HC Deb 17 March 1893 vol 10 cc462-3
MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)

said, he rose for the purpose of calling attention to the Returns lately issued showing that there had been an increase in the number of illiterate voters in certain parts of the United Kingdom, and to ask for a Select Committee to consider the question. He said the question was one of very great importance. They in England were absolutely free from the system of coercion which, unfortunately, existed elsewhere. Indeed they had little to complain of in either England or Scotland at the present time. The percentage in England was extremely small in respect of illiterates, and in Scotland the figures were even more satisfactory. But let them look to Ireland. They knew that 21 out of every 100 had claimed to vote as illiterates. It was impossible for him to say how many of these were really illiterates; but the House might be interested if he read a few figures from districts included in the Return. There was one county, that of Galway, where out or 15,000 voters who came to the poll, 6,705 claimed to be illiterate—that they could neither read nor write. In Kerry there were 12,800 voters who went to the poll, of whom 3,800 described themselves as illiterate. In Cork there were only two contested elections, but the proportion of illiterates was large. They could contrast this with such outlying constituencies as Orkney and Shetland, where 203,000 voted, and where the very smallest number—only one, he believed —claimed to be illiterate; or Ayr, where, out of 10,387, only 82 claimed to be illiterate. The same thing was to be found as regarded the remote parts of England▀×▀×

THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. MARJORIBANKS,) Berwickshire

I rise to Order, Sir; and I wish to ask, Is this question not covered by the Bill which the hon. Member himself has introduced?

MR. SPEAKER

My attention has only just been called to the Bill. I am clearly of opinion that the clauses of the Bill cover the whole subject of the Motion now before the House.

MR. R. G. WEBSTER

said, he saw that quite clearly himself, but he would point out that he had not in any way referred to the Ballot Act. He had simply pointed out that this was a grave anomaly that existed, and he only proposed asking for a Committee to inquire into it. He had dealt with the clauses of the Bill.

MR. SPEAKER

There can be no object in alluding to the subject of the illiterate voter except it be to secure his removal. That seems to be the object of the Bill, and I must, therefore, rule the hon. Gentleman out of Order.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)