdiction.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Chitheroe)
said, the right hon. Gentleman, in his concluding remarks, tried to explain to the Committee why he adopted the system of triennial elections in the case of County Councils, whilst he adopted the system of annual elections—one-third were to retire annually—in respect of District Councils; but he confessed the right hon. Gentleman had not made at all clear to his mind—he doubted whether he had made clear to the mind of 1841 the Committee—any tangible principle on which that distinction rested. What those who supported the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) argued was, in the first place, that the President of the Local Government Board had announced his intention of, as far as possible, following the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act; and, in the second place, that, in respect to the election of the District Council, he adopted the very mode they now advocated. The only objections at all tangible which the right hon. Gentleman had urged to the Amendment had been two. First of all, the right hon. Gentleman had objected on the ground of expense. That was not the first matter they had to consider. What they had to consider was, how could these Councils be best constituted for carrying on efficiently the work of local administration? The right hon. Gentleman had said that under this Bill it was proposed to have single-membered areas for the election of the County Councils; but he had admitted it would not be at all impossible to introduce the principle of annual election—the principle of the retirement of one-third of the Council every year. There were many hon. Members who thought it would be wise if the right hon. Gentleman followed the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act in this respect, and if he associated three members with each electoral district, so that one member should retire every year just as one of the representatives of the ward of a town did. He would not enter into the subject now, because it could be discussed hereafter. All he would say upon it was that, whether the right hon. Gentleman adopted the one-member area, or the three-member area, it was perfectly possible for him to follow the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act, and to adopt the system whereby one-third of the Council retired every year. What he particularly wished to press on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman was that they had had some experience of the working of the system of triennial elections in the case of the school boards. He had had some little experience of the London School Board, and he assured the right hon. Gentleman that what was stated yesterday by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport 1842 (Mr. Sydney Gedge) with reference to the London School Board, was perfectly true. If they elected a Body for three years, the first year was spent by the members in learning their business, in the second year they did their work reasonably well, and the third year they spent in thinking of the coming election. That did not tend to good administration. Moreover, the whole Board might be changed at the election; and possibly on some chance cry arising at the moment. On the other system—allowing for the Aldermen—such a cry would affect only one-fourth of the Council.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Clitheroe Division (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) seemed to treat finance as if it had nothing to do with good administration. He had said that they must endeavour to secure efficiency in the administration of local affairs; but his (Sir Richard Paget's) idea of efficiency was rigid economy, and that sound finance was the very essence of good government. Therefore he opposed anything which would throw unnecessary expense on the rates. Labouring under a misconception, the House unfortunately arrived at a conclusion last night in favour of the election of County Councillors for a period of three years; but he trusted that even yet that decision might be reversed. He believed it would be found that, in fixing a longer term, the efficiency they desired would be secured, and they would be able to get the best men or the best selected body. According to the Bill as it stood, no sooner would the members of the County Councils be elected, than one-fourth of them throughout England would be looking about for the next election. In other words, one-fourth would go out in the first year, another fourth would go out in the course of the next year, and only a small portion of the Council would remain for the full term of the office. He did not think that that was the best way to secure the services of good men. He was in favour of the principle of partial retirement; but he thought its application in the manner proposed would be mischievous and dangerous to the efficiency of the body he wished to see created. There was also another reason—namely, that the Amendment was inconsistent with the Bill as it was drafted. It was per- 1843 fectly clear that unless they entered into some arrangement and grouped together their electoral divisions in a way that was not provided for, much confusion would arise. The principle of the Bill was that of single-membered divisions, and, unless these wore linked together in pairs or triplets, no one would know in which Divisions new elections would have to take place. Unquestionably the system of harassing the counties with annual elections, year by year, was one which would be distasteful to all parties concerned, and on that ground he would oppose the Amendment.
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
said, he agreed very much with what had fallen from the hon. Member opposite, though he confessed that he approached the question from a different point of view. The hon. Member spoke of the importance of keeping up the interest of the electors in the work of the Common Council, but that was what frequent elections would fail to do. Nothing tended so much to injure the work as having the elections too frequently. Even a man with comparative leisure found it extremely difficult to take an interest in the numerous elections which now took place. Indeed, one of the curses of the present system was that one of its weaknesses was frequent elections; and if they multiplied those elections they would only increase the difficulty which now existed, and the democracy would take very little interest in the elections. Therefore, the multiplication of elections ought to be avoided. He agreed with the hon. Member that yesterday the Committee made a mistake. He thought it would have been far better if the selected members were elected, as the House of Commons was, practically, for six years, but the error which had been committed was one which could be set right afterwards. He did not think that they could gain anything by annual elections, and when they came to District Councils, he would urge on the Government to confess that that was a blot upon their measure, and to see whether it could not be remedied.
§ MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)
said, the main object should be to obtain as good a body and as experienced a body of County Councillors as they could possibly secure. They should remember who these County Councillors were going to follow. They were about to take the 1844 places of a body of men elected for life to discharge the duties, and however able they might be, it would take them some years to master thoroughly the details of the work in which the magistrates had spent their lives. Now, what was the scheme of the Bill, and what would be the scheme, even if the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite were carried? They would have a body of men who would have a minimum of experience with a maximum of work to do. He wished that the system of periodical retirement had been at longer intervals than one year. He would much have preferred that one-third should retire every three years. By that means they would get men of experience upon the County Councils—seasoned men who would be better able to do the work thrown upon them. Under the proposed system there would be a number of unexperienced and useless men upon the Council. He therefore regretted that the system of retirement en bloc had been fixed upon by the Government, and he trusted that, before it was too late, the Government would introduce a system of periodical retirement.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, that in framing a Bill of this kind they must be guided by experience. The country had had considerable experience of two modes of elections—namely, the annual retirement of one-third of the elected body in municipalities, a system which had been in force for 50 years, and the triennial retirement en bloc in school boards. The testimony of those who had had experience of both matters was in favour of the former. An hon. Member behind him (Mr. Powell Williams), who had been responsible for the finance of one of the largest boroughs in the country, had given his experience of the working of the system in municipal boroughs, and his right hon. friend (Sir U. Kay-Shuttleworth), who was a member of the London School Board, confirmed the view which had been expressed as to the effect of retirement en bloc. He confessed that he was not satisfied with the scheme as it stood at present. He had voted last night against the hon. and gallant Member for Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), but he had voted against it on account of a previous provision which had been carried. He thought that if the Aldermen were 1845 abolished it might be wise to elect all the Council for six years, one-third going out of office triennally. The hon. Member for Somerset (Sir Richard Paget) used a phrase which they had heard a good deal of in the course of the discussion—namely, that they wanted the best men. But the best men were those who had the confidence of the electors. There could be no other test. They were doing away with the theory of best men selected on nomination, who had no doubt discharged their duties with great ability—he referred to the county magistrates. They were substituting the principle of popular election, and it had its expensive side as well as its efficient side. Upon the question of cost he would venture to assert that the Amendment of his right hon. Friend would not add one penny to the cost which, instead of being all incurred in one year, would be spread by the Amendment over three years. Instead of being paid in one lump sum for one election, supposing the cost was £30, it would be divided into three sums of £10 each. With regard to the question of administration, that could only be settled by the appointment of men of long and practical experience. He had sat upon a Town Council and upon a school board, and he spoke feelingly when he said that in one case he had never seen any disturbance with respect to the continuity of administration, whereas in the other case the work was turned into a state of chaos when a new Board was elected. It was also found that the candidates went to an election upon special cries at particular years, in accordance with the feeling which prevailed at the moment. One vexed question had been withdrawn from the discussion of these bodies, but there would be other questions arising in the early period of the establishment of these Councils. In the Town Council the administration went on systematically as a rule for three years, and public opinion was brought gradually to bear upon any important question. In the Town Council there was a body of men who were constantly in touch with the people, and that was the secret of the success of our municipal institutions. He could assure the hon. Member who spoke last with reference to the question of securing the best men and men who had the confidence 1846 of the people, that he was unwise in disregarding the great precedents of our municipal institutions. He did not think it was possible to find an institution in the history of this or any other country of popularly elected bodies discharging their duties so efficiently and with such general satisfaction as our Town Councils had done. No charge of corruption had been brought against them. The President of the Local Government Board knew that, in reference to the Local Boards of Health of the country which were far more numerous than Town Councils, the precedent of the election in municipal boroughs was strictly followed. The question of the election of Boards of Guardians formed no analogy, but the general principle adopted in regard to our municipal life had worked satisfactorily. What he desired was that the system of county government should work even better than that which had applied to the Town Councils, and that they should get good men who would possess the confidence of the constituents, and who would be perfectly in touch with them. He ventured to assert that in nine cases out of 10 the election of a good man was never challenged. With respect to continuity of administration, he attached great importance to such continuity though he did not attach much importance to continuity of policy. Policy was for the electors to decide. In municipal bodies there was, and in school boards, unfortunately, there was not, this continuity of administration. By the Government plan, some question which might for the moment be a burning one, but might in a few months be forgotten, might be decisive in the election for the whole period. Under the system which he advocated there would be no such abrupt transitions as he deprecated.
MR. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)
said, he thought the Government were quite right in making the Municipal Corporations Act the basis of the provisions of their Bill. At the same time he was convinced that too close an attention to the provisions of that Act might lead them to perpetuate some of the evils associated with its working. The right hon. Member who spoke last said they ought to be guided by experience. What experience pointed out to them was most 1847 obvious, and it was generally admitted that one of the greatest evils was that every November municipal boroughs were plunged into the turmoil on a small scale of a General Election. So far as his experience went, the wards in which contested elections took place presented much of the agitation and ill-feeling which were generally connected with a Parliamentary election. Surely they desired to leave out as much as possible from the county elections the evils which were associated with contested elections in the boroughs. He was sure that hon. Members who had municipal experience would agree that the frequency of elections had a great effect in inflaming Party spirit. He thought all would admit that it was most undesirable to introduce the same sort of thing into the counties. They wanted to keep them as far as possible free from elections conducted on Party grounds, and triennial elections would be more likely to effect that object than annual elections. A right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House said with an election every three years they might have a clean sweep of the Council, but in some circumstances that might be a very desirable thing. In municipal institutions as they were constituted at present, with annual elections, there was a constant shifting of policy and a want of continuity. He was aware that if triennial elections were introduced into the Bill, as proposed by the Government, a serious discrepancy would exist between the new County Councils and both Municipal Corporations and the county boroughs, because, in the case of the towns and the county boroughs, the elections would go on annually as they did now, while in the counties they would only take place once in three years. If that were so, he, for one, would not altogether regret it, as it might lead to the abandonment of the existing system in the towns. If they wanted to secure elections every three years in the boroughs, he thought the best way to set about it would be to establish triennial elections in the counties. If they were found to work well, they might look forward to a revision of the Municipal Corporations Act in the same sense.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, that personally he was in favour of 1848 retirement by rotation, but the Committee last night came to a decision not to accept a longer term than three years. He advocated a term of either six or four years, with retirement by rotation every second year. He would not accept the principle that what had worked well in the boroughs would necessarily work well in the counties. The two were entirely distinct in their circumstances. The boroughs were divided into wards, and were thickly populated, the inhabitants being spread over a small area, so that the elections could be conducted at a small cost. The elections for the counties would be an entirely different thing, and he spoke from a considerable amount of experience, having been returning officer in 1880 during three county contests. In county elections they would have to provide a large number of polling booths in order to enable the labourers to poll after their work was done and record their votes. For every one of those polling booths it would be necessary to employ a paid returning officer and clerks, and to incur great expense in setting up machinery, exactly the same as if they had a Parliamentary election. He was strongly in favour of Local Government; but he ventured to think—and he had discussed the question with all classes during the last few months—that it would be disadvantageous to have these annual elections at the cost of the ratepayers. Having said this much, he confessed that he was rather taken aback by what his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) said at the end of his speech. He understood his right hon. Friend to say that they were to have their annual elections for the District Councils; and, if so, it did not signify much whether there was an annual election for the County Councils as well. The whole machinery would have to be put in force in the various districts, and the same expense would be incurred for one election as for two if both were held together. He objected to the Amendment because he believed it would be bringing in a very costly machinery. The Amendment of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) having been defeated, he wanted to see a uniform mode of election established, he did not [...]are whether 1849 every two or three years, but one uniform mode of election, both for the District Councils and the County Councils, so that the elections for the District Councils should be held at the same time and manner as the County Councils. The right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and those who agreed with him, should remember that there were half-a-dozen polling districts set up in a county at great expense; whereas, in the boroughs, there was only one polling booth. [Cries of "No!"] Well, one Alderman presided over them, and he did not see how he could be in two places at once; and, at any rate, a most expensive machinery would have to be provided in the counties. He should vote against the Amendment, because he hoped to see the decision of last night reversed, and he hoped the Government would come to a decision by which all elections would take place on the same day, in the same manner, and in the same place.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he should not have troubled the Committee by making any observations if it had not been for the remarks which had been made by the hon. Member for the Southport Division of Lancashire (Mr. Curzon), who spoke in deprecation of the system which now existed of having an election every year for Municipal Councils. He differed entirely from the hon. Gentleman because he had been convinced, by long experience and observation of municipal life, that annual elections in different boroughs were greatly to the advantage of the community. He did not believe that the ill-consequences the hon. Member alluded to did arise; but, on the contrary, he believed that the annual election kept alive the interest in the municipal life of the country, it directed the attention of the voters to the action of the Council, and he believed it was greatly to the benefit of the boroughs. It had been stated by an hon. Member who spoke on the other side of the House that those who were adverse to the Motion of the right hon. Member for Central Bradford had no confidence in the constituencies, and had no faith in the principle of municipal election. Now, he had great confidence in the municipal constituencies and in the maintenance of the principle of popular election; but 1850 he did not see that that question was at issue in this discussion, nor did he see in what way the popular principle was more concerned under a system by which one-third of the members went out each year than when the whole body gave up their seats on the Council at the same time. Unless they could draw a clear distinction between urban life and county life, it seemed to him that they were bound to follow the principle laid down in the Municipal Corporations Act. He regretted that the Government had not adopted the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex last night. At the same time, he believed that that was the consequence of what occurred in the course of the debate yesterday. For his own part, he still entertained a hope that as the discussion advanced the period might be enlarged, and that they might have a period of six years, or, at any rate, of four. They would then be in a position to provide that the retirement of the Council should not be, at the same time, en bloc, but a gradual retirement. He believed that such a principle would benefit not only the Councils themselves, but the constituencies.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
said, he rose to intervene in the debate with the hope of bringing the discussion, if possible, to a close, although he had no objection to the continued discussion of a question which he admitted to be one of great importance, and which had been debated with admirable feeling on both sides of the Committee. The discussion showed a strong desire to constitute the County Council in such a manner as to conduce to its efficiency without any regard to Party considerations. He had listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), and he could not help saying in a very large measure he most heartily coincided with the views the right hon. Gentleman had expressed. He only regretted that the speech was not delivered yesterday, when his hon. and gallant Friend's (Sir Walter B. Barttelot's) proposal was before the Committee. He did not understand the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in the sense in which they 1851 were so admirably interpreted by the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. He understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to say it might be provided that members of the County Councils who wore elected by a great majority of votes should hold office for a longer period than those members who were elected by a smaller number of votes. But the suggestion was not formulated by the right hon. Gentleman in any manner, nor expressed with the distinctness and clearness with which the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton expressed it. There could be no doubt that there was a vast difference between the conditions of rural life and the conditions of town life. The economy which prevailed in connection with town life was very different in regard to rural life. In a town there might be, in the space of two or three acres, a population sufficiently large to elect Town Councillors for two or three wards; but a space of some eight or 10 square miles would be required for a population sufficient to produce the same result for a County Council. The disturbance caused by an election must be far greater in a county than in a town, and therefore it was most desirable that the occasions for this disturbance and expense should not be more frequent than was necessary to keep the electorate in touch with those who represented them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford suggested that there should be an election of one-third of the members every year; but the cost of an annual election in a town would be far less than in a county.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he had not made that proposal. He had proposed that there should be an election every third year, which made all the difference.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, it was impossible to get about the county, to obtain conveyances, or to procure officers to conduct an election, except at an expense much greater than the expense in the towns. On the part of the Government, he would make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman from the point of view that the Government were not seeking to pass the measure in conflict with the Opposition, but rather with the assistance of the House of Commons as 1852 a whole. He would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should withdraw his Amendment at this stage, and allow the Government to consider whether it might not be possible for them to adopt in some measure the suggestion of the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and to devise a system under which there would be an election of a portion of the Council every two years. If the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw the proposal he had now made, the Government would, between that stage and the Report, endeavour to come to an amicable understanding with hon. Gentleman on both sides of the question, and to provide that the election of a portion of the Council should take place every two years, either by making the period four years or six years. That was a matter to be arranged; but he should think it would be better to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, and to make the period six years.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would also reconsider the Alderman question?
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, the essential part of his proposition was this—to do away with the Aldermen altogether, and to elect the Councillors for six years, one-third retiring every two years. He did not say that ample time should not be allowed for the consideration of the question; but he wanted to prevent any misconception as to what the nature of his proposal was. His proposal was to abolish Aldermen, and to make the election every six years, one-third going out every two years.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he did not think that it was necessary to come to any understanding at once as to the basis upon which a future understanding might be arrived at. Between this and the Report stage, the Government would endeavour to gather the feeling of the House upon the matter, and, having gathered that feeling, an opportunity would be afforded for reconsideration, and Amendments might be introduced on the Report.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that, after what the right hon. Gentleman said, he was ready to withdraw the Amendment; but he trusted that the 1853 right hon. Gentleman would consider the question of the Aldermen in the meantime.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, it must be distinctly understood that the only matter he had undertaken on the part of the Government to consider was the term for which the Councils should be elected in the first instance, and the manner in which they should retire. [Several hon. MEMBERS: And the Aldermen.] He was sure that hon. Members would not ask him to pledge himself to that which he was not, at the present moment, willing to undertake.
§ MR. BARRAN (York, W.R., Otley)
said, his only excuse for addressing the House was that he had considerable experience as a member of a Municipal Corporation. He had no wish to enter into the question, which had been fully discussed last night, in regard to Aldermen; but he should like to impress very strongly upon the First Lord of the Treasury the desirability of very carefully considering the question of the appointment of County Aldermen. A good deal was said last night upon that question, and a strong point was made by a number of Gentlemen on the other side of the House that it was desirable to have the best men to represent the counties in the County Council, and that by adopting the principle of electing or re-electing Aldermen they would secure that object.
§ MR. BARRAN
said, that after the ruling of the Chairman he would not go further into the question; but he would ask the Government to consider the matter when they came to deal with the question they had promised to reconsider. The municipal system of retiring once in three years had worked so well in the Municipal Corporations, that he was quite sure if it were adopted in this case by the Government it would improve their Bill. He quite admitted that the elections in the counties would be of a very different order and character from those in the municipal boroughs. The population was very much thinner, the opportunities were very much fewer for the assembling of the people, and, in all probability, a great many more difficulties would present themselves. If, instead of having an annual election, the Government could provide any Bill, 1854 either for the election of one-half for two years, or select the whole for six years, retiring one-third every two years, in his opinion that would give a very much better representation of the people on account of the continuity of action. He hoped they would receive from the Government an assurance that the whole question, including that of the Aldermen, would be carefully reconsidered.
§ MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)
said, he thought that it was unfair to press upon the First Lord of the Treasury the question of the Aldermen; but he would venture to point out to the right hon. Gentleman, as Leader of the House, that, as he had undertaken to reconsider the question, it also involved the question of six years, which was deliberately decided against by the Committee last night. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman and the Government reconsidered the subject, he thought they might, at the same time, take into consideration the scheme of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, which would undoubtedly bring about that continuity which the Government and others desired.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
said, he did not think the offer which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) was everything that could be desired. The prospect offered by the right hon. Gentleman was that of a Council elected for six years, one-third of the elected members retiring every two years, and one-fourth of the whole body being elected every six years. He did not think that that principle was likely to be of much general advantage. The objection to elections at long intervals was that it took the decision practically out of the hands of the many and placed it in the hands of the few. If hon. Members would compare the experience they had had of Town Council elections with the experience of school board elections, they would see that there was much reason for believing that he was right in regard to Town Councils; they had an election every year, the machinery was always ready, and those who took an interest in them were always on the alert, so that there was no difficulty whatever in securing that the rights of the electors were preserved. But, in the case of a school board election, there was great excitement for a few days; but as soon 1855 as the member was returned, everything was forgotten. There was no machinery for conducting the elections, and, every few years, people were running about to collect money from their richer neighbours in order to create the machinery. The consequence was, that a few rich people had the entire election in their own hands, simply because there were no means of reaching the public; whereas, in the municipal elections, it was impossible to manipulate them in that way, as the democracy, as they were called, were always kept on the alert by annual elections, and the Council was in constant contact with the people they represented. It was on this ground, and not from any fear that continuity would not be preserved, that he was interested in providing that the election should be annual, and he would not be content with anything else. As to continuity, reference had been made to schools boards, of which he had had some experience. So far as his experience and observation went, the policy of the London School Board was absolutely continuous down to the last election in 1885. There was then a complete revolution. But this revolution was facilitated by the difficulty of securing popular interest in the election. And the same difficulty would be favourable to a determination on the part of a few men to keep the elections in their own hands. He was anxious that the people at large should elect these Councils, and should have their attention constantly fixed upon the manner in which their representatives discharged their duties. Further, they should always be prepared with adequate elective machinery in order to bring in the men they wanted. On that ground he was not satisfied with the offer made by the First Lord of the Treasury, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford would think twice before he withdrew his Amendment.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said, that it appeared to him that the object would not be secured by the multiplication or the too frequent multiplication of elections. The experience of the United States and their own, so far as it had gone, showed that when the people were constantly being called upon to give a vote the whole matter fell into the hands of the caucuses and 1856 machine politicians, a state of things which had never hitherto existed in this country, and which he, for one, would extremely deprecate. But he thought their object must be the same on all sides. They desired, of course, that there should be a certain continuity of administration, and they desired that the expense and the frequency of elections should not be too great, while, at the same time, they wished that there should be sufficient contact between the representative body and their constituents. He must say it seemed to him that that state of things would be secured by the suggestion which had just been made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, which was in accordance with the previous suggestion of his right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler). The question of Aldermen was closely connected with this matter, for those who supported Aldermen in boroughs did so chiefly because they thought that Aldermen were the best means of securing a certain continuity of administration. But he thought it would be found that if each Council should be elected for six years, and one-third should retire every two years, the object for which Aldermen had been appointed was sufficiently secured, and they might very well get rid of what, after all, was an invidious portion of a representative body. Do doubt, if that were done in the case of the County Councils, the precedent would be soon followed in the case of Municipal Corporations.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, he was somewhat astonished at what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). If he understood him rightly, he understood him to assert that the frequency of elections in municipal matters was an evil. That surely was a new idea in the experience of the right hon. Gentleman, who used to think that the more frequent the elections were in a borough the less there would be of excitement with regard to them, and the more they would express the real popular feeling of the place. He could quite understand the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury in regard to the counties where the elections would take place among an agri- 1857 cultural population sparsely distributed, and in consequence there would be more difficulties than in the boroughs. It was certainly a new departure for the right hon. Member for West Birmingham to intimate that he intended to do his best to keep the democracy from the too frequent expression of their views.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
said, it was a new revelation to him that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham should object to the electorate too frequently expressing their opinion. He thought that in the rural districts especially a frequent appeal to the electorate would have a beneficial effect upon the political education of the electors. Frequent appeals to the people would be of great advantage in this respect. The electors were scattered about in the counties, and did not read the daily papers. If they had their emotions stirred by appeals in connection with elections of County Councils, he thought it would have a material effect on the political education of the electors generally, and would excite a vast amount of interest in the work of the County Council. One of the defects of this Bill was that by it local government was too much removed from the doors of the people themselves. He should be glad to see any enactment that would bring it to their doors once a-year, and thus create an interest in the work of the County Council which was governing them. So far as contests were concerned, he believed they would be of much less frequent occurrence if the elections took place annually. As to the matter of expense, his experience was that the most expensive contest that could be entered upon was a contest for the school board; because they had no means ready for carrying on the contest, and every three years they had to provide fresh machinery. That remark was certainly true in regard to the town of Birmingham. Much had been said about obtaining the best men to serve on the Councils, but he believed the best men to be those who came most frequently into contact with the electorate, and, therefore, in the interests of the Councils, as well as of the people themselves, he was in favour of a frequent appeal to the constituents.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
said, he thought it was desirable that the Committee should understand 1858 exactly what the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury was. As he understood it, it was this—that he would bring up a proposal to elect members of the Council for six years, one-third to retire every two years. Was he correct in that understanding?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, the hon. Member was not accurate in saying that he had bound himself to any period of retirement.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
said, he was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the correction. But the most important point he wished to refer to was this—he understood the right hon. Gentleman expressly declined to reconsider the question of area. Now, unless the single-member area was reconsidered, the position would be this—the members of the Council elected for six years, one-third of them to retire every six years; so that each elector would only have an opportunity of expressing an opinion as to the manner in which the County Councils did their work once in every six years.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said, that he rose to support, as a County Member, the contention of his hon. Friend the Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottinghamshire (Mr. J. E. Ellis). He was glad to note that the First Lord of the Treasury, in reconsidering the provisions of the Bill, did not bind himself to any particular period. He must protest against the adoption of six years as altogether too long, and he was prepared to abide by the decision come to by the Committee last night.
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL, &c.) (Kirkcaldy
said, the Amendment before the Committee was to omit the words "shall then retire altogether." There was an agreement on both sides of the House that those words ought to be omitted. There was a practical agreement that all the members of the Council should not retire together, but that there ought to be some continuity, a portion only retiring at one period, and a portion at another. The question for the Committee to decide was what the period of retirement should be, whether at the end of one year, two years, or any other period? He should suggest that the best course would be that the Government should accept the Amend- 1859 ment now before the Committee, and omit the words which all of them desired omitted, and then decide the question as to the period at which the election should take place.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, that the discussion which had occurred was extremely unsatisfactory. Last night, in a full House, the Committee thought they had decided an important leading principle of the Bill; but now the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury got up and practically told them that all these questions were again to be considered. They would soon have to pass from this clause to the clause which related to the election of District Councils, and they would be in a position of not knowing what the decision of the House was upon far more important questions closely allied to it. He understood the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to say that he was ready to consider all the questions which had been decided last night. He hoped that that was not really so, and he trusted that the Committee would have a more distinct statement from the right hon. Gentleman as to the exact words that were still left open.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
, in moving, in page 2, line 1, to leave out the words "and one elective councillor only shall be elected for each electoral division," said, the Amendment raised a very important question. Every student of history must have been surprised that representative institutions had not been more general, and that when introduced they had not been more successful. One great reason he believed was the system of voting which had been adopted, and he ventured to advocate the present Amendment on two main grounds—first, because it would tend to secure better representation; and, secondly, because it would give the people representatives who would more surely be in accordance with the views of the constituency. What happened under the present system? The elector, no doubt, was nominally free to vote as he liked; but, as a matter of fact, two men were put up—the nominees of some committee or association. Both were, probably, thorough-going partizans. It might well 1860 be that neither of them at all represented the views of the elector. But what could he do? Suppose he were a Liberal, but entirely disapproved of the so-called Liberal candidate. To put up a second, even if much more suitable, much more in accordance with the views of the majority of the Liberal electors, would split up the Liberal vote, and, in all probability, lead to defeat. If, on the other hand, the constituencies returned three or five members, there was much greater opportunity for the representation of different opinions. After the announcement just made by the Government, the elections under this Bill would not, it seemed, turn on the temperance question. But it might be taken as an example. Both sides would put up their candidate, and strain every nerve to carry him. Now, though a very important question, this was only one out of many, and all the rest would be excluded. Large constituencies, returning three or five members, would do much to free the electors from the domination of cliques and enable them to exercise an independent judgment. In the second place, he advocated this proposal because it would give a more accurate representation—because it would secure not only a hearing to the minority, but also power to the majority. It was sometimes stated that those who advocated proportional representation had no confidence in the people, and wished to override their will. Those who said so had obviously never mastered the question. Far from wishing in any way to override the will of the majority, one great object of the Amendment was to make sure that the majority should have the power which was their due. That would not be secured under the system proposed in the Bill. For instance, by the Constitution of 1841 Geneva was divided into four constituencies. In the City, as a whole, the Liberals had a large majority; but they were mainly massed in one district of the town, and the result was that, though in a majority, they only carried one constituency, while the Conservatives, though in a minority, were victorious in the other three. Leeds was divided by the last Reform Bill into five districts, each returning a single Member to that House. At the following election the Liberals polled 23,000 votes and the Conservatives 19,000, Yet 1861 the Conservative minority secured three seats and the Liberal majority only two. It was evident that if the Liberals had been evenly spread over the whole of Leeds they would have carried every seat by a majority of 20 per cent. Being, however, concentrated in two constituencies, they carried those two by overwhelming majorities of 2,300 in one case and 2,000 in the other, but were defeated in the other three. The Committee would see, therefore, that in such a case the result of an election did not depend so much on the relative numbers polling, but on the manner in which the votes chanced to be divided. With a given superiority in numbers the majority might carry every seat, leaving the minority without a single representative, which, it must surely be admitted, would be unjust, and, therefore, undesirable. On the other hand, as he had shown, the opposite result might, and often would happen, and the minority of electors would obtain a majority of representatives, which would be even more unfortunate. The system proposed in the Bill would, therefore, reduce the representation of local districts to a matter of chance. The majority might entirely exclude the minority from the County Councils, or, on the other hand, they might fail to secure even a majority of representatives. Surely it was ridiculous and discreditable that we should deliberately adopt a mode of election which would thus reduce the result to chance. Moreover, in local government this consideration was, in one respect, of more pressing importance than in Parliamentary elections. The Liberal electors of Leeds were able to console themselves for their disappointments by the knowledge that in other places Liberals secured more than their fair share of representation, though probably this was not so comforting to the candidates themselves. But in elections for local affairs this would not be the case. If an election were fought on Education or Local Option, and a minority of voters secured the majority of representatives, it would be little consolation to the defeated majority to feel that their side had had undue success somewhere else. This Amendment would secure a hearing to the minority, and, what was of even more importance, power to the majority. These were essential to true representa- 1862 tion; but neither of them would be secured by the system proposed in the Bill. It was sometimes said that proportional representation would give increased power to "fads." The very reverse was the case. That was the effect of the present system. Two candidates were before the electors. It was known that the contest would be very close. Then came, 100 earnest men—say, perhaps, anti-vaccinationists. They made everything depend on the question in which they felt an intense interest. Their 100 votes, making a difference of 200 in the result, would turn the election, thus giving them undue power of putting pressure on the candidate, a power which, under proportional representation, was greatly reduced. There were other minor, but yet considerable, advantages, such as the avoidance of the necessity for new areas, which, moreover, would require constant revision. He had seen it recently stated that proportional representation might be a very fit subject for a discussion at the Royal Society, but was not of a practical character, and that it was a system which the electors of the country would never grasp. Why, we had had one form of proportional representation, and perhaps the most complicated form, in operation in this country for 18 years in our school board elections. A Committee of the House was appointed in 1885 to inquire into the manner in which it had worked; and Mr. Forster, Sir Francis Sandford, and Mr. Cumin, all agreed that the satisfactory working of school boards was greatly due to the operation of proportional representation. This Amendment did not raise the question of the mode of voting at all; that would be a matter for subsequent consideration. All the Amendment did was to give larger electoral areas. He ventured, then, to recommend the Amendment to the Committee. It would tend to free the electors from the dictation of wire-pullers; to induce the best men to stand; and would give life and energy to the local government of our country.
In page 2, line 1, to leave out the words "and one elective councillor only shall be elected for each electoral division."—(Sir John Lubbock.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'and one' stand part of the Clause."1863
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
said, he wished to say a few words on the subject of proportional representation, which he understood was raised by the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock). He must own that the position of those who favoured proportional representation was somewhat prejudiced by the fact that the alternative system of election and retiring by rotation had been accepted by the House. He imagined, however, that there was no Gentleman in the House of Commons who did not maintain that he was anxious to see fair representation given alike to minorities and majorities. Everybody embraced that doctrine, no matter what his politics might be; but he doubted very much whether any hon. Member would maintain that the present system really carried out the doctrine. It could be proved in a few minutes by means of a pencil and a piece of paper that, theoretically at any rate, the system of single-Member constituencies did not give fair proportional representation to all sections of the population. But this was not all, for it could also be shown that the system did not actually result in fair representation. Various illustrations of this fact had been given at different times. When, therefore, it was practically admitted by everybody that, in theory at any rate, the present system did not give them what they all desired, and when it was further admitted—and he supposed it would not be seriously questioned—that it was quite possible to adopt some method by which fair representation would be given, he could not understand how hon. Gentlemen could object to a proposal in favour of proportional representation. It would, no doubt, be urged that such a system would be so exceedingly difficult to understand that voters would inevitably make great mistakes in carrying it out. But he would remind the House of the numerous prophecies which were indulged in two or three year ago, to the effect that labourers would find it extraordinarily difficult to put their cross against the name of the candidate they wished to support in the Election of 1885. Yet, notwithstanding those forebodings, they all knew how extremely small was the proportion of spoiled papers. He believed that uneducated 1864 people would be able to carry the proportional representation system into practice with quite as much facility as they carried out the present system. The scheme advocated by the hon. Baronet the Member for London University was not at present before the Committee; but, with the view of doing what little he could to support that scheme, he should vote for the Amendment which the hon. Baronet had moved.
§ MR. MORRISON (York, W.R., Skipton)
said, that, under the present system of voting, minorities had to content themselves with an inferior class of candidates; whereas, under the system of proportional representation, they would have the strongest interest in selecting the strongest man, in the hope that his return would, to some extent, make up for their deficiency in numerical strength. This was not a mere question of theory. The school boards had, no doubt, been very extravagant in their expenditure; but it could not be denied that they had been very efficient. There had been singularly little jobbery in connection with the school boards, and they had shown very considerable efficiency in the management of elementary schools. They had also shown tact, because they had solved the religious difficulty. The late Mr. Forster said that that difficulty would disappear when men found themselves seated round a table, and could meet it face to face. Mr. Forster's prophecy had proved true. In the school board elections attempts were sometimes made to rouse the spirit of religious intolerance; but when the election was over the members of the board, meeting round a table, found that there were among them far more points of agreement than points of difference, and soon discovered a modus vivendi. He thought this had been largely owing to the fact that, under the system of cumulative voting adopted in school board elections, minorities took care to put their best men forward. In view of the experience which had thus been gained of proportional representation—although the school board system was very imperfect in form—he thought that mode of representation was full of hope for the future. It must not be forgotten that the Councils to be created under this Bill would be purely administrative; and, that being so, it 1865 was of the utmost importance that each large section of the community should be represented upon them. It was often argued that proportional representation was not required in reference to the House of Commons, because that section of opinion which failed to secure representation in one district obtained it in another. This would, however, be by no means the case in the comparatively small areas contemplated under this Bill. He believed that proportional representation on these Councils would be a great safeguard against jobbery. Probably nobody would deny that the great danger of democratic institutions was the danger of jobbery. The presence on a Board of one strong man who had access to papers, and who knew what was going on, would often have the effect of nipping jobbery in the bud. Those who wished to job feared publicity, and were afraid of a man who was likely to drag their evil practices to light. Those who advocated the representation of minorities claimed that the electoral system should be so arranged that, while the majority ruled, the minority should be heard. He would point out that it was a fallacy to suppose that under the present system the majority necessarily prevailed. That system gave enormous advantages to small minorities. Every Member of that House knew how great was the power of minorities when composed of men fanatically attached to a particular doctrine, willing to sacrifice everything else to carry their point, and ready to give their votes to those who would bid the highest for them. It often happened, especially where a minority was regarded as a power, that a candidate was bound to pledge himself to support some "fad" which the majority of his supporters emphatically condemned. The system of cumulative voting had worked well throughout the country, and the plan proposed by his hon. Friend (Sir John Lubbock) was of the simplest character. In Denmark it had worked for over 30 years with great smoothness, and he did not suppose that anybody in Denmark thought of overthrowing the system. All that was now asked was that the Committee should accept the principle of minority representation, leaving the details to be settled at a subsequent stage.
§ MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
said, there were several reasons why he felt bound to support the Amendment. In the first place, he regarded. it as most important, in the interest of the future efficiency of the County Councils, that the electors should vote for candidates primarily because they were sensible men of business, and not because they were the nominees of any particular Party. If the system of single-member constituencies were adopted, it would inevitably lead to the adoption by candidates of the propaganda of political Parties, and the individual merits of men as representatives of the ratepayers would be disregarded. In the next place, if the Committee were going to adopt a plan for the periodical retirement of members of County Councils, in accordance with what appeared to be the general wish of hon. Members, it would be desirable to have, at least, three members for each constituency. In the third place, he thought that some system of proportional representation ought to be adopted. He confessed that he could not vote for the actual scheme which the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) had put on the Paper. He was certain that it was so obscure in its wording that it would lend itself to misrepresentation, and, however honestly the officials did their work, they would be open to the charge of having manipulated the returns. Why should the Committee not resort to the system that had worked so well in the school board elections for some years past? He knew that the common argument against the system of proportional representation was that it was un-English. It had, however, ceased to be un-English since it had been in use on the school boards. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) had said that any system of proportional representation was unsuited for the rough and tumble character of English political life. He (Mr. Whitmore) did not see why we should always have rough and tumble even in political elections. The Corrupt Practices Act had introduced a great change in the whole conduct of such elections, and this change had been gratefully acquiesced in by the Conservatives. He believed that in the elections which would take 1867 place under this Bill there need be nothing of a rough and tumble character, and that as the cumulative vote worked perfectly well in school board elections it would work well in County Council elections. He was himself most heartily in accord with the general principle advocated by the hon. Baronet the Member for London University, and he should certainly do all he could to secure, not that the real voice of public opinion should in any way be silenced, but that public opinion, in all its modifications, should, as far as possible, receive adequate representation on the County Councils.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he had to ask pardon of the Committee for rising to speak on the same side as those who had preceded him, but he wished to address himself to the question from a standpoint which had not been adopted by any of them. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) was in his place, he would deal with the arguments put forward by him when the question was under discussion in that House on a previous occasion. He had listened to the right hon. Gentleman with great care on the 15th of April, and had understood him to urge that such a proposition as was embodied in the Amendment of the hon. Member for London University was against the principle on which our whole system of popular representative government was based. He should venture to challenge that assertion, and to show that the right hon. Gentleman had either misunderstood or misrepresented the principle on which representative popular government was based. He had also understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the system of the representation of minorities was one by which the views of the majority would not be put in practice, and, further, that those who advocated minority representation did so in the belief that the majority of the people were always inclined to go wrong, and did not know what was best for them. He (Mr. Bradlaugh) would deal with these contentions in turn. In the first place, he asserted that the principle of the representation of minorities was essentially democratic. It was not a new matter for him to advocate the representation of minorities. John Stuart Mill was his teacher on that sub- 1868 ject 30 years ago, and John Stuart Mill certainly represented the opinion of the people of England more thoroughly and instructed that opinion more usefully than some of those who had set themselves up as leaders of the democracy in modern times. Those who supported the principle of the representations of minorities did not ask that the majority should be overruled; but they did ask that the majority should rule not by mere brute force, but in a spirit of intelligence and reason. They felt it was the duty of the minority to bow to the decision of the majority, whatever that decision might be; but they claimed that the decision of the majority could only be intelligently given after the minority had been heard. A minority could only be heard in the Legislative Council of the nation when it had sufficient numerical strength to entitle it to representation, and the majority could only decide intelligently when the Representatives of the minority had stated their views to the House. He could understand that there might be some who did not wish the majority to think before they decided, and who were content with the blind rule of a majority wound up from some centre by a skilfully contrived key, provided that they had the key in their own hands. He was not of opinion that such a system had ever been for the benefit of the people. The proper education of the people in political matters could only be secured by allowing minorities to be heard. It was for this reason that he supported the Amendment, and that he appealed to the Government to adopt it, if only to provide the means of experimenting in the direction of the representation of minorities. He knew that those with whom he was associated, and for whom he might claim most right to speak, were safe in their numbers. Numbers were, however, but a poor protection to the people when the numbers expressed their view without having more than one side of a question presented to them. It might be said that minorities could express their views by means of pamphlets and public meetings; but the best place, and the true place, for the expression of opinions for or against legislation was the House of Commons. He hoped that those who objected to this Amendment would not do so on the pretence that it was not democratic. The proposition which it 1869 embodied was really the most democratic that could be submitted to the House—namely, that the majority should rule, but that they should consider before they judged, and that their decision should be based not on the blind strength of their numbers, but on an intelligent appreciation of the points at issue.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, he took it for granted that the Government would oppose the Amendment. The subject which it raised was not a new one, but had been before Parliament for a great many years. It was discussed in connection with the Reform Bill of 1867, when a strong attempt was made to introduce a provision to the effect that Parliament should, somehow or other, be elected by the minority of the people. It was thought that time that, on the whole, minorities were always wiser than majorities. Of course, that was a doctrine which, for the moment, it would be to the interest of the Opposition to maintain; but, remembering that minorities developed into majorities, he adhered to the old opinion that majorities should prevail. Mr. Disraeli described the various schemes of proportional representation, and all the other ingenious conundrums, as he called them, which were then brought forward, as a means of introducing crotchety men into Parliament. The point raised by the Amendment was fought out upon the Reform Bill of two years ago. The principle was carried out much further in that Bill, The proposal his hon. Friend was making was one which was absolutely contrary to the repeated decisions of Parliament. He did not desire to occupy the time of the Committee, but he was quite certain that on this question the Government would adhere to the proposals they had made, which were consistent with the course Parliament had taken, and which they themselves took upon the County Government Bill.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was quite right in assuming that the Government proposed to adhere to the proposals they made in the Bill; but, although the right hon. Gentleman and the Government were in agreement upon this point, he did not quite understand some of the 1870 remarks the right hon. Gentleman had made. He had great sympathy with the object which the hon. Gentleman desired to see taken up, that minorities should be adequately represented, if it was possible to organize any system by which that representation could be properly attained. But, so far as the proposals of the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) were concerned, they had, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby had very justly said, been more than once before the House of Commons, and the House of Commons had, without any hesitation, expressed views adverse to them. It would be quite out of place for the Government to endeavour to re-open this very controversy again, and to set up a system in respect to local institutions which had been deliberately rejected by the House of Commons in reference to Parliamentary elections. He did not believe for a moment that, whatever might be the merits of the proposal of the hon. Baronet, the advocates of proportional representation had yet succeeded in making the smallest impression upon the public mind with reference to their proposal. And, without going over the difficulties which had always been raised, difficulties which proportional representation involved, it was obvious that those difficulties, such as they were, would be greatly aggravated if there was one method of voting at Parliamentary elections and another method of voting at the elections of the County Councils. If there were no difficulties which the mind of the ordinary voter might not be unable to overcome, certainly there would be difficulties created in the mind of the rural voter if he had to give his vote for a Representative in Parliament in one way, and to give it for a representative on the County Council in another way. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby had spoken of single-member areas as being opposed to the interests of minority representation. The Government, however, regarded the single-member areas as in some sense securing a modified form of minority representation. It was perfectly clear how that had been brought about. In the case of a double-member constituency it was quite certain that the majority would be able to return both members; but, if they were to split the area into two and to have one member for each, 1871 it was conceivable that they might have a majority in a different direction in one of those areas. That being so, they secured minority representation, whereas, if two votes were given by all the voters in the double constituency, the minority would not be represented at all. Therefore, they thought that by single-member areas they were making provision for securing a modified form of minority representation. His hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Whitmore) seemed to think that with three-member areas there would be less chance of conflict upon Party lines. He did not know whether that was the experience of gentlemen who were connected with the Town Councils, or who had experience of Local Bodies; but he rather fancied that if there were to be a contest at all on Party lines, it was just as likely to take place in three-member areas as in single-member areas, so that he was afraid the proposal of the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) had not the merit his hon. Friend (Mr. Whitmore) seemed to think it had. There were many advantages in maintaining single-member areas; they were the areas for Parliamentary elections, and the Government did not believe there was any reason why they should not be the areas for the election of County Councils. They, therefore, adopted this proposal quite apart from the argument used by those in favour of the proposal of the hon. Baronet for three-member areas. He sincerely regretted it was not in his power to accept the Amendment of the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
said, he regretted very much that this important subject was discussed while the Chairman (Mr. Courtney) was in the Chair. He felt the arguments in favour of proportional representation would, if he might say so without any reflection upon those who had spoken, have been put before the House far more ably, and far more conclusively, if the hon. Gentleman had not been debarred from taking part in the discussion by his occupancy of the Chair. He (Mr. Sydney Gedge) wished to say a few words in support of the Amendment, not, of course, with the smallest idea of being able to supply the place the Chairman might have so ably filled. He hoped that before long they might hear the hon. and learned Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) taking up 1872 the same side, for he well remembered in December, 1884, or January, 1885, seeing from a placard that the hon. and learned Gentleman was to address a meeting in favour of proportional representation. He regretted very much that the Government had met the proposal of the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) with a simple non possumus. He hoped that inasmuch as the Amendment had been supported by Liberal Unionists, and by Liberals who were not Unionists, as well as by many of the Government's own supporters, the Government might have been induced to accept it. They heard, in the first place, from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that it would be puzzling, especially in the rural districts, if there were elections for Parliamentary Representatives under one system, and elections for the representatives of Local Bodies under another system. He (Mr. Sydney Gedge) had a great deal more trust in the people of the rural districts, as well as in the people of the towns, than to adopt such an argument. He not only trusted their hearts; he had not only that sort of confidence which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was so fond of talking about; but he trusted their intellects and common sense. He believed that the man who was incapable of discriminating between two systems of voting was not fit to have a vote at all. Experience, however, had shown that the working men of this country were perfectly able to comprehend the proposed system; trial elections had taken place, and the working classes had shown themselves quite capable of understanding it. Was it to be argued that the people in this country could not understand a system of proportional representation, when for 30 years it had been in operation in Denmark? Under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the late Mr. Forster, the system was introduced, in 1870, of several members of School Boards being returned for each constituency by a cumulative vote, and of there really being proportional representation; and why should they be unable to do that in 1888 which was done perfectly well in 1870? It was a poor commentary upon the results of the Education Act that 1873 those who had been educated under it for 18 years should be less competent to vote intellectually on the new system than those who had not been educated. But then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, with a Toryism for which he would not have given the right hon. Gentleman credit, was quite shocked at the idea that in 1888 Parliament should do anything it resolved not to do a few years ago. He wished the right hon. Gentleman would apply that maxim to the proposal to give Home Rule to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman and all his Friends up to three years ago were totally opposed to the concession of Home Rule to Ireland; and, according to the right hon. Gentleman's theory, that was a reason why they should not vote for it now. There was a different Parliament now; there was a Parliament more in touch with the people; and they were not to be told, especially by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that if a thing was good in itself, they were not to do it because Parliament in former years had decided against it. Then they really seemed unable to see what were the merits of the proposed system. The right hon. Gentleman called it an ingenious plan by which Parliament was to be elected by the minority of the people. If he had taken the trouble to look into the matter he would have seen that this system would prevent the minority ruling. There was no system which so thoroughly secured the due representation of the majority as the system of proportional representation. Its meaning was representation in proportion to the numbers holding different opinions, and therefore the majority in the country must of necessity, under some one of the proposed systems, obtain a majority in representation, or there would not be proportional representation. Under the prevent system representation was very largely a matter of chance or haphazard. Let them assume that the people of a town, numbering 10,000, were gathered in a plain in order to vote on different questions; that they then found they were too numerous; that the questions could not be properly heard by all of them; and that, therefore, they divided themselves into batches of 100 each, each of which batches they agreed should elect a representative. The people would know perfectly well that if they were to 1874 split themselves up in this way by lot, or by haphazard, just as they might happen to stand, it might happen that those who were of one way of thinking might crowd together, and thus enable the minority to return a majority of the representatives. Such a result had occurred in England. He remembered that in 1874, when the Conservatives came into power with a majority of 50, there were elaborate calculations made to show that they were really in a minority in the country, and that it was through the happy or unhappy accident of the Radicals being crowded together more than the Conservatives that the Radical strength had been thrown away, and that the minority in the country had returned a majority to Parliament. That, of course, might happen under the single-seat system even more so than under the old system, but if they adopted the plan proposed by the hon. Baronet they rendered such a result almost impossible. Every set of opinions would be adequately represented, and, therefore, he trusted the Amendment would receive the assent of the Committee. There was one other point he wished particularly to mention, and it was that under the present single-seat system enormous and undue power was given to those who held strong views on any one particular subject, such, for instance, as vaccination, far greater power than their numbers warranted, because it might happen that five or 10 electors might be able to turn an election. It was well known that these small bodies went to weak-kneed candidates, and obtained their support from fear of losing their seats, and that they were then bound to vote in accordance with the promise they had given, which vote appeared to be supported by a large majority of the constituencies, while, in reality, it was but the wish of a small body in each. Under the proposed system these bodies could concentrate their votes, and thus, possibly, be able to return one out of three or one out of four of the candidates. As a matter of fact, they would be proportionally represented; they would have their due weight; they would have the weight which their numbers and influence entitled them to, and the majority would be in the same satisfactory position.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said, he was one of those who 1875 were very strongly of opinion that the House of Commons did right, when it considered the question of Parliamentary reform, to adopt the single-Member seat system, and to put aside the proposal of proportional representation. But when that was said and done he did not think the arguments then used, which his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) had re-quoted, had anything whatever to do with the question they were discussing that afternoon. The question of the proportional representation of minorities in respect to local matters had never been brought before the House of Commons in a concrete form, such as they were discussing on the present occasion. Therefore, it seemed to him that it was no argument on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to say the House of Commons had discussed this question over and over again in reference to Parliamentary elections, and had decided that in regard to Parliamentary elections they would not adopt the principle of proportional representation. He (Mr. Sydney Buxton) had not yet, in the speeches of those who were opposed to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for London University (Sir John Lubbock), heard anything by way of an attempt to meet the difficulty of how they were going, on the new Councils, to obtain a varied representation such as was desirable in local affairs. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Whitmore) truly said that the elections in municipalities at present turned far too much on questions of Party politics, and in respect to the Amendment they had just discussed the argument had turned on the advisability of obtaining the services of those persons interested in local matters who had great knowledge of administration rather than of questions of policy. But, unless they adopted some form of minority representation in respect to these Councils, it was pretty clear to anyone conversant with local districts, that the contests would continue to turn on Party politics; and that they would not obtain the services of many admirable administrators who otherwise would desire to stand, and who would certainly have a fair chance of being 1876 elected. His right hon. Friend the Member for Derby said that all our institutions were founded on the theory of single seats; but he quite ignored the fact that the school board elections were based on an entirely opposite theory. He (Mr. Sydney Buxton) was not altogether in favour of the cumulative vote system, and he could not help thinking that they would have done better had they adopted some other seat system of minority voting in regard to school boards. The only argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board against the Amendment, so far as he (Mr. Sydney Buxton) could gather, was that if they gave some form of proportional representation to these Local Bodies they would confuse the minds of the electors, who, he said, would have to vote one way in Parliamentary elections and another way in County Council elections. Surely the right hon. Gentleman was aware that that was the case now in all boroughs where there were school boards, and in many rural districts in which school boards were elected. If the people were so confused in this matter already, he thought it was greatly to be wondered at that there had been such good school boards as there had been in the past. He would like to hear on behalf of the Government, and those who opposed this Amendment, some real reason given as to how they would get over the difficulty as to these elections turning upon Party politics, or upon some question which might arise at the moment. Looking at it from the point of view of the advisability of getting the best administrators in the Local Bodies, and not because he was enamoured of this particular form of minority vote, he should support the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT GRIMSTON (Herts, St. Alban's)
said, he regretted extremely to learn, from the tone of the speeches which had been delivered on this question, that the political element would probably be introduced into the new County Councils, from which the late system of government was so happily free. But he hoped that the system, which would eventually find favour in the House, would be that of minority representation, based upon the old three-cornered constituencies, a system which worked very well in the past, and which, 1877 he believed, would work very well in all sorts of elections, whether for Parliamentary Representatives or for the representatives upon County Councils. The system of having three members for each constituency, and two votes for each elector, certainly was a system which adequately provided for the due representation of the minority. He simply put this notion forward now as he had not spoken of it before, and he trusted the Government might see their way to adopt it.
§ MR. CHANNING
said, there was one practical consideration which had not been touched upon by any previous speaker, and which seemed to him to be absolutely conclusive in favour of the Government view. They were not legislating for towns, but for country districts. What they wished to secure was the representation upon the County Councils of the definite local wants and wishes of definite and small local areas. He feared that, under the system of proportional representation now proposed, it would be impossible to secure an adequate and just representation of these small local areas, and that, he thought, was quite conclusive in favour of the proposal of the Government. He did not think that they need enter into the question of the possibility of the agricultural population understanding the proportional system of representation. He thought fears in that direction had been greatly exaggerated. But any such system was incompatible with the direct representation of distinctly local requirements, and the object was best met by the single-member district plan of the Government.
MR. BARING (London)
said, that if the right hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had been able to be in his place that afternoon, he (Mr. Baring) would have contented himself with giving his vote in silence as his conscience bade him. But, as the right hon. Baronet was unfortunately unable to attend, and had at a meeting of the Essex magistrates held in the month of March, undertook, at the unanimous request of between 50 and 60 magistrates, to support the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for London University (Sir John Lubbock), he (Mr. Baring) felt bound to speak. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury 1878 (Mr. W. H. Smith) and the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill (Mr. Ritchie) knew perfectly well that Essex had not, for many years past at all events, been an especially Radical county, and that the Essex magistrates were not biassed in that direction in their views. But the Resolution which was moved by the right hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex was supported with equal strength by Gentlemen of opinions opposed to those which he himself held. It was no Party question, and the Resolution adopted was to the effect that single-member constituencies would tend to the exclusion of many persons who would be desirable members of County Councils, and that it would be wise that some provision should be made for proportionate representation. Like the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Sydney Buxton) they did not feel themselves bound to pin themselves to any particular form of proportional representation; they were prepared to accept three or five member districts where each person could only give one vote, or they were prepared to accept a system under which people could give two votes in three-cornered constituencies, or they were prepared to accept the proposal which the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney) had so eloquently, and he believed so intelligibly, defined. The fact, however, stood on record that the magistrates of a suburban county assembled, with no opposition whatever, passed a resolution in the sense of the Amendment now moved; and even if he could vote against it conscientiously, he should feel bound to vote in the sense of the body with whom he had acted for so many years.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W,)
said, he must confess that he was not quite certain whether the fact that the resolution referred to by the hon. Gentleman was supported by 60 magistrates of a suburban county, who had themselves no representative capacity whatever, would be a recommendation to those who were now endeavouring to set up a popular representative system of government. He agreed with some, at all events, of the objections which had been put forward by the supporters of this Amendment, and he could not agree with all of them. He agreed, however, that it was very desirable that on these 1879 new representative bodies minorities as well as majorities should find a place, and he agreed also that it would be a great misfortune if under any system men of great capacity for dealing with local affairs should be excluded. He did not, however, at all agree with his hon. Friend (Mr. S. Buxton) and other speakers who were so exceedingly anxious to exclude Imperial politics from elections for Local Bodies, and he might say that on this point he had had some little experience, because in Birmingham they had really lived under both systems. In the old time the Birmingham Town Council was an entirely non-political body. What was the result? It never was a corrupt body; no one ever brought against the Birmingham Town Council any charge of corruption; but it certainly became an extremely inefficient body, and the reason was that there was so little interest taken in the elections that anybody who was willing to serve could get the nomination of a few people who were locally influential. Then came the time when politics were introduced into the Town Council, not by the Party to which he belonged, but by the opposite Party. But he confessed he welcomed the introduction, because the immediate result was that the elections became very much more interesting to the constituency, a very much larger number of voters, almost as many as in the Parliamentary election, took part in the elections, and a better class of candidates stood for the local government. He thought it would be generally admitted by all Parties that now the Corporation of Birmingham afforded a good example for Bodies conducting local government. Having had this practical experience, he was not at all afraid of the introduction of Imperial politics into the election of these Bodies. He believed that if Imperial politics were introduced, as they would be into the elections of the new County Councils—he was perfectly certain that, do what they might, they would not be able to keep them out—they would find on the whole a better class of persons anxious to serve than if the elections were exclusively confined to purely sanitary and local questions. He agreed that the new Bodies should be thoroughly representative, and that men of ability should not be excluded from them. It was because he believed that the present 1880 system had roughly secured both those objects, and that it secured them much better than this alternative system would, that he objected to these curious and complicated devices for securing the representation of minorities. One thing he wanted the House to remark. They had had a succession of speeches in favour of proportional representation, but every one of the speakers had said that he did not pledge himself to any particular system; but that was the very crux of the whole matter. He and others wanted to know what it was that hon. Gentlemen really proposed. It was because every plan of this kind had been shown to be open to grave objections that he opposed the Amendment. Those Members who, speaking in favour of the Amendment, said they were not pledged to this or that plan were always found to be voting for any plan which was laid before the House. They admitted there were grave objections to the different proposals made, yet they invariably supported them. They supported, for instance, minority representation in the form of three-cornered constituencies which had conspicuously failed, and for which no one had now a good word to say. They supported the cumulative vote for school boards, and although they admitted the system was a very imperfect one his hon. Friend thought that on the whole it had been a conspicuous success. [Sir JOHN LUBBOCK: Not a conspicuous success—a success.] He (Mr. Chamberlain) thought it had been a most inconspicuous success. There would be no doubt as to the comparative merits of school boards and Town Councils, although when the Education Act was passed and a matter of the strongest possible interest—namely, the odium theologicum—was thrown among the constituencies, the greatest possible interest was evinced in the elections, and persons of considerable distinction took part on both sides in the work. He ventured to say that the average throughout the country had since then been deteriorating, and that at the present time the competition for seats was not so good in regard to school boards as it was for Town Councils. Under these circumstances he thought they should be content with what they had. The present system after all, worked well. There were cases of occasional failure, cases where the 1881 majority had not been fairly represented; but surely it was better to have a system of this kind, which he held had worked well, than to apply a system upon which its supporters could not possibly agree, each one having in his hands a favourite system of his own, which he could not get a single other person to support when he brought it forward.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
said, he intended to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) without the slightest intention of following him into his ulterior designs in favour of minority representation. He looked at this matter from a Metropolitan point of view. Would the Committee consider for a moment the application of the single-member rule to the Metropolis? The Metropolis was represented in the House of Commons by about 60 Members; they were at present in the dark as to what the number in the County Councils for London would be; but he thought he might take it that the number could not possibly fall below 120, and that it was very much more likely to come near 220. If he was right, it followed that the constituency of a County Councillor for London would be about one-third of that of a London Member in the House of Commons. The average proportion of a London constituency was something between 60,000 and 70,000, so that it followed that a County Councillor for London would represent a population of something like 20,000 people, and a population of 20,000 people contracted together into a very narrow area. He thought that constituencies so small, and, if he might use the expression, so workable as these, would not be able to return representatives who would be likely to have the qualifications necessary for administering the affairs of this great City.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES (Gateshead)
said, he did not think that the progress of the Bill was very much promoted by discussing questions of fancy franchises. There had been many discussions at different times in the House on the question of proportional representation; but he was quite willing to admit that he had never been able to regard any one of the proposals as intelligible. He did not think that in the democracy, whom the pro- 1882 posals in this Bill were intended to interest, this project and these fancy franchises would present any very enlightening effect. What the mass of the people desired was something that was plain, and was to be understood. He had no wish to see minorities crushed, but he agreed that when people were in a minority they must make use of argument and reason to convert their minority into a majority. That was a principle which was perfectly plain and simple; it had been the basis of the whole of our system of popular representation. If they adopted one of these fancy franchises which had emanated at different times, but which he was glad had never made any great headway, he was afraid that in the attempt to heal the ills they had they would soon find themselves landed in others they knew not of.
§ MR. A. E. GATHORNE-HARDY (Sussex, East Grinstead)
said, he merely rose to adduce one argument against this proposal, which, so far as he knew, had not hitherto been raised. As he understood, the Government had wisely intimated their intention of adopting the principle of periodical retirement, and one reason why he intended to vote against the proposal of the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) was that it was impossible to work any system of minority representation concurrently with periodical retirement. He thought it was sufficiently obvious that if they had periodical retirement they could not have minority representation, and he could not but think that that argument was one which ought to have weight with those who, like himself, would on other grounds be anxious to give way to the opinions of the minority. He did not think that the school boards afforded the analogy that some hon. Members seemed to think. He should be very sorry to see the minority principle done away with in school boards, because there the religious element and other questions made it so desirable that small minorities should have some special representation. But the case of the County Councils was wholly different, especially since the Government had consented to adopt the principle of periodical retirement.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he protested against the introduction of Party politics in municipal elections. He thanked God they had nothing of 1883 that kind in Scotland. It would be the greatest misfortune to introduce into our municipal elections Parliamentary Party politics, and any system that would keep them out would, in his opinion, be of advantage. He would like to see the lion and the lamb of politics lie down together in matters of Local Government. He thought that if there was to be periodical retirement it would be of great advantage to have the members elected by wards, which system was in operation in Scotch burghs, and had been found to work well. He should, for this reason, support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. H. GARDNER
said, he regretted that, out of so many Members who had addressed the House, the majority had been Members representing borough or town interests, and that hon. Gentlemen representing County Divisions had spoken so little on this important subject. As representing a large County Division, he was extremely glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was in accordance with his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, although they had agreed on this subject from different points of view, because, whereas the right hon. Member for Derby safeguarded the rights of a possible majority, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, while safeguarding the rights of the majority, was also safeguarding the rights of a possible minority. The point which he ventured to press on the Committee was that of single districts. If the Committee accepted the Amendment, they would get a very much wider area for the electorate and the elected; and when they considered how difficult it would be for the poorer class to be represented on the County Council, and that it would add greatly to the difficulty of a member standing for a County Council if they were to increase the area of election, it would make it impossible for anyone but the richer classes to stand for election. For these reasons he was extremely glad that the Government had stated their intention of adhering to their original Resolution.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he felt very strongly on this question. He had not been much 1884 influenced by the arguments adduced by the hon. Baronet the Member for the London University, and by several of his supporters, because, with every desire to comprehend those arguments, he had scarcely been able to hear a single word which fell from their lips. He begged to say that the ears of Members on those Benches were not microphones, and, as he had stated, they were unable to hear a single word that had been uttered in support of the Amendment. He, therefore, fell back upon the very able speech delivered some weeks back by their talented Chairman (Mr. Courtney) in favour of minority representation. He had heard all that had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). He had a great respect for that right hon. Gentleman, who was one of those healthy and robust politicians that he and a great many men belonging to his Profession admired. But he did not agree with his arguments; and he thought that he held too strongly to the opinion that because single-member districts had been approved in Parliamentary representation it should be approved in elections for County Councils. The hon. Member for East Northamptonshire (Mr. Chan-fling) said he liked definite small local areas. Now, his answer to that was that definite small local areas would to a certainty return definite small local men; and just as it was found in county representation that large single-member districts, as a rule, returned large-minded men, with some exceptions opposite—[Laughter]—so he considered that large local areas in counties would give larger-minded men than smaller local areas. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham might bear in mind that small local areas had already small Local Authorities; but he did not want such men to come on the County Councils; he wanted men of superior intelligence, men who would take a larger view of business matters and questions affecting the county than smaller men. He would like to know how many County Councillors the Government were going to allot to each county? He would take his own county (Hampshire) which he did not represent, 1885 but with which he was perfectly familiar. In that county there were 14 Divisions, of one of which he was Chairman; and if they assigned three Councillors to each of the 14 Divisions, that would give 42 Councillors for the county of Hampshire. He believed that three members returned for the larger Divisions of the county would produce better men than if the same number of Councillors came from 42 smaller districts. He did not agree with his hon. Friend the Member for North Sussex (Mr. A. E. Gathorne-Hardy) with reference to the retirement portion of the scheme, when he said that there would be more difficulty in working a three-cornered system. There was another point which he would press on the attention of the Government, and which had not been alluded to in that day's discussion. If the Bill passed in its present shape and on its present lines, he thought they would would be laying the foundations on which a future Bill for Local Government in Ireland would certainly be framed. He looked forward to that with very great fear—that was to say, he thought, if single-member districts were adhered to in England, they would have to be introduced in Ireland; and, with the present state of feeling in that latter country, he greatly feared that the Nationalist Party would collar the whole representation, and that the loyal minority would be nowhere. Therefore, he said that the Government ought to give their grave attention to the proposal of the hon. Baronet, whose arguments he did not hear. He would like to make one appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman had told the Committee that the Government would adhere to their views. That was quite right, but Governments were eminently squeezable; and what he asked was, were hon. Members on these Benches free to vote as their consciences dictated? [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite laughed at an appeal to conscience, but had they no consciences? As he had said, Governments were eminently squeezable, and he desired to know whether hon. Members were to vote upon the Amendment, on the understanding that, if it were carried, the Government would loyally embrace it, and frame their Bill accordingly?
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 372; Noes 94: Majority 278.1889
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Coghill, D. H.|
|Coleridge, hon. B.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Colman, J. J.|
|Acland, C. T. D.||Compton, F.|
|Addison, J. E. W.||Conway, M.|
|Aird, J.||Conybeare, C. A. V.|
|Allison, R. A.||Cooke, C. W. R.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Corbet, W. J.|
|Anderson, C. H.||Cossham,|
|Anstruther, Colonel R. H. L.||Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.|
|Cox, J. R.|
|Asher, A.||Craig, J.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Asquith, H. H.||Craven, J.|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Crawford, D.|
|Austin, J.||Crawford, W.|
|Baden-Powell, Sir G.S.||Crilly, D.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Cross, H. S.|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Crossley, E.|
|Ballantine, W. H. W.||Cubitt, right hon. G.|
|Barbour, W. B.||Currie, Sir D.|
|Barnes, A.||Curzon, hon. G. N.|
|Barran, J.||Dalrymple, Sir C.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Darling, C. J.|
|Bates, Sir E.||Davenport, H. T.|
|Baumann, A. A.||Deasy, J.|
|Bazley-White, J.||De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.|
|Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks-||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Beadel, W. J.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Dodds, J.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Donkin, R. S.|
|Bigwood, J.||Dugdale, J. S.|
|Blundell, Colonel H. B. H.||Duncan, Colonel F.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Dyke, right hon. Sir W. H.|
|Borthwick, Sir A.|
|Bright, Jacob||Egerton, hon. A. J. F.|
|Bright, W. L.||Egerton, hon. A. de T.|
|Bristowe, T. L.||Elliot, Sir G.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Elliot, G. W.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Ellis, J. E.|
|Elton, C. I.|
|Brooks, Sir W. C.||Esmonde, Sir T. H. G.|
|Brown, A. H.||Esslemont, P.|
|Bruce, Lord H.||Evans, F. H.|
|Brunner, J. T.||Evershed, S.|
|Burt, T.||Ewing, Sir A. O.|
|Byrne, G. M.||Eyre, Colonel H.|
|Caine, W. S.||Farquharson, Dr. R.|
|Cameron, J.||Feilden, Lt -Gen. R. J.|
|Campbell, Sir A.||Fellowes, A. E.|
|Carew, J. L.||Fenwick, C.|
|Carmarthen, Marq. Of||Fergusson, right hon. Sir.J.|
|Causton, R. K.|
|Cavan, Earl of||Finch, G. H.|
|Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.||Finucane, J.|
|Chamberlain, R.||Fisher, W. H.|
|Channing, F. A.||Fitzgerald, R. U. P.|
|Charrington, S.||Fletcher, Sir H.|
|Childers, rt. hon. H. C. E.||Flower, C.|
|Flynn, J. C.|
|Clancy, J. J.||Foljambe, C. G. S.|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.||Folkestone, right hon. Viscount|
|Cobb, H. P.|
|Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N.||Forster, Sir C.|
|Forwood, A. B.|
|Foster, Sir B. W.||Kilbride, D.|
|Fox, Dr. J. F.||Kimber, H.|
|Fraser, General C. C.||King, H. S.|
|Fry, T.||Knightley, Sir R.|
|Fuller, G. P.||Knowles, L.|
|Fulton, J. F.||Kynoch, G.|
|Gardner, H.||Labouchere, H.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.||Lalor, R.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S.||Lawrance, J. C.|
|Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.|
|Giles A.||Lawson, H. L. W.|
|Gill, T. P.||Leahy, J.|
|Gilliat, J. S.||Leake, R.|
|Gladstone, H. J.||Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.|
|Godson, A. F.||Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.|
|Legh, T. W.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.||Lennox, Lord W. C. Gordon-|
|Goschen, right hon. G. J.|
|Lethbridge, Sir R.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Lewis, T. P.|
|Greenall, Sir G.||Lewisham, right hon. Viscount|
|Grotrian, F. B.||Llewellyn, E. H|
|Gully, W. C.||Long, W. H.|
|Hall, A. W.||Lowther, hon. W.|
|Hall, C.||Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.|
|Hambro, Col. C. J. T.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||Macdonald, W. A.|
|Hamilton, Lord E.||Mackintosh, C. F.|
|Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.||Maclean, F. W.|
|Hanbury, R. W.||Maclean, J. M.|
|Hankey, F. A.||Maclure, J. W.|
|Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V.||M'Arthur, A.|
|Harrington, E.||M'Donald, P.|
|Harris, M.||M'Ewan, W.|
|Hayden, L. P.||M'Kenna, Sir J. N.|
|Heath, A. R.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Heaton, J. H.||M'Laren, W. S. B.|
|Heneage, right hon. E.||Madden, D. H.|
|Maitland, W. F.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Malcolm, Col. J. W.|
|Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.||Mappin, Sir F. T.|
|Marjoribanks, rt. hon. E.|
|Hill, Colonel E. S.|
|Hoare, E. B.||Marum, E. M.|
|Hoare, S.||Matthews, right hon. H.|
|Hubbard, hon. E.||Mattinson, M. W.|
|Hughes, Colonel E.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Hughes-Hallett, Col. F. C.||Mayne, Admiral R. C|
|Hunter, Sir W. G.||Mills, hon. C. W.|
|Hunter, W. A.||Milvain, T.|
|Isaacs, L. H.||Molloy, B. C.|
|Isaacson, F. W.||More, R. J.|
|Jackson, W. L.||Morgan, hon. F.|
|Jacoby, J. A.||Morgan, right hon. G. O.|
|James, hon. W. H.|
|Jeffreys, A. F.||Morgan, O. V.|
|Jennings, L. J.||Morley, rt. hon. J.|
|Joicey, J.||Morley, A.|
|Jordan, J.||Mount, W. G.|
|Kay-Shuttleworth, rt. hon. Sir U. J.||Mowbray, right hon. Sir J. R.|
|Kenrick, W.||Mowbray, R. G. C.|
|Kenyon, hon. G. T||Mundella, right hon. A. J.|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.|
|Muntz, P. A.|
|Kerans, F. H,||Murdoch, C. T.|
|Murphy, W. M.||Samuelson, Sir B.|
|Newark, Viscount||Samuelson, G.B.|
|Newnes, G.||Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. M.|
|Nolan, Colonel J. P.||Schwann, C. E.|
|Nolan, J.||Seton-Karr, H.|
|Norris, E. S.||Sexton, T.|
|Northcote, hon. Sir H. S.||Shaw, T.|
|Shaw-Stewart, M. H.|
|Norton, R.||Sheehy, D.|
|O'Brien, J. F. X.||Sheil, E.|
|O'Brien, P. J.||Sidebotham, J. W.|
|O'Connor, A.||Simon, Sir J.|
|O'Connor, J.||Slagg, J.|
|O'Hanlon, T.||Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|O'Hea, P.||Smith, S.|
|O'Keeffe, F. A.||Spencer, hon. C. R.|
|Paget, Sir R. H.||Spencer, J. E.|
|Parker, C. S.||Stack, J.|
|Parker, hon. F.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Parnell, C. S.||Stanhope, hon. P. J.|
|Paulton, J. M.||Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.|
|Pearce, Sir W.||Stephens, H. C.|
|Pease, A. E.||Stevenson, F. S.|
|Pease, H F.||Stevenson, J. C.|
|Pelly, Sir L.||Storey, S.|
|Pickard, B.||Sullivan, D.|
|Pinkerton, J.||Summers, W.|
|Playfair, rt. hon. Sir L.||Swinburne, Sir J.|
|Plowden, Sir W. C.||Tanner, C. K.|
|Plunket, right hon. D. R.||Tapling, T. K.|
|Temple, Sir R.|
|Plunkett, hon. J. W.||Theobald, J.|
|Pomfret, W. P.||Thomas, A.|
|Portman, hon. E. B.||Thomas, D. A.|
|Potter, T. B.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Powell, F. S.||Trevelyan, right hon. Sir G. O.|
|Powell, W. R. H.|
|Power, P. J.||Trotter, Col. H. J.|
|Price, T. P.||Tuite, J.|
|Priestley, B.||Tyler, Sir H. W.|
|Pugh, D.||Vincent, Col. C. E. H.|
|Puleston, Sir J. H.||Waddy, S. D.|
|Pyne, J. D.||Wallace, R.|
|Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.||Wardle, H.|
|Rasch, Major F. C.||Warmington, C. M.|
|Redmond, W. H. K.||Watson, J.|
|Reid, R. T.||Wayman, T.|
|Rendel, S.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Richard, H.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Richardson, T.||Wharton, J. L.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Whitbread, S.|
|Ritchie, right hon. C. T.||Whitley, E.|
|Williams, A. J.|
|Roberts, J.||Wilson, I.|
|Robertson, E.||Winterbotham, A. B.|
|Robertson, J. P. B.||Woodhead, J.|
|Robinson, T.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Roe, T.||Wright, C.|
|Rollit, Sir A. K.||Yerburgh, R. A.|
|Roscoe, Sir H. E.||Young, C. E. B.|
|Ross, A. H.|
|Rowlands, W. B.||TELLERS.|
|Rowntree, J.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Russell, Sir C.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|Russell, Sir G.|
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.||Beach, W. W. B.|
|Baird, J. G. A.||Bethell, Commander G. R.|
|Baring, T. C.|
|Barry, A. H. S.||Bolitho, T. B.|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Bond, G. H.|
|Bradlaugh, C.||Lawson, Sir W.|
|Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.||Lees, E.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W. L. Ash.-B.||Lewis, Sir C. E.|
|Lowther, J. W.|
|Buxton, S. C.||Lyell, L.|
|Campbell, Sir G.||M'Arthur, W. A.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Makins, Colonel W. T.|
|Cavendish, Lord E.||Mallock, R.|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story-|
|Colomb, Sir J. C. R.|
|Corbett, A. C.||Morrison, W.|
|Corbett, J.||Noble, W.|
|Corry, Sir J. P.||O'Neill, hon. R. T.|
|Cozens-Hardy. H. H.||Penton, Captain F. T.|
|Cremer, W. R.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Crossman, Gen. Sir W.||Power, R.|
|Dimsdale, Baron R.||Price, Captain G. E.|
|Dorington, Sir J. E.||Rankin, J.|
|Ebrington, Viscount||Rathbone, W.|
|Ellis, J.||Reed, H. B.|
|Ellis, T. E.||Robertson, Sir W. T.|
|Field, Admiral E.||Round, J.|
|Firth, J. F. B.||Royden, T. B.|
|Fowler, Sir R. N.||Russell, T. W.|
|Fry, L.||Saunderson, Col. E. J.|
|Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-||Sheehan, J. D.|
|Gedge, S.||Sidebottom, T. H.|
|Gray, C. W.||Sidebottom, W.|
|Gunter, Colonel R.||Sinclair, W. P.|
|Gurdon, R. T.||Smith, A.|
|Halsey, T. F.||Stewart, M. J.|
|Hanbury-Tracy, hon. F. S. A.||Stokes, G. G.|
|Hayne, C. Seale-||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Hervey, Lord F.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Hobhouse, H.||Townsend, F.|
|Houldsworth, Sir W. H.||Vernon, hon. G. R.|
|Watkin, Sir E. W.|
|Howell, G.||Webster, R. G.|
|Howorth, H. H.||Whitmore, C. A.|
|Hozier, J. H. C.||Wiggin, H.|
|Kelly, J. R.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Kenny, C. S.|
|Knatchbull- Hugessen, H. T.||TELLERS.|
|Lafone, A.||Lubbock, Sir J.|
|Lawrence, W. F.|
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 1, leave out "elective."—(Sir Roper Lethbridge.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. CHANNING
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had intimated, on the discussion the night before as to casual vacancies in the County Council, that the Amendment he had placed on the Paper would be accepted by the Government. He did not, therefore, intend to detain the Committee or enter into a fuller explanation. He had only to express his great satisfaction that the Government had seen their way, last night, to give up what seemed to him to be one of the most reactionary portions of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 2, leave out from the word "and" to the word "councillor," in line 5.—(Mr. Channing.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, it was quite true that he had undertaken to accept an Amendment by which casual vacancies would be filled up by election. But there was one kind of vacancy which he thought the Committee would consider better filled up by the Councillors themselves. He, therefore, proposed to insert words in the Sub-section which would make it read thus—The casual vacancies among the elective councillors, which occur otherwise than by the election of the vacating councillor to be an alderman, or which arise within twelve months before the ordinary date for the triennial election of councillors, shall be filled by the election by the Council of a person qualified to be a councillor.He thought that would meet the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act if the Committee would agree to it. He, therefore, hoped that the hon. Member would be prepared to accept what he suggested.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER
said, he hoped the Committee would not accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. He did not think they ought in any way to tamper with the principle of having the members of the County Councils elected by the people. It would be possible under the proposal for any member of a County Council, who made up his mind to retire 12 months before his period of office terminated, to select one of his friends, get him elected by the County Council, and so secure for him an advantage when the popular election came on. That would be a great disadvantage to the elected element of the County Council, and it would, moreover, lead to the jobbery which it ought to be the desire of every Member of the House to do all that lay in his power to prevent.
§ MR. CHANNING
said, he should like to have one point explained with referrence to the proposed Amendment. When an Alderman retired from the County Council, was that vacancy thereby created to be filled up by election from the members? If that were 1891 so, he should not accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that, so far as the Aldermen were concerned, the election would take place under the terms of the Municipal Elections Act; that was to say, the vacancy would be filled up by the electors, and the only case in which vacancies would be filled up by the Council was that in which it occurred other than by the retirement of an Alderman within 12 months of a fresh election.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
said, he would suggest that this Amendment depended greatly upon the terms upon which a member of the Council was to be elected. If a Councillor was only to be elected for three years, to take 12 months out of the term of election seemed to him rather too much. He did not think the Committee would do right to agree to any term of co-optation in the interval of the triennial election. If the term were six years, the rule might be of advantage; but if the period was to remain at three years, he, for one, could not assent to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
said, as far as he could see, the feeling on that side of the House was not in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment.
§ MR. SEALE-HAYNE (Devon, Ashburton)
said, he wished to point out that by Sub-section (b) it was provided that the elective Councillors should be elected for the term of three years. It was now proposed that there should be a selection for casual vacancies within 12 months of the general election by the Council, and consequently a councillor, created by the Council, would continue in office for three years, if the clause were to stand as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, it appeared that these councillors would number about 100, and the Government having given way on the question of filling up vacancies, he wished to point out that, as it might be supposed, most of the men elected to the Councils would be men of some age, the mortality among them might be expected to be at least two or three in the course of a year. That would imply that in every county there would be an election every four or six months. He thought that vacancies had better be filled up by the County 1892 Council itself to avoid these incessant elections in each county; and he expressed his regret that the Government had again changed their mind without so much as giving the Committee notice of their intention to do so.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
said, for himself, he thought that as regarded the mere question of county elections, it would be well to leave it to stand as it did in the Municipal Corporations Act, and to omit the sub-section altogether. But they had to consider the opinion of the constituencies, and he thought that no constituency would thank the House for obliging them to have an election within three months of a General Election. As his right hon. Friend had said, they were left in the dark as to the term for which the Councils were to be elected, and it was therefore very difficult to determine the best course to take. But he suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that if he would embody such words as he (Mr. Hobhouse) had placed on the Paper, it would probably meet the views of the constituencies, and he thought no Member of the House would then raise any serious objection.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
asked the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, whether there was to be any departure from the distinct pledge of last night with regard to filling up vacancies; and, secondly, whether there was to be any departure from the custom, not only in Parliamentary, but in Municipal elections? If, for instance, a General Election were to take place in three months from the retirement of a member, what would the constituencies say, if they were told that they must remain unrepresented because the General Election was to be held in a few months? He said that they could not lay down any lines with regard to time, because it would involve them in difficulty whether that line was of 12 months, three months, or six months. A man might time his resignation so that he could secure his election by the majority of his friends on the Council. He disputed the element of cost altogether. The cost of a Municipal election was not much; and all that would fall on the rates was simply the cost of the returning officer and other small expenses which would not be large. It would be the fault of the new County Councils themselves if they 1893 did not reduce the costs to a very small sum indeed. He said that the principle of co-optation should find no place in the Bill at all.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he was most anxious that there should not be too many elections, and he thought that the danger which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board foresaw would not in practice be as great as he anticipated. He wanted to provide against the possibility of two elections taking place. Suppose a vacancy occurred six months before an election in the ordinary course of things; the right hon. Gentleman feared that there would be an election followed by another at the ordinary period. But as a matter of fact he (Mr. Hanbury) did not think that would occur. He thought they would see that, if a casual vacancy occurred near the time of a General Election, the member returned would be likely to be returned again at the General Election without opposition.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was quite sure the Committee would not think that he was at all departing from the undertaking given last night. They were then discussing how a vacancy would be filled up in the case of Aldermen, and he had pointed out that such a vacancy would be filled up by the remaining members of the Council, and he had undertaken that the Government would accept an Amendment which would prevent co-optation. That was the concession of last night, and he thought after that explanation his hon. Friend would not think that, by proposing that this modification for dealing with vacancies shortly before a general election, he was departing from the undertaking which he had given. He certainly thought that it would be very hard, if, within three or four months from the time when the elections must necessarily take place, another election should be rendered necessary by a vacancy occurring; and that it would be wise to adopt some such suggestion as he had made, which he hoped the hon. Member opposite would accept.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, he was quite sure that no one would bring any charge against the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board of having departed from his undertaking or of showing anything but 1894 respect and consideration to the Committee. But with regard to the present proposal, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had failed to show the object aimed at. For what purpose was this proposal made; and for whose benefit? It was not for the benefit of the county at large, because it was not the least object to the county at large to have 100 men doing its business instead of 98 or 99 as the case might be. There would be plenty of people to do the business even if these vacancies were not filled up. And still less was it to the advantage of the constituencies, for the interest of the constituency would be to have a representative, but the co-opted member would be no representative of the constituency at all. Therefore, if it were considered so great an object to have the election before what he might call the general election, he thought it would be better to leave the vacancy a vacancy still. That he must own would, in his opinion, be better than the importation of an exceedingly faulty principle into a Bill the machinery of which was in many respects so much liked.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he understood the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet to be, that if no vacancy occurred within six months of the general election, it should not be filled up at all. If that was the proposal the Government were ready to accept it.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)
, in rising to move, as an Amendment, to insert after paragraph (c)—Every Councillor shall be entitled to claim a sum in payment of the expenses, if any, actually and reasonably incurred by him in travelling to and from the place of meeting of the Council,said, they had been told that the object of the Bill was to place County Councils in exactly the same position with regard to members as Town Councils. He did not know how they could be placed in the same position, unless some means were provided by which those persons whose means were narrow, such as working men and small tradesmen and others, were enabled to become members of the Councils. They must bear in mind that if they offered this supposed great advantage of municipal government, they must make the con- 1895 ditions equal. The question he had to ask was, were the working men to be placed in a position to become members of the Council? Many men of small means were members of Local Boards and school boards, and he pointed out that in the North of England there was a considerable number of working men who, by this means, were enabled to obtain very valuable lessons in Local Government. He did not think that any Member of the House would wish to lessen the numbers of the members of the working classes who commanded the confidence of their fellows, and who were sent free of travelling expenses to learn these valuable lessons in Local Government.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, he rose to Order. There was a little misconception in the House as to where they were. Was the hon. Member moving an Amendment to Sub-section (d), or had it been struck out?
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND
said, he believed that one of the most important arguments that would be used against his proposal would be, that no small men would be able to go to the County Councils. Now, he ventured to deny the correctness of that statement. There were many members of working class organizations, and many small tradesmen who would be able to attend the Councils for a day or two, provided that some way were devised of paying their travelling expenses. He simply asked that in order to enable the County Councils to have upon them members whose means were small, and who, in some eases, might represent special working men's districts, that some provision of the kind should be made in this Bill. He admitted the difficulty of the question, and he did not assume that the wording he had suggested was the best possible to carry out the object in view; but he might point out that he had carefully guarded his proposal. In the first place, he said that members should be "entitled to claim," and, again, he had confined the payment to "actual and reasonable expenses," meaning by that, to leave no door open for payment at a higher rate than was absolutely necessary, or for the money not to be spent for the purpose for which it was intended. If, however, 1896 the Government could suggest better words, for securing the object in view than had occurred to his mind, he should be only too glad to accept them. But he felt sure that as Local Government became more and more developed in this country, so it became more and more desirable that they should bring in members of the working classes or lower middle class who were specially entrusted with responsibility of this kind by their fellow-men, and if the Government could see their way to devise any means of meeting the difficulty and putting the County Councillors on an equality in respect of expenses with the members of Town Councils and school boards, he sincerely hoped they would do so. They had gained enormously by the admission to that House of working men to assist in their deliberations in matters concerning the working classes, but it was only owing to the special circumstances connected with unions extending over large tracts of country that they had been able to obtain the assistance of such representatives. The presence of representatives of the working classes was most desirable, then, upon the Councils about to be created by this Bill. Let the Committee for a moment consider the question with reference to emigration. Emigration was an alternative very unpopular amongst the working classes, yet he ventured to say that if any industry in a particular part of the country were suffering, the question of emigration would become one of very great importance. Now, emigration would be regarded in a very different light than was generally the case if it were recommended by working men on the County Councils who were acquainted with the needs of the working classes, and if any means could be devised of having even a small porportion of men of this class on the County Council, he was certain it would command more confidence from the masses of the working classes, who they hoped would be benefited by this large and new measure of reform. The classes in this country were too much divided, and their desire was to train the representatives of working men to understand problems of Government. The working classes had many ideas which were utterly unreliable in matters of Government, they talked for instance a good deal of nonsense about land; but the 1897 desire of hon. Gentlemen ought to be to teach them to send some working men to the Councils to thresh out all these questions, who might return from the Councils and tell the men who had trusted them that some of their ideas on such matters were impossible of fulfilment. The Government had refused to set up the parish assembly for the discussion of these matters; they said there was this admirable municipal administration, and that anybody who was chosen could be sent to the County Council; but the working men would reply—"How can we send our men to the County Council unless provision is made for the expenses which they cannot afford to pay?" As he had said, the only way to give equality of representation was to give equality of conditions, and he pressed his proposal with no other object than to make real equality as between the County Councils and those bodies which now existed, to which men of small means had been already sent.
In page 2, line 2, after paragraph (c), insert—"Every councillor shall be entitled to claim a sum in payment of the expenses, if any, actually and reasonably incurred by him in travelling to and from the place of meeting of the Council.—(Mr. A. H. Dyke Acland.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said, he rose to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rotherham. If this reform was to be valuable to the working men, he considered it absolutely necessary that some such provision as the hon. Member proposed should be inserted in the Bill. He could point to several institutions in the North of England, where already a number of the Councillors were working men, including the school boards. He understood that the Government were favourable to the principle that the County Councils should, at no distant date, have the management and control of education, and he submitted to the right hon. Gentleman that unless some such provision was inserted in the Bill as was proposed by the hon. Member it would, so far as the working classes were concerned, prove a retrograde measure, because their representatives would be deterred by the expense of 1898 travelling and other matters from attending the Councils. He suggested that his hon. Friend should make it imperative that the County Councillor should receive his expenses, because he did not like it to be thought that some were willing to bear the expenses and others were not; and unless a man were obliged to claim them, the poverty of those who did would be accentuated, and that, in his opinion, was most undesirable.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he hoped the Committee would consent to report Progress on that point. The Government had the fullest sense of the importance of the question before the Committee; but they thought it would be more convenient considering the hour (6.40) that they should report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. W. H. Smith,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.