§ MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)
said that, in accordance with notice, he desired to call attention to the disparity of representation existing between certain constituencies of the United Kingdom, and to move— 55That there exist serious disparities in the representation in Parliament of the people of the United Kingdom; that these disparities are of such a nature and extent as to involve the danger of the will of the nation being misrepresented and possibly controverted by the decisions of the House of Commons, as at present constituted; and that therefore such disparities should I forthwith be examined into by an impartial Committee or Commission, and remedied.The arrangements from which the House derived its existence, and by which the people of the nation were represented in it, must always be matters of the first interest and importance both to Members and constituents, and when the machinery by which the people obtained the representation appeared to be imperfect it became the duty of every Member of the House to call attention to the subject. If that machinery got out of order, with the result that the will of the nation was wrongly expressed by the determination of the House, the House would be in the position not only of violating the first principle on which it was created, but of doing great wrong to millions of the people. The population of the country was now 38,000,000. The electors were, in round numbers, 6,200,000, and the Members of the House were 670. That gave an average of about 56,000 persons and 9,200 electors to each Member. "The government of the people by the people" was a phrase by which modern democracies loved to define their system of government. While admitting that the phrase was a good one, he submitted that it required the addition of three more words—namely, "for the people." Majorities had to legislate in the interest of minorities as well as in their own interest. The Prime Minister said the other night that a self-governed people was a people governed by majorities. For the purposes of argument he admitted that this was so, but as regarded the logical accuracy of the statement, he begged leave to differ. To be self-governed was not the same thing as to be governed by a majority of ourselves, nor could he admit that we at present governed ourselves by a majority of ourselves. The Members of the House no doubt represented the majorities of all the constituencies, but the decisions of the House were given, not by the will of the Members representing those majorities, 56 but only by the will of a majority of them. The correct description, therefore, of the present system was "government of ourselves by a majority of representatives of the majority of the people," and this might of course be really a minority. Under the present system the minorities in the constituencies were supposed to be represented in opinion and political creed by the representatives of other constituencies. The minorities in the constituencies were represented by the accident that although they could not secure the man of their choice to represent them directly other people in other constituencies were of their opinion and sent men to represent them. There was much, therefore, to be said on the question of whether self-government meant government by majorities, and whether the position of this country was one of Government by a majority of the people. In a sense it certainly was, but not necessarily was the majority of representatives who decided on questions same in opinion as the majority of the people who sent them to Parliament. Every one admitted that it was highly important and essential that minorities should be represented. On looking through the Debates on all the great Reform Bills that had been passed in this century he did not find that there had been any resolute attempt on the part of any statesman representing either of the two great Parties to grapple with the question of the true representation, directly, of minorities. Proposals had been made on several occasions for the representation of minorities. They had had the three-cornered system with the cumulative vote proposed, and the cumulative vote system with two Members, and lastly they had had the scheme of the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for the University of London and Liskeard, formulated and discussed in 1884 at the time of the last Reform Bill. This question, though important, was a difficult one to deal with. Still, intelligent people ought to be able to grapple with the settlement. Assuming that the present system of representation by majorities was the correct one, it was all the more important, seeing that minorities were not represented, that the majorities should be accurately represented in the House. If population was to be taken as the 57 basis it was manifestly inequitable if not outrageous that one man should represent the figure 1 and another the figure 6 as the ratio of voting power among the constituencies. Yet such was the fact. Anomalies of that kind and even of a worse kind existed. Anomalies and imperfections existed in all human institutions. He did not lay blame to any one, for the changes which had occurred during the past eight years—since the last Reform Act—had been sufficient to account for many of the discrepancies. But it was right that he should give the House some specimens of the existing anomalies. First as to the average population that each Member was supposed to represent—speaking approximately, because it was impossible for the average to be always the same. So far from the average number of 56,000 having one representative, there were 55 Members in the House who represented over 80,000 people, and there were 18 Members who represented less than 20,000. The numbers ranged from 132,163—represented by the hon. Member for Cardiff—to 13,300, represented by the hon. Member for Kilkenny. As to the electors so far from the average 9,200 per Member obtaining there were 52 Members representing over 13,000 and 17 Members representing less than 3,000. They ranged from a maximum of 16,800 in the case of Cardiff town to 1,639 in the case of Kilkenny. There were four at least of the constituencies—namely, Cardiff, Handsworth, Bootle, and Wandsworth, who had more electors than the whole population of Kilkenny put together, and had more than the whole of Newry, Galway, and several other constituencies. There were many boroughs, like Stockport, Cork and Devonport, each with 10,000 electors or less, which returned two Members, whilst many others, such as Sunderland, Oldham, Portsmouth and Newcastle, had over 20,000—one of them as many as 30,000 electors—and only returned two Members. And there were many places, such as Bath and Devonport, which returned two Members with less than half the population of Cardiff which only returned one Member. There were 12 constituencies returning two Members, each containing a less number of voters than several other constituencies which returned one only. Antrim County re- 58 turned four Members, with a population of 205,000, against Kerry with four Members and only a population of 179,000. Antrim had 36,700 electors, and Kerry had 20,000 electors. The constituency he represented was just double the average of 56,318 population—namely, 113,000 with 15,000 electors, increased on the last register by 500. As compared with that and some other English constituencies there were five Irish constituencies which had only a population of 104,000 altogether and 12,600 electors. Wandsworth had only one Member, whilst these places had five, and possessed 9,000 more people and 2,300 more electors than the whole five. These five constituencies were Galway Town, with a population of 16,942, Kilkenny 13,323, Newry 13,605, Derry 32,893, and Waterford 27,623. Handsworth or Cardiff could throw South Kerry into the scale in addition to the other five constituencies—making a total electorate of 16,383—without counterbalancing their electoral strength. There was another source of error, for which nobody was to blame, but to which it was the duty of Members of Parliament to devote attention, especially the leaders of Parties and those who happened for the time to be in power—namely, the unequal increases which inevitably went on in constituencies and which ought to be watched, with the view of preventing people from being misrepresented. For instance, the Walthamstow Division of Essex had risen in one year by 1,359—from 15,323 to 16,682. Wandsworth had risen since he first entered Parliament as its Member from 10,500 to 15,500. The total increase over the country between the General Election of 1886 and that of 1892 under the same suffrage amounted to no less than 457,000. Obviously it was important, in order to get a due representation even of majorities in the House, that it should be the duty of Parliament to ascertain in what constituencies this increased number of people went and how they were represented. With such anomalies as he had pointed out it became of great importance to consider what was the value of a vote? The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister the other night in bringing in the Home Rule Bill agreed, practically, as to the value of the vote. The right hon. Gentleman placed great 59 stress on the 80 votes which Ireland should possess in the Imperial Parliament, therefore, it was to be presumed that he would attach due weight to what ought to be the value of each individual vote. How did the case stand in the discrepancies he had referred to in the House? Take some of the constituencies which contained double the average number of people. As representing Wandsworth he should have two votes out of the 670. If 56,000 people gave a right to one vote, obviously twice that number should give a right to two Members or two votes. Conversely, Galway Town, with 17,000 inhabitants, was entitled to only one-third of a vote; Kilkenny, with 13,000 people, one-fourth; Newry, with a population of 13,000, one-fourth; Derry, with 32,000, half a vote; and Waterford, with a population of 27,000, half a vote. The five Irish constituencies should be entitled, according to their population, if the principle was to be representation by mumbers, only to two votes, and he should be entitled to two votes. That would make a difference on a Division of 10 votes in his favour, as against them, whereas by the present unequal representation they had 10 votes against him which they ought not to have. He might take it as admitted that so far as a constituency had more than the average 36,000 population it obviously had less than its real amount of voting power and, conversely, that so far as a constituency had less than the average population it had more voting power than it was entitled to. The Prime Minister had said the other night as a reason for giving full voting power to Irish Members in the future Imperial Parliament that if they did not—You break a great Parliamentary tradition—namely, that of the absolute equality of Members of this House.Where was the equality now in the cases he (Mr. Kimber) had cited? Was not the right hon. Gentleman now attempting to legislate with an inequality of Members. Was it not absolutely mathematically demonstrable that that was the process by which he was attempting to carry the Bill in which he admitted the principle—which, however, was not to be adopted until after the Bill passed—that every Member should be made 60 equal. The right hon. Gentleman proposed that Members from the Sister Island should be made equal; but it was not proposed to similarly remove the anomalies that he (Mr. Kimber) had pointed out. Instances might be multiplied almost without number of the anomalies now existing in each of the four different parts of the United Kingdom. But the most serious part of the business, and the most serious discrepancies yet remained to be shown—most serious because of the nature of the question now being debated by the Representative Assembly of the people of the United Kingdom—and those were the discrepancies as between the four parts of the United Kingdom. The great questions which had absorbed the attention, not only of the public, but also of Members of the House during the last seven years, had been questions in which the nationality system, so called, had been raised. Questions of the interests of this part of the Kingdom against that part had been brought forward, and the classes had been brought forward for consideration in contradistinction to the masses. Popular and prominent men, with a great deal of talk about popular sentiment, had made it their business to segregate the four parts of the kingdom instead of trying to make them cohere. Take the four parts of the kingdom separately. Out of 670 Members by which the nation was represented, England had 465; but according to the proper ratio she should have 488. That was a deficiency of 23. Wales had 30 Members; she should have only 28. That was an excess of two. Scotland had 72; she should have 71 only. That was an excess of one. Ireland had 103 Members; she should have 83. That was an excess of 20. As regarded Ireland he could show no better proof than the statement they all heard the other evening from the Prime Minister that 80 Members was her proper number, though in arriving at that figure he threw over the two Irish University Members—a course to which he (Mr. Kimber) could not assent. The excess in Ireland—taken only at 20—with Scotland and Wales in excess by 3—amounted in all to 23 as against England. If they analysed what part of England it was that suffered most from the deficiency they would find that it was the Metropolis. The Metropolis 61 had 62 Members; its proper proportion was 81, or a deficiency of 19. A large number of the constituencies in London were above the average population. He would now compare the average numbers in the four parts of the United Kingdom. In England there was only one Member to 59,000 people, in Wales there was one to 50,000, in Scotland one to 56,000, while in Ireland there was one to 45,000. In London taken separately there was only one to 73,000. So that here again Ireland had a great excess of voting power, and England a great deficiency. They were the highest and lowest of the four parts of the United Kingdom, both as regarded electors and population per seat. Ireland's maximum was less than the lowest maximum of the other three, and her minimum both of electors and population was lower than the lowest of the others. If a question of nationalities arose—and he denied that this kingdom united for nearly a century should be considered otherwise than as one nation —and the kingdom was to be segregated as regarded its Parliament, he contended that it became necessary to consider what was the weight to be given to each part in the balance of votes. If a contrast was to be made between them as nationalities and separate kingdoms give England the weight due to her. England had in the partnership a vastly larger share than all the other three countries put together. The Prime Minister the other night used the metaphor of partnership, and a very good one it was. If the question was to be looked at in this way, the share and interest of England as the senior partner ought to be taken into the scale as against the share and interest of the other partners. Leaving Wales and Scotland out of consideration England had 488 shares against 83 possessed by Ireland. To carry out the partnership metaphor was it competent for the junior partner in the business to say to the senior, "We will split this partnership or the management of it, and I insist on having the management of this or that portion and you shall have no voice in it." The Prime Minister said the other night—This great principle of self-government, if it be a reality at all, is a reality that never can work except by the machinery and by the laws of representation.62 And he went on to lay down five cardinal postulates of his Home Rule Bill, the second of which was, "the equality of all the kingdoms is to be borne in mind." When they were going to decide the question of the Severance of the Union they must be sure that the majority was correctly ascertained and properly represented the opinions of the whole of the people. Suppose the question arose as it had done in the United States? It was true they could not solve it there by means of a Home Rule Bill of any kind and had to resort to the cruel arbitrament of war, and the stronger gained the day. By all the laws which governed these things it must be conceded that the more powerful States had a right, as they had the might, to insist upon maintaining the integrity of the Union of the whole of the State. It might be said, "But we do not admit that might is right."
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is entitled only to cast side glances at the Home Bill. I think now he is going too far into that subject.
§ MR. KIMBER
said, he thought the House would have found from his next sentence that he was only glancing at the Home Rule Bill as a side light. Were they to give preponderance of power to numbers at all. It seemed curious that no democratic authority had ever devised any other system than that power should be given to the majority, the reason, presumably being that the larger number had the greater interests and the greater physical force. Another evil arising from the disparities existing in constituencies was the temptation to our best men to look only to votes. On an historic occasion in 1886 a great Minister, turning to the Irish Benches, said: "They were 40 then, they are 85 now"; and this was his (Mr. Kimber's) reason for saying it was a temptation to look to votes. He might continue, but he was desirous not to labour the argument or to make it of a partizan character, though it was almost impossible for it not to bear upon Party politics. Still he had endeavoured to deal with the subject from the point of view of the leaders of the House on both sides, and he believed there was not a 63 single Member who would not wish to make the House as correct and as good a representation of the wishes and the will of the people as human hands could make them. He thought he had proved the two propositions he had laid down, and he now came to his conclusions. His first proposition was that there were great disparities existing between the constituencies in themselves in each of the four parts of the Kingdom, but especially between the four parts taken as Kingdoms, if he might use that word; secondly, while admitting that disparities must always exist, he thought he had proved they were so serious in their nature and extent that they required immediate remedy. As Parties were now divided by a narrow majority, it was impossible not to feel—one of the Kingdoms having an admitted excess of 23 Representatives and England having a deficiency of representation by 23—that if there had been proper representation at the last General Election the present majority of 40 might have been turned into a minority of six. That, he thought, was enough to make the House pause before it endorsed any constitutional change whatever, especially of so radical a nature as was proposed by the Prime Minister. They should set to work to re-model the machinery of the Constitution and its representation, by which alone, the Prime Minister had said, self-government could be obtained. If he had proved his two propositions, his conclusion upon them was that the inequalities and discrepancies existing in the constituencies ought forthwith to be made the subject of careful examination and inquiry by a Committee or Commission; and that when a remedy was found it should be immediately applied. It was not for him to suggest what means should be adopted to remedy the existing discrepancies. The constituencies in which they existed must be first ascertained; questions of boundaries might arise; questions as to the divisions of existing constituencies; and the Committee or Commission that went into the matter should have power to take into their consideration those collateral but necessary subjects—the representation of minorities, one man one vote, one vote one value, and, above all, the best means of ascertaining the value of the votes. Further, that not only should electors have votes of 64 equal value, but every Member representing a constituency should have an equal vote with any other Member, so that Members should no longer be under the stigma of having the nation improperly represented, and the decisions of its Representatives decided, possibly absolutely contradictory to the will of the nation. He would now deal with the Amendment, which deprecated a reference to a Committee or Commission, and suggested practically that it should be left to Ministers. He supposed the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Dilke) would suggest, as was done in 1884, that they should communicate with the Leaders of the Opposition and other Parties in the House, that they should sit in a sort of self-constituted Committee. He knew the great ability of the right hon. Baronet, and the great knowledge he brought to bear upon this subject in the Debates of 1884. What had struck him most in reading those Debates on the Representation of the People Bill was that the principle was not discussed in the House—that the principle or the Bill was not discussed at all. The Leaders of the two great Parties put their heads together, and the result of their deliberations was brought out cut-and-dried, so that it was no use for the House to argue or consider what the Leaders on both sides had agreed upon as a foregone conclusion. The principal thing debated was the Instruction moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock), that the Committee should have power to consider the necessity of giving a direct vote to minorities. That was very fully and ably discussed, but not on the question of principle. The principle was admitted on both sides to be good; and the only defect in the proposal as to the proportional representation plan suggested was that, in giving the second vote, there was a slight element of chance as to whether one man or another might get elected. This, however, he believed, was more a question for an actuary, and could be easily disposed of. As to the mode in which these difficulties should be dealt with, he had proposed a Committee or Commission, which was a tribunal that deliberated in the light of day, and after it reported its conclusions could be canvassed and discussed. On the occasion 65 of the Representation of the People Bill they had had hon. Members making objections to the conclusions without knowing the principle on which the result had been arrived at, and he believed the same kind of thing occurred with the Bill of 1867 and the great Reform Bill of 1832, when the principle was that of lopping off—disfranchising a large number of constituencies, and enfranchising others—a patchwork way of going about the business; but perhaps it was best suited to their conditions, and he had no objection to make to it, as it was an attempt to preserve all that was good and amend all that was bad—a true Conservative principle, palatable to him and to the Party to which he belonged. What he did object to was these most important things being done except in the light of the sun, before the eyes of the people, and especially the eyes of all in the House. He begged to move his Resolution as it stood upon the Paper.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, the question of disparity had often occupied not only the attention of the House, but of the constituencies, and he thought his hon. Friend need not apologise, or any Member who followed him, for asking the attention of the present Assembly to this most important and grave matter. That, he thought, was conclusively proved by the Amendment placed on the Paper by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir C. Dilke). The question of disparity of representation was one that occupied the attention very largely of the Party opposite some years ago, and at one period of their history there was no question on which they devoted a larger portion of fiery oratory than this. He did not know whether at present they were as keen as they were in the past to interfere with this question; but, if not, it was probably because in the past the disparity was against the fortunes of their Party, whilst at present they were depending for the support they received from that very disparity which existed. He was not going to follow his hon. Friend into the general view of the question of disparity of representation which existed and 66 could be found throughout the whole United Kingdom, but he proposed to direct his remarks to those disparities that existed in Ireland; and he would endeavour to put his arguments as concisely as possible, and if he had to refer to any figures he would condense them into the briefest possible compass. The Party he was connected with in Ireland always protested against the inequality of the settlement arrived at in 1884–85; they took every opportunity of bringing before the notice of this House and the people the grave injustice which they believed was inflicted by the arrangement arrived at upon a large proportion of the people of Ireland, and since that period they had never ceased to urge that the population they represented had not an opportunity of making its voice heard in this House in fair proportion to relative value in Ireland. In the first place, he would urge there was nothing sacred or inviolate in the settlement arrived at in 1884–85. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House himself, in introducing the Reform Bill of 1884, said no Reform Bill ever introduced pretended, or could pretend, to be a complete Bill. The right hon. Gentleman further said that in his experience he never assisted at any scheme for which its authors claimed perfection. While he (Mr. Macartney) was ready to admit the settlement of 1884–85 was probably as good a scheme as any that had been presented to the House by previous authors of redistribution or reform, it started not only with a serious and admitted blot of over-representation in Ireland and disparity of representation, but was full from end to end of other inequalities. He remembered that the conduct of the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Dilke) when in charge of the Redistribution Bill elicited the admiration of everyone, but everyone must see that the Bill was loopholed with inequalities. Whenever a Conservative Member got up to point out that a certain portion of the country had not received a proper amount of representation, the right hon. Baronet immediately got up and was able to show conclusively that in Somerset or some other portion of the country which was entirely Conservative was also over-represented, so that not only in Ireland, but in the United Kingdom, 67 the scheme of 1885, good as it might have been, was still loopholed with inequalities throughout. Therefore, it started with a great anomaly with regard to Ireland; and laden as it was with other inequalities, it was not surprising that not only Members of the House, but the public at large, should desire to see some relief given to the mischief that it created, and which still existed. The Leader of the House on that occasion said there were three essential provisions in a Reform Bill—first, they had to determine the right of the individual for whom they had to fix the franchise; secondly, to provide machinery for the exercise of that right, which was registration; and, thirdly, they had to gather the persons who were entitled to vote into local Committees—that was, they had to distribute the seats. He said, therefore, they were justified in claiming immediate attention to the matter brought forward. As a matter of fact, the Government themselves had invited them to inquire into the condition of Parliamentary representation, because only yesterday the Government, finding one of the essential divisions of reform, as laid down by their Leader, to be in such a mischievous condition as to require attention, had brought in a Bill to deal with the registration of voters in this country. His argument was that it was very little good to perfect the machinery for enabling the voter to assert his right to vote if, when they had given him his vote, he found it of little value in consequence of the inequalities of representation. If the Government had made up their mind that the registration machinery was so defective that it required the immediate attention of Parliament, then he said his hon. Friend was justified in bringing this matter before the House, and he hoped a further step would be taken by the Government to assure every voter that his vote was of equal value whatever part of the country it was recorded in. What was the result of the settlement of 1884–5? It was this: that Ireland was favoured. ["No, no!"] Well, he would point out his objection. Ireland was favoured; Scotland had justice done to her; whereas England had far less than justice meted out to it. When the Bill was first introduced it was stated by Mr. Forster that, upon the basis of 658 seats, Ireland was 68 only entitled to 91. The scheme was afterwards re-considered when the redistribution scheme was brought in, and the Prime Minister then admitted that Ireland was only entitled to 93 votes; but on that occasion the Prime Minister declined to reduce the representation of Ireland, and the reasons he gave in the House were that he could not abandon all hope of the recovery of the population in Ireland, and he would not assume that there would be in the future a permanency of decrease. Perhaps there was some slight foundation for the hope the right hon. Gentleman then indulged in, for the opinion he then assumed; but since then some years had gone by, and they had very important facts brought before them by the Census of Ireland. They now knew that, notwithstanding that during that period Ireland had enormously increased in material prosperity and wealth, both agricultural and commercial, the population was decreasing, so that at the present moment, whatever ground there was for the hope and expectation of the light hon. Gentleman in 1884, the experience of these later years must lead everyone, both in the House and out of it, to come to the conclusion that they could not look forward to any great increase in the population in the future, and must look to the figure at which the population of Ireland now stood as the figure at which it was likely to remain for many years to come. Then there was another argument on which the right hon. Gentleman rested for not reducing the representation of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said that in these questions they must consider the question of vicinity and of distance. That principle, though applied to Ireland, was not applied to any other portion of the United Kingdom. Take the case of the Orkneys and Shetland. No district in Ireland, not even the most remote parts of Donegal, were half so far from this House as were either the Orkneys or Shetland. But what happened? If they turned to the constituencies of Orkney and Shetland and to those of Kerry they would find that, whereas Orkney and Shetland had over 7,000 voters and a population of over 54,000, they were only represented by one Member, whilst each Member for the four divisions 69 of Kerry only represented an electorate of a little over 5,000 and a population of 44,000. There was one other instance, and he would quote it, with regard to the representation of Forfarshire and King's County. The hon. Member for Forfarshire represented over 11,000 electors and a population of over 67,000, whereas each of the Members for King's County only represented an electorate of a little over 5,000 and a population of a little over 32,000. The hon. Gentleman who represented Forfarshire (Sir John Rigby) in this House had more electors than both Members for two of the divisions of King's County, and the population of Forfarshire was over that of the two divisions of King's County. He did not think the question of vicinity and distance ought to have any weight when they considered the modern convenience of railways and telegraphs; but if it was a valid argument, the principle of representation ought to be on the radius system, according to the number of miles the constituency was from Westminster. They complained not only that Ireland was over-represented, but that the distribution of this over-representation was absolutely unfair. They said that they would find, on examination of electoral statistics connected with Ireland, that almost the whole of this over-representation was contained in one Province — namely, the Province of Leinster. The professions of the Government had been one of goodwill to the minority of Ireland, and, he said, here was an opportunity for them to place that minority upon a sure basis. All the Unionists asked for was that in the matter of representation they should be placed on the same equality as the Nationalists. He hoped to prove conclusively the statements he had made as to the extraordinary disparity of representation in Ireland; and in order to do so it would be necessary for him to trouble the House with some figures. He would first take the borough representation in Ireland. The City of Cork, which returned two Members to the House, had an electorate of over 10,000 and a population of over 97,000, while the division of East Belfast, which had 1,000 more electors than the whole of the City of Cork and a population 70 almost equal, was only represented by one Member. But there was a still more striking instance of this disparity of representation in Ireland. The four boroughs of Galway, Kilkenny, Newry, and Waterford, which had a total electorate of 9,536 and a total population of over 71,000, sent four Members to the House, while East Belfast, with a larger electorate and a larger population, was only represented by one Member. The Irish boroughs represented by Unionist Members had an electorate of over 47,000 and a population of over 379,000. These boroughs returned six Members, giving to each Member an electorate of 7,881 and a population of over 63,000. On the other hand, the boroughs which sent 10 Nationalist Members to the House had a total electorate of 50,000 and a population of over 420,000, which gave to each of the 10 Nationalist Members an electorate of 5,000 voters and a population of 42,000; so that each Unionist Member for a borough had an electorate which exceeded the electorate of each Nationalist Member by 2,851, and a population which exceeded by over 21,000 the population represented by each Nationalist Member. He would now take the borough representation not on the basis of political opinions, but on the basis of geographical area. The Ulster boroughs—whether they returned Nationalist or Unionist Members—had a total electorate of over 48,000 and a total population of over 319,000, and, represented as they were by six Members, that gave to each Member an electorate of 6,809 and a population of 53,258. The Munster boroughs, which returned four Members, had a total electorate of 19,000 and a total population of 170,000. That gave to each Member representing a Munster borough an electorate of 4,833 and a population of 42,700. The Connauget boroughs gave an electorate of 1,655 voters and a population of 16,942 for each Member. These figures meant that each Ulster Borough Member represented 1,976 more electors and 10,555 more population than each of the Munster Borough Members; and 5,154 more electors and 36,316 more population than each of the Connaught Borough Members. Turning to the county representation in Ireland, he would take as one single instance of the great disparity 71 which existed the most south-western county (Kerry) and compare it with the most north-eastern county (Antrim), a portion of which he had the honour to represent. Kerry had an electorate of 20,700 voters and a population of 178,900, so that each of the four Members for that county represented in the House 5,000 electors and 44,000 inhabitants. In Antrim the total electorate was 38,000 and the population 200,000, giving to each of the four Members of the county an electorate of 9,000 and a population of 51,000, so that every Member for Antrim represented 4,500 more electors and a population 6,400 in excess of each of the Kerry Members. Take the Irish counties represented by two Members. King's County, which had an electorate of 10,000 and a population of 65,000, sent two Members, as well as Londonderry, with an electorate of 20,000 and a population of 118,000. The result was, that each Member for King's County represented only 5,000 electors, while each Member for Londonderry represented 10,000 electors; and each Member for King's County represented 32,000 of a population, while each Member for Londonderry represented 59,000 of a population. These figures proved that each of the Members for Londonderry spoke on behalf of 5,000 electors and of 26,000 of a population more than each of the Members of King's County. With regard to the county representation at large, he found that, taking all the counties which sent 15 Unionist Members to the House, each of these Members had an electorate of over 9,000, and represented a population of over 51,000; while in the Nationalist counties, which sent 69 Members, he found that each of these Members represented only an electorate of 7,000 and a population of 44,000; so that each of the County Unionist Members represented an electorate which exceeded the electorate of each of the Nationalist County Members by 1,763, and a population 6,889 greater than the population represented by each of the Nationalist County Members. Looking at the question from the point of view of selected geographical areas, and not from a Party standpoint, he found that Ulster elected 27 Members, each representing an average electorate of 8,000 72 and an average population of 48,000; whereas the Leinster Members represented each an electorate of 6,000 and a population of 37,000; and the Munster Members an electorate of 7,000 and a population of 45,000 each. Between Connaught and Ulster there was very little difference so far as the county representation was concerned. But the net result of the disparity between Ulster and Munster was that each of the Ulster County Members represented an electorate which exceeded by 649 voters and a population which exceeded by 2,800 inhabitants the electorate and the population represented by each of the Munster Members; while with regard to Leinster, the average Ulster electorate exceeded by 1,944 voters and a population by 10,000 inhabitants the average electorate and population represented by each of the Leinster Members. These figures showed that the Province of Leinster was the principal seat of the inequality of the representation in Ireland. Comparing the Provinces, he found that Ulster had a Member for every 49,000 of its population, Connaught a Member for every 48,000 of its population, Munster a Member for every 46,000, while Leinster sinks as low as 42,000. It came to this: that, taking a population of 46,500 as the basis of a Parliamentary division, Leinster should be deprived of three Members, and the representation of Ulster increased by three Members. But if Ireland was to have 81 Members as proposed in the Home Rule Bill, the average population of each division would be 58,000, which was practically the average of the United Kingdom, and on that basis Leinster would be left 20 Members, Munster 20 Members, Connaught 12 Members, and Ulster 28 Members; or, in other words, Leinster would lose 8 Members, Munster 5 Members, Connaught 3 Members, and Ulster 5 Members. These figures proved conclusively that at the present moment Ireland was largely over-represented, and that that over-representation was entirely to the advantage of the Nationalists. There was no one in the House who was a greater authority on the subjects of representation and redistribution than the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke), who had an Amendment to the Motion 73 on the Paper to the effect that the attention of the Government should be called to the question with a view to future legislation; and he would be glad to support the hon. Baronet if he had any chance of inducing the Government to introduce legislation. But as a measure of redistribution would mean the loss of 20 seats to the Nationalists, he did not think the right hon. Baronet would succeed in extorting such a pledge from the Government. He had, therefore, great pleasure in seconding the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That there exist serious disparities in the representation in Parliament of the people of the United Kingdom; that these disparities are of such a nature and extent as to involve the danger of the will of the nation being misrepresented and possibly controverted by the decisions of the House of Commons, as at present constituted; and that therefore such disparities should forthwith be examined into by an impartial Committee or Commission, and remedied."—(Mr. Kimber.)
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE (Forest of Dean)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said the representation of Ireland was honeycombed and loophooled with anomalies. That is so; but anomalies just as great exist in the local representation of Great Britain, and these anomalies will continue to exist so long as this House is content to proceed on the old lines of redistribution, and makes no move in the direction of proportional representation or equal electoral divisions. The Motion deals with the whole subject. The speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has had very special reference to Ireland; but the Irish Members may shortly disappear from the House (and I personally have never been converted or perverted away from the Bill of 1886), or they may stay, but stay in changed numbers and proportions, and after a redistribution for Ireland only and the establishment of a scale different from that which prevails in Great Britain. On the other hand, it is undoubtedly the case that the present raising of the question by the Government as regards Ireland forces on the consideration of the question here—that is, in Great Britain; and helps to justify some such Motion as that of my hon. Friend. It is somewhat 74 noticeable that the Conservative Party now grumble at the manner in which the existing settlement benefits Ireland at the expense of Great Britain, but that, although they attack for it the Party who furnish the present Government, they are equally responsible. On the 3rd March, 1885, the House divided upon a Motion to reduce Wales, which, under the 1884 scheme, when it was new, was the most over-represented of the principal parts of the United Kingdom—more so, even, than Ireland—to reduce Wales, I say, to 25 and Ireland to 90. That Motion was negatived by the House by far more than a Party majority—namely, by 132 to 25. In the course of the Debate on that occasion, to which the hon. Member has alluded, we pointed out the difficulty in the way of a reduction of the Welsh or Irish Members, how it could not be accomplished without the adoption, in Wales and Ireland, of a scale different from that existing in England or established for Scotland by the Bill. For example, the first new seat to be given in any more complete scheme would have been an additional seat to Cardiff, which it was with the greatest regret that we found ourselves compelled to refuse. Again, although complaint came chiefly from the Ulster Protestants, the first three seats in Ireland to go in the event of a fuller scheme would have been two University seats and one Northern borough. To put the matter briefly. Wales and Ireland were not exceptionally or tenderly dealt with in the scheme of 1884–5, but they were accidentally helped by the scale, as they would have been by any moderate scheme of reform, and this fact was perfectly present to Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote, and was accepted by them. So rigid were we in refusing to make any exceptions in 1885 of any kind that we refused Cardiff, and could not do otherwise, strong as were even then her claims, because "we had to adhere to the Census population of 1881, and had agreed not to take account of increases or decreases which might have happened, or which might be alleged to have happened, since that time. In the Debate of March, 1885, the agreement between the parties was quoted to the House, and the reference to Ireland was as follows:— 75In the event of the House declining to increase the number of Members for Scotland, Ireland to be reduced from 103 to 100.Here the agreement ceased. We pointed out what must be the three seats to go, and Lord Salisbury said that that would "never do," but made no alternative suggestion; and the result was that the Government decided to make the increase of Members to Scotland an essential portion of the Bill. I wish distinctly to repeat that Ireland and Wales could not have been brought nearer to the English or the Scotch scale, which was the same, Scotland having been increased up to the English limits, without breaking the general rules laid down by the agreement of the parties for enfranchisement and disfranchisement of boroughs. It is now, however, apparently the intention to wholly break through the rules of 1884–5 and the agreement between the parties at that time in the case of Ireland. An essential portion of the scheme of 1884–5 and of the agreement with Lord Salisbury was that the boroughs and the counties, on the whole, should be represented at pretty much the same rate. In Ireland, owing to the small number of towns, the boroughs remained at a little higher than the county rate, and the decrease of population has increased that disproportion since 1885. The proposals now contemplated are, therefore, from this point of view unsatisfactory, and involve a departure from the principle of population and a great increase of electoral anomalies. The Irish boroughs being over-represented as contrasted with the counties, we hear of a proposal to take away 21 county seats and not a single borough seat, although three or four borough seats should be the very first seats to go, as they are far too small for separate representation and are decreasing. Turning to Great Britain, there is no difference of main principle between the Motion and the Amendment, because both admit serious disparities and point to further redistribution. The extent of the disparity is at present eight to one. There are some electors—as, for example, those of the Romford Division of Essex, and those of Cardiff—whose electoral power is 76 but one-eighth that of others—for example, Wick. If it is said, "How is this possible after your redistribution?" the answer is that in 1885 neither Party was willing to have a really complete scheme, to which several of us—some on both sides—some even on the Opposition Front Bench—were favourable. But what we did constituted a vast improvement, for when I first began to call attention to the subject in the 1874 Parliament, and up to 1885, the extreme disproportions, instead of 8 to 1, were 250 to 1. Still, however, such as they are, they are far greater than those which exist in any other country in the world. There is another point on which we may agree with my hon. Friend. It would be well, if possible, to have an automatic redistribution every ten years, based on Census figures, and this principle has been adopted with advantage in many colonies, but there are difficulties in the way here which do not exist with them, to which I will presently make allusion under another head. All those who sit in this quarter of the House, all genuine Radicals in or outside its walls, ought to be in favour of the decrease of the number of the over-represented very small borough constituencies, because, although some of these are pure, taking them as a class they are the homes of that electoral corruption which is still, in spite of a great improvement in some districts, disgraceful to the country. We ought all, therefore, to be in favour of going as far as we can in the direction of diminishing anomalies, but we cannot go all the way and abolish them, without breaking down the distinction between borough and county, and abolishing borough and county boundaries. I, for one, am very doubtful whether this extreme course will be advocated, when it comes to the point, by the Tory Party, or, if so advocated, will be popular in the country. Another point raised by my hon. Friend concerns the representation of minorities. On this I will not dwell. The matter in 1885 was named by the Conservative Party as regarded Ireland only, and when it came to be discussed in the House, the House was dead against it. Strong as was the case made out by the hon. Member for Cornwall, then sitting for Liskeard, and others, the House evidently felt embarrassment at placing in a Bill, or recom- 77 mending to the country arrangements for preferential voting or the transfer of votes; and the matter was not seriously entertained. I rather doubt myself whether it is likely to be otherwise in future. The hon. Member was on strong ground when he entered in detail into the absurdities of the existing system. I was allowed in 1885 to retain and to exercise my individual right to declare personally in favour of a far wider scheme than that which was at that time adopted. But what was the point on which we came to practical issue, and a point which still remains, and has been shirked as regards decision by the hon. Member? University representation, which, if you are to adopt a population basis, must be the very first to go; which, in our opinion, is wholly anomalous and indefensible in our day. The hon. Member has been justified in making much of the case of his own constituency. It is a less strong case than that of two divisions of Essex, or that of Cardiff, which exceeds the number of electors of Wandsworth by the number of electors by which another borough constituency in Great Britain returns a Member to this House, and by a number which exceeds that by which several borough constituencies in Ireland return Members to this House. In short, then, I agree with the hon. Member as regards the nature and the extent of the disease. I even admit to him that in the present state of things there is a real danger of the reversal in this House of the opinion of the country, although since 1880 that has not on any important occasion been proved. There are, however, questions, such as those of redistribution of seats itself and of the extinction of corrupt practices in small borough constituencies, upon which at any moment it might occur. When we come to remedy, I am less extreme than my hon. Friend, though he calls himself a Conservative. With the Irish difficulty out of our way, by the withdrawal of the Irish Members from this House or by the reduction of their numbers, it would be very easy to greatly improve on the old lines the proportionality of representation here. It it difficult to justify the separate representation in this House of boroughs containing much less than half the average number of electors as well as far less than half the average 78 population. Now, if we look to the boroughs that have separate representation, although with both less than 4,000 electors, and less than 20,000 population, we find that, taking the recent change at Pontefract into account, such borough constituencies in Great Britain return seven Liberals and 14 Conservatives to this House. If we, at the same time, slightly raise the limit for taking away one seat from boroughs which have two, we obtain one Liberal and two Conservative second seats; and with the seven Conservative University seats, we find ourselves in possession, by a redistribution, of eight Liberal and 23 Conservative seats. These would go one to Cardiff, one to the Isle of Wight, three or four to London (chiefly to Conservative parts of London), two to Essex, and some three to other county seats, and the House have to be reduced by about 20 Members. Such a scheme in its Party sense, like any redistribution scheme which at this moment can be conceived as possible, would give a slight advantage to the Liberals. It would give this great gain to the country, that, while some of the seats to go would be corrupt, all the new seats to be given would be pure seats. This would be a change upon the old lines. Upon this system it would be easy to reduce anomalies, so that the extreme anomalies, instead of being eight to one, would not exceed four to one in their proportion. Now, for a scheme on the new lines—a revolutionary scheme, such as that advocated by the hon. Member who calls himself a Conservative. Such a scheme must break up the distinction between the borough and county, must destroy the boundaries of ancient boroughs, the boundaries of counties, and, I repeat, it is doubtful to me whether it would be popular in the country or obtain general support among Conservatives. It is the Chartist scheme of equal electoral districts. In 1884, Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote took the exactly opposite position. They insisted on our doing all in our power to obtain a separation of urban from rural districts, and extension of borough boundaries, but a rigid separation between county and borough. It was the only point upon which they insisted in placing, themselves, their 79 own words in the instructions to the Commissioners, and if it is the intention of the Conservative leaders to reverse that policy it is the leaders who ought to say so, and not the hon. Member for Wandsworth. It has been my object today to help on the cause of a more complete redistribution which I have at heart by a non-Party speech, by an impartial consideration of the subject, but I freely admit the interest of Radicalism in equal representation. A new scheme, whether a large or small, can, however, not be carried for us either by a Select Committee, however influential, or by a Royal Commission. It can only be settled in its main lines by the existence first of a common desire and then by mutual help. It is hopeless in these days for either party to think of carrying such a scheme against the other. If at any time there is a general wish for a further redistribution, then I am convinced that the best plan will be that some meetings should take place between, say, the President of the Local Government Board and the right hon. Baronet the Member for West Bristol, or the Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool, and that they should then sketch out a scheme which should not be forced upon the House, but submitted to publicity, together with their reasons for recommending it to the public. I beg, Sir, to move the Amendment- which stands in my name.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add. the words "while deprecating the reference of the subject of Redistribution of Seats to a Select Committee or Royal Commission, this House is of opinion that the great discrepancies in electoral power which still exists between Constituencies deserve the attention of Her Majesty's Government, with a view to legislation in a future Session if general agreement can be arrived at." —(Sir Charles W. Dilke,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
said, he wished, in the first place, to congratulate the Tory Party on their newfound scheme of reform. Now, nothing would suit these advocates of reform except equal electoral districts, and nothing 80 would satisfy them except one vote one value. That was a great change, for it was the Tories who were the strongest opponents of reform up to 1832, who threatened the country with civil war if the rotten boroughs were abolished, and who opposed with great vehemence for 50 years the introduction of the Ballot. And now, in their extremity, they thought it might help them if they brought forward this Motion, because there was undoubtedly a larger proportion of Members representing Irish constituencies than the proportion of population of Ireland as compared with Great Britain entitled them to. He admitted that if Ireland, at the present moment, were represented proportionately to Great Britain they would be entitled not to 103 or 101 Members, but to 80 only. But he was extremely sorry to hear the Member for Antrim say that Ireland was over-represented; the hon. Member was not sent by his constituents to say that. In 1873 Ireland, so far from being over-represented, was under-represented, and would have been entitled to no fewer than 112 Members. In that year Mr. Butt made a speech at a Home Rule Conference in which he said that England, in a few years, would insist that the number of Irish Members should be reduced to a certain number to meet their diminishing population. They might say that Ireland was over-represented numerically, but he thought he might say this much, that up to 1875 Ireland was really outraged in point of representation; outraged from the time of the Union. From that time Ireland had been slightly over-represented, and this, the only benefit which the Union had ever conferred upon her, it was now sought to take away from her. At the time of the Union the English representation was 558 Members, and the number of Members in the Irish House of Commons at the same date was 300. Ireland had a population equal to two-thirds of the population of Great Britain, and she would then have been entitled not to 100 Members, but to 300 on the numerical proportion. Lord Castlereagh, however, in arranging the proportion, said the population of Ireland was two-fifths of the United Kingdom, and that if population only was considered she would be 81 entitled to 202 Members, but he took into consideration, not only the population, but the Revenue, and exports and imports, and he came to the conclusion that Ireland was entitled only to 108½ Members, and he took away the eight and a half and left 100 as Ireland's share of the representation. In those days the idea of proportionate representation did not come into the estimates of practical politicians, and Ireland was cheated out of her due share. If she had got the number that her population entitled her to she would have had 291, and calculated on the basis of revenue and national wealth, Ireland should have had 176 Members. In 1873, as shown by Mr. Butt, Ireland was entitled to 112, but at the present time undoubtedly she was only entitled to 82. It would be strongly urged, though, that pending the settlement of the Irish question, and because of the wrong that was done Ireland in her representation in the past, that her representation should be retained at its present strength. It was an interesting fact, in connection with the representation of Ireland, that from the day of the Union down to the present day, with one single exception, there had not been one representative of Dublin University who was not the salaried officer of the Tory Party. On this ground he hoped the Universities, when they came to be dealt with, would not be spared.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, the right hon. Baronet below him (Sir C. Dilke)had admitted that there were anomalies in the Irish representation, but he had answered that by saying there were also anomalies in the English representation, and he proposed to set off the English anomalies against those in the Irish representation. In Ireland, however, the anomalies were all on one side, whereas in England they tended to correct each other. That was a very important difference. One part of Ireland, the North, was not over-represented according to its population, but the South and West were admittedly over-represented.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, the right hon. Baronet had admitted that Ireland was over-represented, but he went on to say that that question was provided for in the Bill before the House, so that there was no use in talking further about it. The over-representation was admitted, and was going to be provided for, and they were not at liberty to discuss the Home Rule Bill. They had had the admission from the highest authority in that House—the Prime Minister—that this over-representation existed. He should have thought when the evil had been admitted, when it had been practically acknowledged that there were 23 Irish Members in excess in that House—he should have thought that instead of the right hon. Baronet saying that was going to be corrected and remedied, the proper course would have been that before a revolutionary measure was introduced care should have been taken to have a proper representation of the people on the question. The right hon. Baronet said in his speech that in 1884–5, when this question of redistribution was before the House, it was impossible to deal with it. No one knew better than the right hon. Baronet what took place on that occasion; and the opinion outside the House was that both Parties in the House were afraid to touch it. That was the reason they were now face to face with the fact that they were asked to carry out a revolutionary Bill for Ireland when Parliament admitted there were 23 Members too many from that country sitting in the House, and if that anomaly were remedied the Prime Minister would not be sitting on the Treasury Bench.
§ MR. FISHER (Fulham)
thought the hon. Member for Wandsworth had done a distinct service in calling the attention of the House to the gross inequalities in our present electoral system. The right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Dilke), who was a great master of the science of electioneering, had told them that the doctrine of vicinity had been abandoned by the Government in their redistribution scheme of 1885. He had his doubts upon 83 the matter. At all events, they had some foundation for thinking that the doctrine had a great deal to do with only 62 Members being allotted to the Metropolis of London, whilst 103 Members were given to Ireland. In his speech on the Franchise Bill the right hon. Member for Midlothian laid down what was known as the centrifugal principle. In that speech the right hon. Gentleman stated—I am certainly disposed to admit that very large and closely concentrated populations ought not to have quite so high a proportional share in the representation of the country as rural and separate populations, because naturally political power in these concentrated masses is sharper, quicker, and more vehement. That consideration, of course, would apply most of all to the Metropolis.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
(interposing): At that moment the suggestion before the right hon. Gentleman was that London should have 48 Members; the number was afterwards increased.
§ MR. FISHER
The right hon. Member for Midlothian only seems partly to have given up the centrifugal principle.
§ MR. FISHER
said, most certainly the right hon. Gentleman carried out that theory with regard to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman, on a former occasion, said it was fair that those parts of the country which, like Scotland and Ireland, were separated by great distances, not omitting the element of the sea, should be more liberally dealt with in proportion to the representatives they ought to send. If, for the sake of argument, they admitted that generosity ought to be applied in certain cases it ought not to amount to inflicting a positive injustice upon the great Metropolis of London. London suffered the greatest inconvenience from this gross inequality of treatment. She had a population larger than Ireland, and yet while Ireland sent 103 Members to Parliament, London was only entitled to send 62. Instead of the introduction of the Home Rule Bill making the subject less pressing, he thought it made it more pressing. 84 The time was coming when Londoners would find they had only 62 Members representing the Metropolis, whereas Ireland would send 80 Members, who might use their voting power not only for Imperial questions, but also to turn out a Government which might deal with London questions in a London way. That was a most important consideration, apart altogether from the Imperial aspect of the case. He was at a loss to know why the borough he represented, which had 12,000 voters, should only have one-fifth the voting power and voice that were going to be given to boroughs in Ireland, not only on Imperial matters, but also on matters which affected the English people alone. It would be the duty of the London Members to call attention to this gross injustice, and they should not rest content until the intelligent citizens of London had their fair share in the representative Government of this country, and full voice and voting power in controlling the destinies of the Empire.
§ MR. BYLES (York, W.R., Shipley)
said, that with regard to the representation of London, judging from the last Census, it was too little, whilst the representation of many small boroughs in the country was too large. As to the speech of the Member for South Tyrone, it was a little surprising to him (Mr. Byles) to find an Irish Member getting up in his place and proposing the reduction of the representation of his own country. The principle enunciated by the Member for Tyrone seemed to him a dangerous one. The hon. Member had said that the discrepancies in the electoral system alluded to by the right hon. Baronet were equally as great in England as in Ireland, but that in Ireland they were all on one side, whereas in England they tended to correct themselves by being on different sides. If, in dealing with the question of the representation of the constituencies of this country, they were to apply the consideration of what side discrepancies were upon, they would get into a very dangerous dilemma, and he entirely disapproved of applying any such principle. The question before the House was simply whether they should proceed to correct the inequalities which existed by 85 the issue of a Commission, or by the usual method of proceeding in that House when time allowed. They were all agreed that these discrepancies existed. Whereas he (Mr. Byles) had been sent there to represent 15,000 voters, one of the most recently elected Members represented only 2,000. Both sides were agreed as to the existence of these anomalies and inequalities, and the question was how could they best be remedied? They all seemed to recognise the facts of the case, so that there seemed no necessity to issue a Commission to find out the facts. He should, therefore, support the Amendment, because he believed the proper way to proceed in the matter was by the introduction of a Bill, when they had an opportunity of dealing with it. The Irish Home Rule Bill had been referred to as dealing with this question of redistribution of seats in Ireland, so that the question of Irish representation became of less consequence; and when after that Bill had passed, and the time of Members of the House was more at their own disposal, it would be possible for them to so adjust the representation of this country as to overcome the gross inequalities which had been spoken of. As they were all agreed upon the facts, he hoped it would be possible to determine the question by agreement between Parties on both sides of the House. He would gladly see a good deal more of the legislation of that House carried by sensible agreement between gentlemen on both sides with great capacity for discussing these matters.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
I have listened with a great deal of agreement to what has been said on both sides of the House in the course of this Debate. No one can deny that great inequalities exist in the representation, not only in Ireland but also in London. That I am perfectly prepared to admit, and before long, probably sooner rather than later, there must be another Redistribution Bill. The only question is when this reform is to be carried out, and how it is to be done? The Motion is a proposal to appoint a Commission or Committee. This, I think, I can confidently 86 say, that no great change of this kind, no great reform measure, has ever been undertaken in that method. I am quite sure it would have been repugnant to the ideas of all great statesmen who had the conduct of affairs in former times to have dealt with these matters in the way that is now proposed. I remember myself hearing Mr. Disraeli saying in this House, "You cannot refer the British Constitution to a Select Committee." That is perfectly true, and that is not the manner in which you can deal with questions of this immense importance. It is all very well to talk about an impartial Committee; hon. Members speak a great deal about these impartial Bodies, but we see mighty little of them, but an impartial Committee is not, I think, very likely to be obtained. These questions are always settled, and always will have to be settled, by a sort of balance of political forces in this country, as in 1832 and 1884. I have not risen to traverse any of the statements or principles laid down by the Mover of this Motion; but I would venture to suggest to him that, having attained the object he has in view by bringing these facts under the consideration of the country and the House, he should not press his Motion to a Division. I believe what the Mover of the Amendment wants is this: He deprecates the reference of the subject of the redistribution of seats to a Select Committee of the House or to a Royal Commission, but he declares that the discrepancies that exist deserve our attention, with a view to legislation. The subject must be dealt with very soon, and in my opinion what we want is not absolute symmetry, but a general rule of thumb agreement as to a common-sense adjustment of the representation of the country. Under such an adjustment asthat—anadjustment, of course, which I hope would be recognised as fair—the Metropolis would have more Members, a larger share of representation than at present, and some smaller constituencies would be done away with altogether. After these expressions of my views on the part of the Government, I hope the hon. Member will withdraw his Motion. I am sure he will be satisfied with the views which I have stated, and that the country 87 will be informed by the discussion which has taken place on this Motion.
§ MR. KIMBER
said, in accepting, as he willingly did, the very valuable admissions of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would like to say a word or two. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman had admitted his facts, and that a remedy must be sooner than later applied. There was very little difference between himself and the Mover of the Amendment. The method adopted was not so material. He thought there ought to be some remedy for the excessive Irish and deficient English representation. That voting power of Ireland had been used in the past on questions of grave importance, and it was now to be used in passing a Bill which might be regarded as of the first importance to all of them. The injustice of the present arrangement ought to be remedied before any great Constitutional changes were passed or considered. That was his opinion, and he hoped it met with the sympathy of the House. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his reception of the Motion, and trusted he would, with his colleagues in the Government, give the whole subject their consideration, before they proceeded with any Bills to effect constitutional changes.
SIR CHARLES W. DLLKE
In order to facilitate the hon. Member withdrawing his Motion, I wish, Sir, to withdraw my Amendment, and to express the great satisfaction with which I have listened to the declaration of the Government this afternoon.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.