§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [1st May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."379
And which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
this House declines to proceed further with a Bill containing provisions effecting extensive changes in the representative system of the country, in the absence of proposals for the redress of the large inequalities existing in the distribution of electoral power."—(Sir E. Clarke.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to he left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I have, in the first place, to express my grateful recognition of the courtesy of the right hon. Member for Great Grimsby, who has refrained from exercising his right to continue the Debate. I am always very sorry to interfere with any hon. Member of the House, and I am especially so in the case of my right hon. Friend, who has made a special study of this subject. But, Sir, I understand the Government desire that this Debate should be brought to a close this evening, and further, very naturally and properly, they wish to have, at all events, a fair opportunity of replying upon the whole Debate, and as the previous discussion of a Private Bill has taken so much time I ventured to think it might be desirable I should rise at once. I regret very much that other circumstances over which I had not absolute control prevented mo from being present yesterday to listen to the most admirable speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury. Sir, I do not, think that anyone, whether they agree with that speech or not, will contest its ability or will hesitate to say it was a most eloquent and most exhaustive indictment of the whole policy of the Government as contained in this Bill. I read it to-day, and I must say it appears to me, and I think it must have appeared to the House at the time, that the reply of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India was a most inadequate answer. I am not in the least detracting from the eloquence or the ability of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India, but I am certain that ability was chiefly shown on the occasion of this Debate yesterday in the skill with which he managed to 380 avoid all the main issues in conflict. My right hon. Friend began with a vehement declamation in which he accused the right hon. Member for Bury of gross inconsistency. Sir, that is the staple argument of the supporters of the Ministry and of the Members of the Ministry—a staple argument with gentlemen who, of course, must feel that they, at any rate, are free from the slightest suspicion or reproach in regard to this subject. As regards many of the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury, the Secretary of State for India passed them over without any notice whatsoever. Anyone who will read the printed reports of the two speeches will find that, practically, questions one after another were submitted to the Government, and as to the majority of them the Government have taken no notice whatsoever; and even as regards those that they did notice I must say it appears to me the reply was altogether insufficient. Now, Sir, I feel that under these circumstances, in following my right hon. Friend, my chief duty is to repeat and to reinforce the arguments which he advanced. I hope that, although I cannot expect to put these arguments forward any better, if as well, as my right hon. Friend, at all events I can do it in a rather different way, and, perhaps, I may be more fortunate than he was, because the Secretary of State for India professed as one reason for not replying to my right hon. Friend that he could not understand his argument. At least I will endeavour to make myself intelligible. I should also say at the commencement that I approach the policy of the Government with, on the whole, more favourable feelings than may be entertained by some of my hon. Friends opposite. I have always admitted that the state of our Registration Law7 was a scandal and abuse, and it was the duty as well as the natural desire of every Government to amend this law, and I am prepared to do justice to the Government and to say they were quite right and would fail in their duty were they not to call the attention of the House to the subject. It may, however, be a little more questionable whether in calling the attention of the House to the undoubted defects in our Registration Law they were entitled for the first time, in 381 such a case, to introduce, bead and shoulders, a subject which has really no direct reference to the main object of the Bill, and whether they were justified, to use the words of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in cutting deeply into the franchise. And, Sir, I suppose that all Parties on both sides of the House will agree that no Government—I will not say this, but any, Government—would be justified in touching this subject at all, in dealing with great questions affecting our electoral system, if they were to approach it in a partisan spirit and solely with a view to Party interest and Party supremacy. The Secretary of State for India most indignantly repudiated any intention of the kind. He said that suggestions to that effect occurred in the speech of the Member for Bury, and he most indignantly repudiated them, and I think the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the course of the Debate declared they had no Party object. Very well, I accept the assurance of my right hon. Friend. I am not going to contest, that in the course of this Debate, and I can only express my sympathy with them at their disappointment when, after having introduced a Bill of this kind in the most disinterested way and without any Party object, they found in the course of the Debate that they had been entirely mistaken and that the Bill will do the very thing they do not want to do. Well, now, Sir, the Secretary of State for India said that what they proposed to do was to deal with pressing and admitted grievances, and that they had no ulterior object. He said they could not, they had not the time, and I suppose not the inclination, to deal with all the anomalies in our electoral system, and consequently they have been obliged to make a selection. A selection! Is it a natural selection? Is it a survival of the fittest? The process of selection in the case of a Government dealing with a highly technical and controversial subject is always, I think the Secretary of State for India will agree, an extremely delicate matter, and admitting that their object is to deal fairly with all Parties in this matter, I must say I cannot compliment them on their success. Imagine they had proceeded on a totally different supposition, and suppose the Government had said to themselves, "Here is a General Election coming and we are going to be beaten; 382 let us shuffle the cards; let us arrange for a new pack, and under these circumstances we may possibly have some chance of victory, which at present we have not." Suppose they had said that, what would have been their course? They would have surveyed the whole of the electoral field, and they would have made a list of every anomaly and of everything which by any chance could be called a grievance affecting any Party or individual, and having made that list they would proceed to a process of selection, and they would have selected precisely those anomalies for redress which at the present time toll in favour of their opponents, and would have discarded altogether all those anomalies which happen to tell on the other side. That is clearly what they would do if they desired to bring forward a Party Bill. But, Sir, what is this Bill? That is precisely what this Bill does. I say it is admitted. The supporters of the Government—not, perhaps, in this House, but out of it, in the country—have been saying for themselves what the Government have done and will do by this Bill. The late Attorney General has been quoted, and no explanation has been given of his speech. He pointed out that by the changes which this Bill would involve constituencies which wore now safe seats for the Conservative or Unionist. Party would become safe seats for the Government. I am going frankly to accept the assurances given to us by my right hon. Friends, but it does appear to me they are the only people in this House and, I believe, in the country who do not know what the inevitable results would be of their own Bill. I am unwilling to bring any charge! against the Government, or to say that this extraordinary coincidence is due to any deliberate action on their part, and, therefore, we have to find who it is who is responsible, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury yesterday pointed out the culprit. There is a French proverb which says if you want to know who is the criminal you must find out who will most profit by the crime. There is no doubt who will profit by this Bill. Only one section of the community, of course the Party of the Government, may at all events gain a temporary advantage through the provisions of the Bill. I am not speaking of political advantage. The direct pecu- 383 niary and personal advantage which is to be gained by this Bill will all go to political agents and wire-pullers, whether of the one Party or another. As to that there is no doubt whatever. This is not a Party question; this is not a matter of controversy, nor, I believe, is this a result which any Party in this House would really desire to bring about. I am not going to dwell, at this time especially, at any length upon the question of the enormous additional expense which this Bill will involve. The Secretary of State for India really treated the matter much too lightly. I think his reply was totally insufficient on the subject, and I think his figures were figures which no one practically acquainted with the working of our registration system in the different constituencies would justify for one moment. This matter has been, I think, proved to the satisfaction of the House. Authorities on this subject on both sides have concurred in the view that the effect of this Bill would be to throw an additional charge upon the rates of between £300,000 and £500,000. Now, that is rather a serious thing. Why should we take out of the pockets of the ratepayers a sum of between £300,000 and £500,000 in order to find subsistence for a number of officials already existing and a great number more who will be created as soon as this Bill passes both Houses of Parliament? But that is not the worst. I would be content if we got sufficient advantage to leave the rates to take care of themselves. But what about the candidates? Why are we to have imposed upon us for no public good whatsoever the enormous additional expense which will be involved by this Bill? And remember that expense will come upon us for two reasons, and to one of these sufficient importance has not been attached. The Secretary of State for India told us in a lucid moment, before he got up to support this Bill, that under a system of double registration you would have registration all the year round. Every person who comes forward for Parliamentary honours, if he wants to stand a fair chance against his opponent, will have to keep the preparations for and the work of registration going month after month and week after week throughout the whole 12 mouths. That in itself means an enormous expense. But then you have 384 also the immensely increased necessity for an expert and professional supervision of registration which is involved in this Bill. You are making the Registration Law much more complicated than before, you are opening the door to bogus qualifications, you are making personation much more easy. You are doing all these things, and no man who can afford it will fail to protect himself against that possibility. He can only protect himself through persons who are skilled in that particular kind of work—dirty work I was almost going to say; but, at all events, they must be persons who are professionally qualified, and professional assistance, valuable as it is, is also very expensive. I say that is undoubtedly a proof, if any proof were wanted, that the real authors of this Bill are the leaders of the professional organisation, Mr. Schnadhorst and his acolytes, who see their advantage in a change which certainly will not be at all to the advantage of their employers or of the public. What the Government ought to have done was to have codified the Law of Registration. We want to have a simple and single law, and not to have to run through I do not know how many Acts of Parliament from early times down to the present. There are also a great number of conflicting decisions given by the Courts; those are all left untouched. Not one single thing is done which will take 1s. off the expense, but everything is done in order to increase the expense. I appeal to hon. Members who desire that poverty should not be a bar to representation in this House. I say you are doing all you can to prevent poor men from coming to this House. You talk about payment of Members. Even if you were to pay them upon a royal scale it would not be enough to pay the legitimate expenses of providing for registration in the case of a Bill of this kind. But I do not appeal on behalf of the poor men only; I appeal on behalf of the best men. I mean by that the men who have no personal objects to serve, who come here because they honestly desire to do public work and public service, and those are just the men, whether rich or poor, who resent the imposition upon their shoulders of an unnecessary and extortionate charge because they are willing to serve their country. You are doing a great injury to the character of 385 this House and of the representation in the United Kingdom when you unnecessarily, put upon the shoulders of candidates these very heavy charges. This matter, of course, is not a Party question, and I appeal to the Government, when we come into Committee, to leave it an open question. In that case, I undertake to say, we shall amend the Bill so that the new association of Party agents will not know their own offspring. Another non-contentious point is the question of official registration. Why on earth is that proposal dropped out of the present Bill? I believe the creation of an official registration system was really one of the main items of the programme of the Liberal Party before the split. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean gave an explanation of the provision in question which I should have thought rather ridiculous. He said the Government had dropped it because the Loader of the Opposition killed it. That is a great compliment to the Leader of the Opposition, and it is the first occasion on which such a compliment has been paid to any Member of the Opposition. But I did not understand that the argument of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition killed the principle of the proposal. He pointed out, and very properly, the dangers of official registration if you were not very careful to secure your officials from political and Party influence; but if, by taking such precautious as are always taken in regard to every appointment which is in the nature of a judicial appointment, you can have a thoroughly impartial official system, then I think it would be very much to our advantage to adopt if. Certainly that is one of the things which will greatly lessen the expense of registration to candidates and enable them to dispense with what, after all, I think everybody desires as far as possible to dispense with—namely, purely professional agency. Then I come to the question of one polling day. That, again, cannot be a matter of principle; it is a matter rather of the general convenience of the constituencies. I do not pretend that to have the elections on one day would be more injurious to our Party than to the Party of the Government, but I do say it would be a most inconvenient arrangement. The Secretary of State for India said that it was perfectly 386 easy to have one polling day because they have it in America. It is quite true that they have it in America for a certain election, but the circumstances of the Presidential Election are totally different to those of our General Election, and I venture to say that, whether it be convenient or not in America, it would be extremely inconvenient in this country. Why? Because if you are to have it on one day you must either shorten the time for the polling in counties or lengthen it for boroughs, or you must do both—as, indeed, the Bill does. The Government have shortened the time for counties and lengthened it for boroughs. To the former, although I should have thought it very difficult, considering the enormous extent of many county divisions, I should have no objection; but I do ask, in the name of my fellow Members for boroughs, why on earth a lengthened period is to be imposed upon us? Everybody knows that to lengthen the period means to increase the expense, and generally to increase the excitement, which is not always desirable. I submit, therefore, that here also we should be allowed absolute freedom to treat this as a non-controversial matter, and to vote according to the opinions and desires of our constituencies. Then comes another question—if you are to have one day, is that day to be Saturday? It is not a question of Party importance, but Saturday is the worst day you could possibly choose, and I cannot understand how anybody with the experience of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India could have allowed his name to be attached to a proposal of this kind. If he had taken the opinion of his Association in Wolverhampton he would have found they wore entirely opposed to it. At all events, my own constituents, and I may say the whole population of Birmingham of both Parties, are entirely opposed to Saturday polling. And why? There are three reasons. In the first place, it affects the Jews. Now the Jews, although not a very numerous body, are, at all events, entitled to he considered. The Secretary of State for India spoke almost with indignation of any suggestion that the poll should be held in this country on Sunday. Well, the Jews may take the same objection to a poll on Saturday. Why should you put this great and unnecessary in- 387 convenience on a very considerable number of perfectly respectable voters and capable citizens? In the second place, it is extremely inconvenient for the small shopkeepers in the towns. Saturday is the busiest day of the week in all our large towns. The working classes make their purchases on that day, and the effect of having the polling on a Saturday would be to disfranchise a very large number of most respectable people—that is to say, the shopkeepers who supply the artizan classes. But I am not by any means certain that the artizan classes themselves would like it, because more and more it is becoming their habit to make a holiday of Saturday. They clear up their work on Saturday morning, and in the afternoon they go into the country—many of them on bicycles—especially in summer, in very large numbers, and do not return till late in the evening, and then they have got to make their purchases. Therefore, the proposal to make polling universal on Saturday would be, I believe, to disfranchise a very considerable number of persons. [Cries of "Oh!"] I will not put it in that way if hon. Members jeer at it. I will say I am certain. I am endeavouring to discuss this matter with all fairness and with absolute impartiality, and I confess I think this kind of interruption, the tone of the interruption, is extremely discourteous. There is one other point in regard to a Saturday polling day, and that applies to the counties, where, I think, it will be found that a very great number of markets are held upon Saturday; and, if that is so, the inconvenience in the county constituencies might be just as great as the inconvenience in the boroughs. I think this is a question which ought to receive very much more consideration than I think the Government have given to it up to the present time. Now I pass on to the qualifying period. That has been treated in a more contentious spirit by some hon. Members than I am prepared to treat it myself on the present occasion. What are the facts? As I understand the statement of the Chief Secretary and of other hon. Members, the qualifying period—that is to say, the period after which a man can get his vote—is at the present time 18 months as a minimum and two and a quarter years as a maximum. We are all agreed that 388 that is too long. By the Bill of 1893 this would have been reduced to nine months as a minimum and 21 months as a maximum. Under the present Bill it is nine months as a minimum and 15 months as a maximum. If we substituted a six months residence qualification, it would then be 12 months as a minimum and 18 months as a maximum. I prefer six months, and I do so because I think we are all agreed that a substantial period of residence, giving a man a local interest and local responsibilities, is really a good qualification, and even a fair condition to be imposed on the exercise of the franchise. But, at the same time, if I could accept the figures as I have just given them as regards the minimum term, it really does not matter very much in the case of a bouâ fide qualification whether the man's residence is nine months or 12 months. I should be disposed to say 12 months, but still I should be willing to admit that nine months would be a sufficient period. But I want to point out to my right hon. Friends that, although it is perfectly true that that is the minimum period in the case of what I have called the bonâ fide qualification—in the case of the man who takes up his qualification in a constituency intending to reside in the constituency—it is totally different in the case of the bogus qualification; and I want to ask the Chief Secretary whether the Government have considered this point? What is to prevent, say, a large manufacturer or a large contractor who has very strong political opinions from introducing into a borough or a county in which there is a very small Tarty majority 20, 30, or 50 men, paying their rent for three months, and giving them, therefore, a residential qualification, and immediately afterwards taking them out of the constituency into a neighbouring one, or into a distant one if you like, and only bringing them back when they are wanted to vote. What would be the effect of that? The cost to that contractor, supposing he paid it out of his own pocket, would not be more than £100. You could put 50 men into Birmingham for three months for £100. Having moved them in for three months there is no necessity for keeping them there, because, having got upon the Register, their vote is a good one until the next registration. Of course, that is 389 an operation which will only he performed when there is reason to expect an election very shortly. Take a time like the present. I think most people will suppose that an election is coming before the next 15 months. [An hon. MEMBER: "No, no!"] I did not say the hon. Member, I said most people; and most people hope for it, though probably not the hon. Member. In such a case it would be worth while for this operation to be performed, and I believe there is no doubt whatever that in this way it would be perfectly possible for a man to vote at an election for six months after he had received his qualification, and although be had only resided in the place three mouths and those three months 12 mouths before the election took place. In these circumstances, just consider what a temptation there is to carry out this very dubious operation. Consider what an opportunity it gives for manipulation of every kind, and consider also how much more easy it will make individual personation. It is difficult enough to detect personation now; it will be almost impossible to detect personation if the people who are voting are persons who are not known to their neighbours, and who have already at the time they vote disappeared for some period from the constituency. I hope the Government may be willing to give the matter further consideration, and, if I am right, I think we should be justified in asking that, at all events, a bonâ fide residence of six months should qualify a man for the exercise of the franchise. There is another question which must be treated as a controversial matter, and that is the question of the position of lodgers. The position of lodgers is most anomalous, and nobody doubts that lodgers have a grievance. A great deal was expected from the lodger franchise, and it has not fulfilled the expectations of its authors. Why not? Not because there are not plenty of lodgers who are well qualified to take their place with the electorate of the country, but because the Registration Laws put such difficulties in their way that they cannot get on the roll. That is precisely the case which the Bill in its main principle is intended to deal with. We have been told from the Government Bench its object is not to give the franchise, but to put those who are 390 entitled to the franchise upon the Register. Then why not put the lodgers on? That that is a fair and honest demand to make is shown by this fact: that in the Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for Halifax this provision did appear, and that Bill was supported by the Liberal Party. It appeared in the Bill of 1893. Why is it not in the Bill of 1891? Is it because they have not time? Is it because they cannot deal with the whole subject? Why, then, did they introduce a lot of other things which were not in the Bill of 1893? Why did they drop precisely that thing which everybody knows is likely on the whole to benefit the Unionist, Party, and why did they put in a whole number of new things which have not nearly so close a connection with the Bill, but which are certain to benefit the Party of the Government? One hon. Member the other day said this would enfranchise the sons of squires and of parsons and of fanners. [An hon. MEMBER: Who paid nothing.] That is absurd; if they paid nothing they would not get on. Well, suppose it does. Why not? Why should not the sons of squires, of parsons, and of farmers, if they are entitled to the vote, if they are qualified for the vote, if they are capable citizens, have the vote? I am only arguing against the hon. Member who has put forward this reason. I maintain that there are a great number of others besides these classes who ought to be put on as lodgers. Why should they not be enfranchised if they are entitled to be upon the Register? It is because, forsooth, their fathers pay for them. It is difficult to say whether they are in a position to pay for themselves. I can give an illustration. I have a son who gives me the pleasure of his company at my house. Is that any reason why he should be disfranchised? He is capable of being a Member of this House, and I should have thought he would be considered capable of voting for a Member of this House, and for the life of me I cannot find any reasonable or any impartial argument against the enfranchisement of the lodger class. Then I go on to consider a very important suggestion—namely, the abolition of the ratepaying condition. Again, I ask myself, why is that introduced, I think for the first time, by this Government? It is a very curious fact 391 that the maintenance of the ratepaying condition was a Liberal principle, and actually, when a Conservative Government proposed to abolish it—at that time the majority of the freeholders were Liberals—Lord John Russell opposed the reform, and declared that it was contrary to the Liberal principle that taxation and representation should go together. Well, we have changed all that, and I am not certain whether that is a Liberal principle any longer. At all events, the answer of the Secretary of State for India was that the representation was national and the taxation was local, and that there was no more reason for making the payment of local taxation a condition than the payment of any other debt. I am surprised that with his great acuteness the right hon. Gentleman should not have seen the distinction. It is quite impossible to make national taxation the test of fitness, because the vast majority of the voters pay no direct national taxes. Local taxation is the only remaining test of a man's willingness to fulfil his civic obligations. Now, I want to appeal to my Radical friends. Is it really their pretension now that, without regard to fitness at all, every man is entitled to vote? Is manhood, without any condition of any kind, to he the one qualification?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
My hon. Friend says "Yes." My hon. Friend goes much further than Radicals have been accustomed to do, because even in democratic States where you have absolute manhood suffrage I do not believe there is one where there are not many conditions, conditions either of an educational character, or conditions which have relation to the fulfilment of State and civic duties. But let me ask my hon. Friend below me another question. Is he in favour of placing the pauper on the register, a man who at the present moment is absolutely subsisting hon the bounty of the community, and of allowing him to vote in matters affecting the expenditure of the community? He does not answer.
§ MR. STOREY
I do not want to he catechised. My right hon. Friend knows my views on that point, just as well as I know the views he used to hold.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I have not catechised my hon. Friend; I only asked him a civil question. I should not have catechised him, as he says, if I had known his views, but I am absolutely ignorant of what his views are on the matter, and therefore I asked him. But as regards my own views, I may say that I have always held the views, absolutely so, that I am now putting before the House. In no speech of mine—and there are many hon. Members who are better acquainted with my speeches than I am myself—will you find anything which lends itself to the idea that a pauper ought to be on the Register. I take it that the majority of Radicals still hold the doctrine that a man ought not to be on the Register who is upon the rates. If that is held to be a fair condition for the exercise of the franchise, â fortiori I say you ought to put off the Register a man who is not only a pauper but a defaulter. The defaulter may not be a pauper, in a technical sense, but in another sense he is a great deal worse than a pauper. The pauper may be a man who has fallen into that position entirely through misfortune; but a defaulter is a man who is perfectly well able to meet his obligations, but deliberately chooses not to do so, and evades them. In our large towns there are numbers of people who make it a regular practice to flit to other districts just before the tax collector comes, in order to evade their just obligations. What you are doing in this Bill is to encourage that class. It will not hold water even from the extreme Radical position. Granting that we may be in favour of absolute manhood suffrage, still we are bound and justified by every Liberal principle in imposing such a condition as we think necessary in order to show that a man is a capable citizen. That brings me to another point in reference to this huckstering of the franchise. Great alterations were made in the franchise in 1884. What was our object then? What was the claim which justified our action? It was that we intended to bring within the portals of the Constitution 2,000,000 capable citizens, and I say that a man is not a capable citizen who goes from place to place, who has no fixed domicile, who has no legal responsibility, who shirks the first duty of a citizen, and who refuses to bear his proper share of civic obligations. 393 I do not believe this proposal of the Government will be popular, and in saying that I mean that it will not be popular even with their own Party. I do not believe it will be popular with the masses of the working people. One thing which made a great impression on my mind in the Commission on Old Ago Pensions was to hear from the working men who came before us—one and all—the expression of their loathing for the wastrel, for the ne'er-do-well, the profligate, and the drunkard, the man who is a burden upon them and everybody else, and who never does his proper share of decent and honest work. Well, that is the class you are going especially to favour. That is the class for whose behoof you are going to abolish a condition which, for I do not know how many years, it was the principle of the Liberal Party to maintain. Sir, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India, in replying to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bury, said this was an unimportant matter, because in all large towns it would not arise under the compounding clauses. I agree with him that in England, and in those places in which compounding is practised, the matter is of much less importance; but what does he say with regard to Scotland, or even Sheffield? To Scotland the matter is of great importance. The proposal of the Government will materially alter the electoral position of such cities as Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it is quite possible—I do not say it is absolutely certain—that in those cities the votes of industrious artizans will be swamped by the votes of those whom we may almost call professional defaulters. Sir, there is one other provision in the Hill with which I should like to deal. With regard to plural voting, that has been brought neck and crop into this Bill, with which it has no legitimate connection whatever. I maintain that in pretending to cure this anomaly the Government are creating another anomaly, which I think will be even greater. If you are going to deal with this plural vote, why not do so in a thorough and satisfactory manner? Why do you leave the bye-eleetions? Have you considered what extraordinary confusion you will produce? Here is a man who is allowed to hold his votes in a number of constituencies. He may vote in a bye- 394 election in any one of these constituencies. If another election occurs there or in any other constituency, or in the same constituency after the Register on which he votes has expired—that is, after six mouths—he may vote then in a different constituency, and he is not obliged to choose in which constituency he will vote until the day of election. I will not labour that point. It has been most admirably dealt with already by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth. But anyone can see that by introducing an anomaly of this kind you will raise the manipulation of political elections really into a fine art, and you will enormously increase the strength and importance of those persons who lend themselves t.6 this kind of work. Another point with regard to this is that I do not think the Government have attached all the weight that should have been attached to the distinction between the ownership voter and the occupation voter. I think, at all events, they will admit that there is more to be said against the plural voter, in the case of the absentee owner who may have created a faggot vote and has no real living interest in the constituency, than against the occupation voter who has residence or place of business in two contiguous constituencies, who has precisely the same interest, fulfils the same duties, and performs the same obligations in both places. But though I think it right to point out these objections to the proposal of the Government, I am not in a position to oppose it root and branch. Indeed, I do not hesitate to say that I have always felt that the existence of this double qualification is in itself an anomaly, and that it cannot permanently take its place in our electoral system. All I say is that it is Perfectly ridiculous and unfair to attempt to deal even with an acknowledged anomaly of this when it suits your purpose and to refuse to deal with a still greater anomaly, because it does not suit your purpose. What are the existing anomalies? I will point out one. The objection of my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench is a tremendously strong one as to the existence of two votes in one individual. But what about the two-Member constituencies? Let me take the case of Northampton and the case of West Birmingham and compare them. The two 395 constituencies have almost the same number of electors; but the elector of West Birmingham can only give one vote for a Member, but the elector for Northampton may give two votes. Now, will my right hon. Friends explain or defend that anomaly? For my own part, I can only give one explanation of that anomaly. It is an explanation which was given by a gentleman who was brought before the Courts for bigamy. When he was asked why he had taken two wives he said it was because he was trying to get a good one. I can only suppose that the two votes given to the electors at Northampton is in order that they might get at least one good Member. But this anomaly, although quite as striking as that with which the Government deals, pales its ineffectual fire before the gross anomaly of the present distribution of electoral power. I have gone carefully into the question on the basis of the existing population. I am not going into the statistics now; I will only say I have them here if they are wanted; but this I can say without fear of contradiction, that dealing with the subject on that basis alone, which many people think unfair because taxation ought to be taken into account, whether you take England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, or whether you take the case of the counties or the boroughs, I could find you the case of two constituencies in any of these places in which the proportion of political power shall be four, or five, or six, or even seven to one. When you come to make the same sort of comparison between countries, it appears on the basis of population that England has 27 Members less than her proper proportion. Why do not the Government deal with this? There is no other anomaly touched in the Bill which compares with it. The others are matters of small Party or personal gain. Here and there a grievance to an individual may be redressed, here and there the character of a constituency may he changed, but that is an infinitesimal matter compared with this great anomaly, under which it is determined, from time to time, and has been determined again and again, who shall form the Government of the county and what shall be the legislation passed through this House It goes to the very root of our Constitutional system, and yet the Government 396 pass it by almost without mention. The Chief Secretary for Ireland was good enough to quote a passage in which I explained the opinions of the Government of 1884, when it was proposed to couple redistribution with franchise. He appears to appeal to that as being a precedent which he and his friends are now entitled to follow. It is not a precedent at all for the action the Government are now taking. The Liberal Government at that time believed that it was the object of the Tory Party to put upon us the duty of dealing with redistribution, not in order that redistribution might be carried, but in order that the franchise might be swamped. That was our belief at that time, but subsequent events showed that we were wrong. Because when the controversy had assumed certain proportions, at a conference between the Leaders of the two Parties, the whole scheme of redistribution was agreed to by the Tory Party, and of course, under those circumstances, the whole difficulty disappeared, and both Bills were practically carried at the same time. That is the precedent which you have got to follow. You may think you are perfectly justified in expressing the same opinion of the present Opposition as we formed with regard to the Tory Opposition in 1884. You may consider, if you like, that we are animated not by the desire for redistribution, but by a desire to throw out this Bill. Test your opinion as we did in 1884. See whether the Leaders of the Unionist Party are not ready at this moment for a redistribution scheme. You have absolutely no excuse; the ground is cut from under your feet. You have the precedent of 1884. I ask you to fulfil the precedent of 1884, and unless you find that the Union Party are using redistribution now merely as a stalking-horse, you will be able to add redistribution to your proposals for electoral reform, and then, at all events, we shall no longer be able to accuse you of proposing a partial system intended entirely for the benefit of a particular Party. But if you will not do that, there is at least one thing which you might do. You might proceed by the process of natural selection. There is no doubt as to where natural selection would lead you, but in this case you know where there is a gross and glaring grievance, and you know 397 how to remedy it, because you have done it already. You have got all the materials to your hand. All you have to do is to insert a provision in this Bill that 23 Members shall be taken from Ireland. Insert that in any redistribution scheme, and then, although you will not have given us complete redistribution such as everyone would desire to see, at all events you would, as you have done in other parts of this Bill, have removed one of the most pressing and most crying inequalities. Why will you not do it? It is hardly necessary to answer the question. Because you would commit suicide. Because these inequalities are the very foundation of the Government, because the Government subsists upon them, and because it would not exist one single day if these grievances were redressed. Of course, the Government will not do that, but we must consider the Bill with that knowledge. Sir, I have taken some opportunity of ascertaining the opinions of my constituents, and I have no hesitation in saying that, so far as they represent the feelings of the "predominant partner," they will have nothing to say to a Bill which they consider so evidently unfair and unjust. Without attributing any motives to the Government, I only say that the result of their policy is so manifest, so self-evident, that I do not believe any fair or impartial man will justify their proceedings. We are looking forward to the time, at no very great distance, when the Government will have to appeal to the country. They will have to go and ask for a mandate from the country, and ask for the approval of the country to the policy which they have pursued, especially upon that great Home Rule policy, in regard to which we have, and the constituencies have, fortunately, the details at our disposal. That is what is going to happen very shortly. We object to this Bill because, in anticipation of that election, it is an attempt to pack the jury of the nation before taking the verdict, and on that account I hope no impartial man will support this Bill.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
My right hon. Friend has, on the whole, fulfilled the promise with which he began; he has endeavoured to present to the House a criticism more or less upon the merits of the Bill. He has, 398 however, in conclusion, applied to it the same criticism, and he attacks us in the same way as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury did yesterday. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham says this is an attempt to pack the jury. Well, that is only saying in another way what the Member for Bury said yesterday, more fully, with greater iteration, and with much larger moral pretence. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bury is a man who commands great and deserved authority in this House. He never speaks without interesting the House, and seldom without instructing it; but he has a mood which does not instruct the House, and I do not think it much edifies the House, and that mood my right hon. Friend indulged to an extent, so far as I know, unprecedented in his Parliamentary career yesterday—a mood which is marked by a combination of manner and tone and language, though I do not call it a felicitous combination, of the bar, the stage, and the pulpit. My right hon. and learned Friend thought it worthy of himself to say that we have put forward this measure for the purpose of weakening our political foes. He said we were concerned in a registration agents plot. He rose to a higher pitch still of pharisaical exaltation, when he said we were acting in a way which was contrary to all the accepted traditions and rules of public honour, and that we were turning statesmanship into chicanery. Let us look a little at this. If I thought we had spent the time we have spent in framing this Bill with the special object of Party advantage, I confess that my observation of the history of Parties in this country in modern times would lead me to suppose that we had been entirely wasting our time, because it is impossible for any Government or for any House of Commons to forecast—I do not say what the effect of a particular reform may be in carrying out certain principles—but to forecast the effect of a change such as we propose upon Party fortunes. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth said we had crowded the Register because we hoped that would be the best means of promoting the fortunes of our Party. There is a remarkable assumption in that statement that implies that the sooner the voice of the country is heard the more certain it 399 is to he to our advantage. But it is absurd to pretend that it is possible to forecast with accuracy or with probability what will be the ultimate consequence of a measure of Parliamentary reform when you remember what happened in the year 1832. It is untrue to state that the crowding of the Register has uniformly resulted in favour of the Liberal Party. Rather the contrary. The first alteration of the franchise was in 1867. From 1867 to 1894 the tenure of Office by the Conservative Party was not less but greater than the tenure of Office by that Party in the previous 27 years from 1840 to 1867. That is an illustration of the folly of which we should have been guilty, if we had brought forward this Bill solely with the view of promoting our own Party ends.
MR. J. MORLEY
There are enthusiastic partisans, I dare say, who think this measure will tend to the advantage of our Party. In my mind, at all events, there is no such motive, and there is not even a very confident expectation that the changes we are now making must necessarily work in our favour, though I have a confident expectation for other reasons. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, though ironical at our expense, was much more good-natured in his irony than my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury. Upon these points I will follow him shortly and rapidly through the various objections he has made to the Bill. My right hon. Friend began by criticising our action in not codifying and simplifying registration. He said, "Why do you not simplify registration?" The answer is very simple, and it applies particularly to the case of the lodgers. You cannot simplify registration without simplifying the franchise. What is the first step to simplying registration? You can only do it effectually in one way, and that is by manhood suffrage. If my right hon. Friend is going to make the simplification of registration the end-all and be-all of reform at this stage, he must revert to the opinion which he used to hold, that manhood suffrage was the proper system of electoral franchise in this country. My right hon. Friend talked about the 400 double revision, and he made various criticisms upon it from the point of view of expense. We are perfectly alive to all that can be said on that subject, but I want the House to realise what the situation is. In every quarter of the House you agree that the qualifying period of residence is too long. My right hon. Friend says that you would be content if that period were made six months; but, however that may be, you all agree that the present period is too long. Well, this method of a double registration is one of the means by which you make that shortening of the period effective. It is no use whatever to shorten the period to three mouths unless you give the men whose period of qualification you shorten the opportunity of getting on to the Register in a shorter time than that which the right hon. Gentleman opposite last year described as a scandal and an outrage. Last year we endeavoured to meet the difficulty by a system of transferring votes. You would not have that. You rejected it, and if you do not have that, or if you do not have a second revision as proposed in the present Bill, what is the good of doing that which you all admit to be a desirable thing to do—namely, shortening the period of qualification? As to having an official Registrar, that was suggested last year, and I still think it would be highly desirable to have a public officer who should be responsible for placing upon the Register the name of every man who has a right to be there; but last year it was found, not on one side of the House only, but in every quarter of the House, that there was no chance of our coming to any agreement upon that proposal. There was the difficulty as to who should appoint that officer, whether he should be appointed by a local body or by a branch of the Government, and these difficulties so weighed in the minds of hon. Members in all parts of the House that it would have been absurd to renew that proposal this year. We, therefore, make this proposal for a second revision. As my right hon. Friend very truly says, it is not a point which should be made a Party question, and, of course, it is one of those questions which the House, when we get into Committee, will have to decide. The next proposal that my right hon. Friend dealt with was the proposal that the elections 401 should all be taken on one day. He argued that America furnished no precedent at all. So far as the Presidential election is concerned, I quite agree with him. We do not find in that any precedent for taking the elections on one day; but more important elections are those for the election of State offices affecting the Government. These elections, affecting sometimes 15 or 20 offices, take place on one day, and all are decided by one electoral operation. We are entitled to whatever advantage the practice in America gives us. I wonder if my right hon. Friend has realised the number of days that an election now takes. I have the figures for four Elections—1880, 1885, 1886, and 1892. These are the actual number of days between the first and last Election—in 1880, 27 days; in 1885,24; in 1886, 29; and in 1892, 25 days. Surely, the whole House must feel that to leave the country in all the fever and confusion of an election for a period of 29 days, or even 24 days, is not an arrangement which can be reconciled with practical common sense and convenience. When it is said that our proposal would lead to an enormously increased expenditure of money, I ask the House to consider what the saving to the country would be. It would be counted not by tens or hundreds or thousands of pounds, but by millions, if you can shorten the electoral period as we propose. My right hon. Friend asked why aday should be named in the Bill. I will tell my right hon. Friend the reason for it. What would happen if we did not name a day in the Bill? The Government of the day who would have to dissolve Parliament and issue the Proclamation would have to fix the day on which the polls should be taken. By inserting a day in the Bill you are relieving the Government of the day from what the experience of 1892 gave us some reason to feel is a most invidious responsibility. For my own part, if I were a Member of the Government who had to name the day of the week on which the elections should take place, I should be extremely sorry for it, and* I would much rather that it should be done by Act of Parliament. Then said my right hon. Friend, "Even if that be so, you have chosen the very worst day in the week." Well, Sir, my own experience is that there is a vast 402 deal of superstition among election agents about which is the most convenient day. No doubt there are some places, irrespective of Party, where Monday, for instance, is more convenient than Saturday, and in some other places Thursday, but we have fixed on Saturday as, on the whole, most convenient and least open to objection. I admit that there are objections in the case of the Jews, but I understand that they would not be prevented from registering their votes. Then my right hon. Friend mentioned the small shopkeepers. I do not believe that the fact that Saturday is market day would make it a burden to the small shopkeepers to go to the poll. This is a matter of experience, and what we find is that the small shopkeeper goes to the poll the first thing in the morning. My right hon. Friend then talked about the three months' qualifying period, and drew a curious picture, very like one we had last night, of some ardent capitalist or contractor bringing 30 or 50 labourers into a constituency with a view to turning the scale. Of course, there is no end to these hypothetical cases; but this contractor was going to take his men into Birmingham. I wonder what good he would do there?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I was bound to name some place. I might have used the expression X. Of course, in all the separate constituencies in Birmingham we have a majority of 2,000 or 3,000.
MR. J. MORLEY
Does it not occur to my right hon. Friend that it would cost the contractor a great deal less to turn each one of these gentlemen into 40s. freeholders? He would not have the trouble of moving them then. But there is no end to these combinations. My right hon. Friend said, "Why have you not dealt with the question of the lodger?" Well, the question of the lodger is, in my judgment, a very difficult one, and I believe that you will never solve it until you adopt the solution which my right hon. Friend and I used to think the right solution. The Party opposite say, "You object to deal effectively with the lodger franchise because you are afraid that the sons of squires and parsons will get votes," and then they ask, "Why should not the sons of squires and parsons be capable citizens?" But let me point 403 out that equality is desirable. If the sons of the squire and the parson have a right to perform the function of citizenship, why is not the son of the labourer to have the same right? [Cries of "He has it now."] Now, as to the question of the payment of rates. My right hon. Friend says that the payment of rates is the only remaining test of civil obligation. He seems to suppose that it is a good thing that a vote should be a screw for collecting the rate. He described very energetically the class whom we will call for shortness "wastrels," and said that the abrogation of the rating qualification, the exemption from the necessity of paying rates, would have the effect of benefiting this class. But a little reflection upon what we propose exactly to do will show my right hon. Friend that this is the very class whom we do not touch by the proposal of the Bill, because the rates in small houses are compounded for.
MR. J. MORLEY
I am talking of England and Ireland, where the rates are largely compounded for; and here is a monstrous thing—if the landlord fails to pay the rates the occupying tenant loses his franchise. That, at all events, is an anomaly that we shall get rid of. The small defaulting wastrel class is therefore not the class that this clause will affect. It will affect, in fact, the more highly-rated houses. I should like to give an illustration from Irish experience of what may happen even when the rates are tendered for payment. A claim for a vote came before a Revising Barrister. The claimant's wife had tendered the poor rate collector 2s. 6d., the amount due, and the latter had refused to take the money, on the ground that he had not his rate-collector's book with him at the time. The Revising Barrister, on these facts, decided that as the rates had not, in fact, been paid, he could not allow the claim. That is the kind of disability people suffer under in the present state of the law. Now, about plural voting. My right hon. Friend knows quite well that he himself, in the old days of Parliamentary reform, 10 years ago, used to say that there were two things which were pressing—one was the payment of Members, and the other was the abolition of the plural vote.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I never said that either of these questions was more pressing than such subjects as redistribution.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not deny that I have advocated both the abolition of plural voting and the payment of Members, but I never put either forward as the first duty of the Government.
MR. J. MORLEY
I do not refer to this for purposes of recrimination, but my right hon. Friend did say what he now has forgotten. On January 29, 1885, when he was in the Cabinet, he said—In the meantime, two other points are now urgent, which I hope will receive early consideration.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
That is absolutely consistent with what I have just stated. I said then that two other points were urgent, meaning two points besides redistribution and other important electoral reforms.
MR. J. MORLEY
If the two points were urgent in January, 1885, I should think that they are still more urgent in May, 1894. My right hon. Friend said—I am in favour of the principle of 'One Man One Vote,' and I object altogether to the plural representation of property. I will take my own case—I have six votes. I usually vote on the right side; but I consider this an anomaly altogether inconsistent with the principle on which we stand, that principle being that every householder, at all events, has an equal stake in the good government of the country, his life, happiness, and property all depending upon legislation which he is as much entitled to assist in framing as any one else.I am fascinated by another sentence in this speech, which I shall therefore read—If we are to make a distinction, I am not sure that it is not the poor man's interests that ought to be regarded first, for if you have bad legislation it may lessen the income of the rich man, but it may destroy altogether the means of subsistence of the poor man.
MR. J. MORLEY
I hope the House will understand that I am not taxing the right hon. Gentleman with inconsistency upon the merits of the proposal. What 405 I say is that if my right hon. Friend thought it urgent to remove this anomaly in 1885, why not remove it now? My right, hon. Friend suggests that we ought to select certain anomalies to deal with, and asks why we do not touch the greatest evil of all—namely, the over-representation of Ireland. He says that we admitted by what we did last year in the Home Rule Bill that there was a case for reducing the Irish representation. Yes, we admit that there was a case for reducing that representation when we were going to make up in other ways for the loss which Ireland would thereby suffer here. But we are not bound by anything which we did last year to admit that the Irish representation ought to be reduced before you alter the whole system of Irish Government. Hon. Gentlemen opposite laugh at the Treaty-of-Dnion argument. I should like to remind them what view was taken of this argument by one of the greatest men who have sat in this House in our generation—I mean Mr. Bright. He said—Nothing on earth will ever persuade me—unless I see it done—that this Imperial Parliament, which is representative of the people of Great Britain, will lessen the just, the Act-of-Union-settled representation of Ireland in this House.When the Church point was raised he said—You were free to alter the Church provision of the Act of Union, because there you were making a concession to Ireland; but you have no right, as the stronger party to a treaty dealing with the weaker, to weaken that party and to impose upon them a disadvantage.As we have heard so much about the question of redistribution in Ireland, let me thus remind gentlemen belonging to the Unionist Party that one of the greatest Unionists himself held that this Imperial Parliament was incapable of reducing the treaty-settled representation of Ireland. But we have not heard in this Debate so much about redistribution generally as we might have expected, having regard to the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member opposite. The reason, I think, is pretty clear. The hon. and learned Member was followed by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, who showed what the effect of redistribution would be upon the Party to which the hon. and learned Member belongs. I have been informed that the hon. Gentlemen 406 opposite who have interested the House by the speeches they have made during the course of this Debate do not want redistribution. If, therefore, we are to have anything like a redistribution of seats we certainly must have the new scheme done thoroughly. The hon. Member for Dover said, if we were to have redistribution thoroughly carried out, 9,350 would then be about the figures of an average constituency. We were favoured by a speech by the hon. Member for Hereford, who has 3,416 electors; the hon. Member for Dover has 5,156, and the hon. Member for Plymouth has half of 12,431. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury has only 7,831, and the late Solicitor General for Scotland 3,195. Therefore, when I reflect on these facts, I see why redistribution has not played a very large part in the Debate. The right hon. Member for Bury drew a terrible picture of bogus voting, but he has forgotten that this rather fantastic means for manipulating constituencies would be just as possible now. The hon. Member for Southport took the case of a man who had a house in Derbyshire, another in London, and perhaps a mine in Cornwall, and he said in impassioned tones, "Has he not got a local interest in Derbyshire and in the Metropolis and in Cornwall?" I must say—and I hope that my saying this will not give offence—that this seems to me to be a, most nonsensical argument to bring forward for the purpose of making out a case for the right to a plural vote on Imperial matters. It might be, on the other hand, a very good argument to bring forward in support of his right to vote for the County Councils of Derbyshire, London, and Cornwall. But the case here stands on an entirely different footing, and I do not admit for one moment that the mere fact of possessing property gives a man a special right to vote on Imperial as distinguished from local affairs. The hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment, overflowing with Christian charity, said that the Government had introduced this Bill because they felt that the education and intelligence of the country were against them. This kind of broad proposition may be well enough for a platform speaker to use, but it forms but a futile argument when delivered in this 407 House. I ask you, moreover, Is Scotland less educated than England? Certainly not; and yet Scotland is not hostile to the Government, Is East Manchester to be considered different in education and intelligence from South Manchester and Eccles because the one sends a Conservative and the others Liberals to Parliament? I submit that there is no substance in that argument, and that it is purely an artificial assertion which your Press choose to make, but which cannot be supported in anyway whatever. The right hon. Gentleman made use of some language of Mr. Mill's about plural voting. Here is a passage in Mr. Mill's Autobiography in which, referring to his bringing forward this particular proposal, he cuts himself off by anticipation from the ideas of the hon. and learned Member by saying that, so far as he could observe,this proposal of dual voting had found favour with no one, because all who desired plural voting desired it to be in favour of property, but not of intelligence.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
The proposal to which Mr. Mill then referred was the proposal of Mr. Disraeli to constitute a dual vote by what are called fancy franchises, and he draws a distinction between that and the dual vote which he had advocated.
MR. J. MORLEY
At all events, Mr. Mill makes it clear that what he was looking to was not a special facility derived from the representation of property, but from a representation of intelligence and education. The hon. and learned Member's whole argument was that by these proposals we were damaging the influence of education. I hope I shall be the very last man in the House to disparage education or literary or scientific acquisitions. I do not think I should be ever guilty of such baseness as that. At the same time, however, I do think that you could have no worse Government for this country or for any other country than a Government composed of Masters of Arts. If you take the history of the last 50 or 60 years, I say that for political foresight and political insight the successive bands and generations of Radical cobblers in this House have beaten the University of Oxford over and over again. The proposals which have been made in spite of all that hat, been said are of a very modest character, 408 and they are, moreover, of a perfectly straightforward character. We have not gone nearly so far as we should have liked if time had sufficed to bring forward a more complete measure, but we have made proposals which, we believe, will facilitate the access of those to political power whom Parliament, by its legislation, intends to have political power, and that the proposals which we now ask you to accept will do something to bring about that equality of citizenship which is the foundation of the freedom and the prosperity of this country.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N. E.)
said, the Bill of the Government had not met the desire of a great number of their supporters with regard to the double Register and consequent additional expense. The effect of the Bill— and it was well that the Government should know it—would be to render it more difficult than even now for a poor man to enter Parliament, and pay his way while there. The Independent Labour Party must look out for themselves, but it was admitted that there were a number of men in the House who desired loyally to stand by their Party, who found it difficult to bear the expense of registration year by year. The expense of elections was as nothing compared with the expense of keeping up the registration. Keeping up the Registers twice a year instead of only once would make it extremely difficult for a poor man to keep up his position in Parliament. He would ask the Government carefully to consider the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth (Sir E. Clarke), both of whom had urged that the expense of the double Register, if double Register they were to have, should be borne either by the constituencies or by the Consolidated Fund. The cost of the Revising Barristers was £30,000 a year, and to that in the future would have to be added another £20,000. Hitherto the Revising Barrister had had a good deal of legal work to do; but so far as the Register was concerned, all there would be to decide in future would be whether or not a man had lived in a certain house and had Jived there for a certain time. This work could be done by the registration officer, the expense of the 409 Revising Barrister's Court being done away with. With regard to the lodger franchise, it was more important in London than in any other part of the country, and there ought to be a distinctive lodger clause in the Bill dealing with Loudon. The only chance a large number of electors in the Metropolis had of getting on the Register as voters was under the lodger qualification. He said cither disfranchise them altogether or else give them a fair chance of getting upon the Register. Whilst he felt bound to support the Second Reading of the Bill, particularly in view of the form of the Amendment, he held himself free to vote on the points to which he had referred when the measure got into Committee. The time had come, he thought, when they should deal with this subject, not in a piecemeal fashion, but in a great consolidated Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House was, apparently, not aware that a consolidated Bill dealing with every point had been before the House for nine years. It was only the Bill of a private Member, and consequently did not, perhaps, even reach those who sat on the two Front Benches. At any rate, there had been no attempt to deal with it. His ambition was to see all properly qualified men put on the Register, and kept there, leaving it to their own consciences how they should vote.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 292; Noes 278.—(Division List, No. 40.)
§ MR. P. J. O'BRIEN (Tipperary, N.)
I beg to intimate to you, Mr. Speaker, that I voted in the "No" Lobby through an error.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.