MR. HARRY MARKS ( Tower Hamlets, St. George's) moved "That this Bill be now Read a Second time." He said that probably it would be for the convenience of the House that he should state the circumstances which had induced the promoters of the Measure to bring it forward. The object of the Bill was to prevent a large number of deserving persons from being deprived of the Parliamentary franchise which they had hitherto enjoyed
under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1884, in consequence of the interpretation which had been placed upon that Act by a Judgment of the Court of Appeal, pronounced al the end of 1896. The effect of that judgment would be that at the next registration of the Parliamentary voters in September, nearly the whole of the police, and thousands of shop assistants and other persons who resided upon the premises of their employers, would be deprived of the franchise. Down to the end of 1896 such persons were generally regarded as being entitled to the franchise by virtue of their service residence, but by the Judgment of the Court of Appeal it was held that policemen occupying cubicles in police barracks were not entitled to the franchise, on the ground that the partitions separating the cubicles did not reach the ceiling, that the cubicles were lighted by electric lights which lighted two or more of them, and that they were heated by a general system of hot-water pipes. That decision had been held to apply to the cases of shop assistants and other persons occupying similar cubicles. The effect of the Judgment of the Court of Appeal would be to enable large employers of labour to confer upon or to withhold the franchise from those in their employment by means of architectural devices. ["Hear, hear!"] Lord Justice Rigby, who differed from the majority of the Court of Appeal, in the case of "Clutterbuck v. Taylor," in the course of his Judgment said:—
The question raised is, whether the appellant was an inhabitant occupier of a dwelling-house within the meaning of Section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1884. He was, as I understood the statement made in the case, allowed, as a matter of fact, to occupy the cubicle during the whole of the qualifying period without interference. He had the key of the cubicle; and I gather that, when he was on night duty, he did in fact use it for sleeping in during the day; and, when he was on day duty, he used it for sleeping in at night. He used it therefore, for sleeping in as occasion required; and it appears also that he was in fact allowed to take meals in it if he liked. Section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1884 says that 'where a man himself inhabits any dwelling-house by virtue of any office, service, or employment he shall be deemed, for the purposes of this Act, to be an inhabitant occupier of such dwelling-house as a tenant.' In this case it cannot be said that the cubicle was inhabited by any superior under whom the appellant served. Assuming for the moment that the
cubicle was a 'dwelling-house' for the purposes of the Act, it appears to me that the appellant was an inhabitant occupier during the qualifying period. I cannot see that the existence of a power in the Chief Constable to make regulations or restrictions with regard to the use of the dwelling-house by the appellant has anything to do with the franchise given by the section, provided that be did in fact inhabit. The section says nothing about the nature of the inhabitancy, or us to how far it may or may not be subject to restrictions; and I think we ought to be very slow to insert limitations which the Legislature has not expressly mentioned. There are, we know, cases of large establishments where a great number of persons are employed, who inhabit parts of a house by virtue of their employment, and who, in so inhabiting, must be subject to such directions as their masters choose to give. I cannot see that such directions, if actually given, could affect the existence of the franchise given by the section; but the mere fact that there was power to give directions which were not given appears to me to be quite beside the question. The truth is, that the service franchise is essentially different from the other occupation franchises. It is not given in respect of any properly in or right in respect of the place occupied. It is assumed by the section that there is no such right. The person who occupies by virtue of his employment is not even in the position of a tenant at will. He is not a tenant at all, but simply a person who is permitted by his master to occupy, subject to such regulations, if any, as may be made by his master. Then, was the appellant the inhabitant occupier of a 'dwelling-house'? At first sight one would be disposed to say that this cubicle was a very different thing from a dwelling-house. But it is obvious that the extraordinary sense in which the term 'dwelling-house' is used in the Acts relating to the franchise includes things that are totally different from anything which would, in the ordinary use of language, be called a dwelling-house, because any part of a house will suffice if occupied as required by the Act. It need not be any particular part of a house, and it does not matter how small it may be. The extent or nature of the part occupied is immaterial so long as it is occupied separately as a dwelling. This cubicle was none the less part of the whole police barrack, because it was part of a room in it. Whether it was what would ordinarily be calling a dwelling-house is not the question. It was said that it shared the air and light common to the whole room. The Legislature appears to me to have dealt with that very consideration in Section 5 of the Parliamentary and Municipal Registration Act 1878, which provides that, 'For the purpose of any of the Acts referred to in this section, where an occupier is entitled to the sole and exclusive use of any part of a house, that part shall not be deemed to be occupied otherwise than separately, by reason only that the occupier is entitled to the joint use of some other part.' I can see no reason for cutting down the generality of those words, which appear to me to meet the contention based upon the enjoyment by the appellant of air and light common
to the room of which his cubicle formed a part. In this case the appellant had the key of his cubicle without any interference during the whole of the qualifying period. It is true that, if occasion had arisen, his superior officer might have insisted on going into his cubicle for any purpose; but, as a matter of fact, he appears never to have done so. So that, if the appellant occupied this cubicle at all—and it appears to me clear that he did—his occupation was in fact separate. Then, did he occupy it as a dwelling? I cannot find anything in the section which provides that, in order to come within it, the occupier must occupy with all the powers which a person would have in respect of a dwelling-house in the ordinary sense. The test, as it appears to me, is the nature of the occupation which has in fact taken place, not whether the occupier might have been ordered to occupy in a, different manner. Considerable light is thrown on this question by the previous part of Section 5, which provides that 'in and for the purposes of the Reform Act 1832, and the Municipal Corporations Act, the terms "house, warehouse, counting-house, shop, or other building" shall include any part of a house where that part is separately occupied for the purpose of any trade, business, or profession.' If part of a house is in fact separately occupied for the purpose of a trade, business, or profession, the section says that part of a house is to be deemed to be a house.… I think the term 'dwelling' is used in the section as an antithesis to 'trade, business, or profession.' I concede that there appears to have been an extensive power of interference with the use by the appellant of this cubicle. But, in order that a man may be an inhabitant occupier, he is not bound to show a title to occupy. He may have been a trespasser, or a tenant at will, or merely on sufferance. The only question is, did he in fact occupy as an inhabitant? With regard to that question whether the subject matter of the occupation was a dwelling-house, I concede, again, that the appellant had not the same rights as persons would have in the case of ordinary dwelling-houses. But the question appears to me to be not whether he had such rights, hut whether he separately occupied part of a house as a dwelling. It seems to me that, whatever the powers of the Chief Constable may have been, these cubicles were the dwellings of these policemen, who occupied them by sleeping in them from day to day throughout the qualifying period. I cannot see that using them as sleeping places is anything else but occupying them as dwellings, although the occupants may not have been entitled to use them for other purposes for which people ordinarily use their dwellings. So far as it goes, I think sleeping in a place is using it as a dwelling. In point of fact, these policemen appear to have been allowed, if they liked, to take meals in their cubicles, and not to have been interfered with in the use of them in any way. There was, no doubt, the power of interfering with them; but I do not think that the existence of such a power is made by the Legislature the test. In my opinion, the question is whether they did in fact occupy part of a house as a dwelling, not whether
they had a right to occupy in the same manner as that in which a person occupies a 'dwelling-house' in the ordinary sense of the term.
This Measure, which he submitted was an urgent one, did not propose to create any new franchise. It affected only service voters, and, instead of complicating and confusing the existing law, would only more clearly define what was the obvious intention of Parliament in passing the Representation of the People Act. ["Hear, hear!"] He begged to move the Second Reading of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
proposed to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the question, in order to add instead thereof the wordsthis House refuses to add to the confusion and complexity of our present franchise system, which, in its opinion, can be remedied only by the adoption of a single, simple and uniform franchise.The right hon. Baronet congratulated the hon Member who had just sat down upon his very moderate and able speech in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, but did not think that it covered the whole of the case. It was a gross exaggeration of fact to say that recent decisions of the Court of Appeal affected the votes of nearly the whole police of the country. The overwhelming body of the police were not affected, and would not be affected, by this Bill. The class, however, whom it was, he believed, especially desired to benefit by the provisions was the class of shop assistants. If he thought that the Bill was likely to lead to the permanent benefit of shop assistants, and not to do more harm than good, he would be willing to support if. He had been honoured by some confidence on the part of shop assistants, and had charge of a Measure which they were promoting. But, as a matter of fact, this Mill was open to the most dangerous frauds. He spoke with some knowledge, because he was the author of the Act of 1878 and was concerned in the Act of 1884, in which the service franchise was established, having had to do with the drawing of the clause with the present Lord James and Lord Thring. Parliament had this reason to be cautious—that the lodger franchise, also intended for a very special purpose, 1186 had been fraudulently abused to the most extraordinary extent. This Bill was open to fraud on a large scale, because it might mean the creation of hundreds of fraudulent votes in a single building.
§ SIR J. B. MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)
Does the right hon. Baronet attribute fraud to the employers?
§ * SIR C. DILKE
said he was prepared to prove his statement. The service franchise was first suggested by Mr. Trevelyan, now Sir G. Trevelyan, in the interests of the Scotch shepherds and shepherds in the north of England—that was to say, persons who had virtually been in substantial and bonâ fide occupation in the same sense in which other agricultural labourers of their district were; but it was seen that the same principle which applied to them applied to coachmen who inhabited stables in London. The only classes who were in the mind of Parliament, at the time; it passed the service franchise clause were those two classes. He was willing to give the franchise to hundreds of people if they only inhabited a bed in a dormitory, but there were other classes who, if the distinction hitherto drawn was to be maintained, were more entitled to the franchise because more within the view hitherto taken by Parliament. Beds in a dormitory very often were occupied by those who were not heads of a family, who were the sons of other persons who had the vote, but there were hundreds of persons who were heads of families and persons of considerable substance who would remain excluded under this Bill. And this class he would sooner enfranchise first. He was in favour of franchise for all. He believed the support of narrow, niggling franchise points to which the Conservative Party had unfortunately become committed was a mistake, and that even in their own party interest it would be far better to go for a large and generous Measure of enfranchisement, apart from any consideration of bricks and mortar. Coming to the details of the Bill, the first words of the first Section—"Where a man inhabits any dwelling-house"—governed the whole Bill, and yet they were absolutely contradicted by the latter portion. A cubicle was held by the Judges not to be any dwelling-house separately inhabited, and the Bill which attempted 1187 to upset those decisions began with the words "where a man inhabits"—the very thing the Courts had said the man did not do. Later on the promoters attempted to say that in spite of that fact the man was to have the vote in certain circumstances, and then they came to the dangerous word "compartment," which would certainly raise more difficulties than the House of Commons attempted to remove by the Act of 1878. The Bill simply "chucked" the difficulty at the heads of the Judges, and left it to the Judges to create a new difficulty in defining what a "compartment" of a room should be. Another most dangerous point was the statement that the vote should be conferred "notwithstanding any control, restrictions, conditions, or disabilities whatsoever imposed on the occupation." He submitted that it was dangerous to introduce those particular words in so sweeping a form. What might be those "conditions"? They might involve, among other things, the absolute reversal of working habits or negative the ordinary presumption of the law. Again, it would be a case of throwing the difficulty at the heads of the Judges for solution, and they would be expected to define what it was the "conditions" were to admit and what it was they were to exclude. The hon. Member said that the Bill was not intended to open the door for the creation of a new class of voters. It would, however, have that effect. Take the marked tendency in some counties for the agricultural labourer living in a regular cottage to be superseded by gangs living for long periods in barns. In Surrey, whence market produce was sent in carts to London, the work was more and more passing into the hands of fixed gangs, who lived in barns, where they were housed by the farmer. Under this Bill a new class of franchise would be created, because the farmer would practically be clothed with the power to make voters of the men he wished, and to refrain from doing so in the case of other men whose names he did not wish to appear on the service franchise form. Hon. Gentlemen were creating this artificial franchise in favour of one special and selected class. It was, indeed, class legislation. [Cheers.] The sole persons who would be specially benefited were those who lived under conditions of service, and he maintained that 1188 the conferring of the suggested privilege would increase the sense of unfairness and dissatisfaction with the present arrangements of the franchise and registration laws which now existed so widely. Why should hon. Members seek to tinker with the registration and franchise laws? They surely did not believe that to spread the franchise widely in this country would be unsafe for the Conservative Party? The technicalities and trivialities of our present system, resulted in the enormous cost of our election and registration methods, and this costly feature was not only peculiar to this country, but it was a scandal. This Bill would increase that cost, because through it the promoters would increase the necessity for legal assistance and for appeals to the Courts. He asked the House to take the view that, whether we followed New Zealand and South Australia in adopting adult suffrage, or the example of other States in adopting manhood suffrage, one or other of those two simple bases of franchise was the only means of getting rid of the costly and fraudulent technicalities which this Bill would, if passed, only aggravate and not remedy. [Cheers.] He concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
supported the right hon. Baronet's Amendment. He was a believer in the universal franchise. It seemed to him to be very illogical that they should have women voting in local affairs, and yet deprived of the Parliamentary vote. This view was unpopular at present in the country, but he did not believe it would remain long unpopular. The Bill would be likely to lead to gerrymandering, and would increase the complexity of the register. It would also have a tendency to increase the expenses of both political parties, because the list of objections to claims would be greatly enlarged. If the Bill were passed, every coffee-house or eating-house proprietor, every publican in his constituency, would be able to create a number of votes in view of an approaching election. [Sir J. B. MAPLE pointed out that those whom the Bill would enfranchise must have occupied their premises for the qualifying period.] The hon. Member did not seem to contemplate cases of fraud, which would certainly arise. The Bill would have curious consequences. Supposing four shop assistants occupied one room of the value of 5s. a week, they 1189 would all get the franchise, while their fathers, men of much riper experience, might be paving only 3s.9d. a week for their respective dwellings, and in that case would not have a vote. Then any one of these four young men who married and went to live elsewhere would cease to be a voter unless be could pay 4s. rent. His rent might be 3s. 9d., but he would not have a vote, although he had had one when occupying with three other people a room of the rental value of 5s., or 1s. 3d. per head. The effect of the Bill upon the position of the police would be very small. He represented probably more metropolitan policemen than did any other Member, and in his constituency only about a dozen constables out of 400 or 500 lived in barracks. The Bill said that a man might be entitled to be registered and to vote, notwithstanding that the dwelling house which he occupied was merely a compartment of a room. He wished to know whether it was intended that painted lines on the floor of a room, separating it into squares, should constitute compartments conferring the franchise? The Measure would enfranchise men who had but little stake in the country—men who paid a rent of about 2s. a week, and who were for the most part engaged in the lowest class of labour.
§ SIR J. B. MAPLE
thought it very strange that advocates of the principle of universal suffrage should adduce all the arguments they could muster against an attempt to extend the operation of the franchise. The two hon. Members who had preceded him were trying to prevent a lot of honest men who ought to have the vote from being put upon the register. The object of the Bill was to simplify the law, and to benefit men whom Mr. Gladstone in 1884 intended to enfranchise. Mr. Gladstone explained at the time that it was intended to create a new service franchise, and he believed that the right hon. Gentleman then wished that all those who were equal in position to agricultural labourers should have the advantage of the franchise. He was ashamed to hear the right hon. Baronet say that if this Bill were passed it would lead to fraud. The right hon. Baronet attributed to all heads of establishments that they would fraudulently return the names of men as having been 12 months in their employ. He was 1190 sorry indeed that any one should consider the class with which he had been identified all his life such a despicable and dishonest set of men. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman, who professed to go in for universal suffrage, was now proceeding to do all he could to prevent a large number of men, who would have a vote if there were universal suffrage, from getting the franchise, because he thought it would lead to fraud. Many men who were entitled to the vote were now disfranchised through the uncertainty of the law as to the service franchise, and they must remain without the vote unless this Bill were passed. The right hon. Baronet was himself in power in 1884 and 1885, with the right hon. Gentleman who formerly represented Midlothian. They then had the opportunity to bring in a universal suffrage Bill if they had wished to do so, but they did not do it. They brought in a Bill giving the service franchise, and the present Bill was an endeavour to make that Bill clear. ["Hear, hear!"J As regarded the question of control, in nearly every single instance of the service franchise the occupier was under some control. He had a place in the country on which cottages were occupied by gardeners and others, and they were not allowed to smoke in their cottages. According to Lord Esher, if any such condition, existed, those men were not entitled to the vote. Lord Esher laid it down clearly that no man was entitled to the service franchise unless he could go in and out when he liked, and do what he pleased in the house. Lord Justice Lopes agreed with Lord Esher in that, but Lord Justice Rigby as thoroughly disagreed, and pointed out that it was intended that a man in the enjoyment of a cubicle was entitled to a vote. This Bill was drafted simply to give effect to Lord Justice Rigby's view. ["Hear, hear!"] The promoters of the Bill did not want to create a new vote, but simply to make the service franchise clear and explicit. He contended that Lord Esher's decision made it possible for any man who so wished to destroy the power of anyone in his service to vote, because he disagreed with him in politics, and to do so by merely putting restrictions on his occupancy. He knew well that there were a great many other people who ought to have the franchise, 1191 and he and his friends were quite willing that they should have it, but that was no reason why this Bill should not pass. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped that the right hon. Baronet would withdraw his opposition, and that the Bill would pass without a division, for he believed it would be equally to the advantage of Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House. He could not imagine that hon. Gentlemen opposite could really wish to prevent the passing of a Bill which, instead of creating difficulties, would simplify the law and prevent from, being disqualified men whom the law intended should be qualified. He trusted the Measure would be allowed to pass rapidly, so that before the next registrations took place, the revising barristers would know whom to put on the registers. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. REGINALD MCKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
observed that the Bill enabled employers at pleasure to enfranchise and disfranchise the service occupants. The Bill gave employers greater power, so far as structural alterations were concerned, to enfranchise and disfranchise, but it took away the power to disfranchise merely by imposing restrictions. He was surprised that so little caution had been exercised in this constitutional change by hon. Members opposite. ["Hear, hear!"] Had such a Measure as this been put forward by what he might call some of the more uncontrolled intellects on the Opposition side of the House, it would not have created so much matter of surprise. ["Hear, hear!"and a laugh.] Hon. Members opposite, who had maintained constitutional reforms and rights, must be aware upon what principles the franchise existed in this country at the present time. The franchise was primarily based on property qualification. Subsequently they had got a household occupation qualification. They had also got a lodger qualification, which was in its nature a property qualification, inasmuch as a £10 rateable value was essential.
An HON. MEMBER
I beg, Mr. Speaker, to call your attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.
After the usual interval Mr. SPEAKER counted, and found that there was just a quorum.
§ * MR. MCKENNA,
resuming, said, when the household franchise was established, Parliament placed it under the restriction of the words "inhabitant occupiers of dwelling houses," and it was upon the construction of those words that the qualification existed. What was to be done under this Bill? It was proposed that the limitation imposed by these words should be taken away in a single case, and in a single case only. Take the case of undergraduates. They were not under this Bill to be entitled to have a vote. They had no vote now, as they were not regarded as inhabitant occupiers. It was the same with certain Canons, who were disqualified because they were only in residence for a certain period of the year. Then as to the lodger franchise, Parliament took care to impose restrictions. Only two persons could be on the register in respect to a single dwelling. What was the reason? The reason was that Parliament feared they might get a number of lodger applications over which the revising barrister could have no control. If that care had not been taken, they might have 20 or 30 voters in one house, and there could be no certainty that they were properly qualified under the law. He hoped the hon. Member for Dulwich would understand that he had not and could not have any reason to charge any person connected with the Bill with being likely to promote any of the evils he was about to suggest. He knew that the hon. Member for Dulwich, a large employer of labour, was undoubtedly absolutely fair in the treatment of his men, and would scorn to impose any political restrictions upon any one of them. The House would, however, remember that under this new service franchise the overseer would not be able to enter the names himself. The overseer would have to accept the list of the persons from the employer of labour, and would have absolutely no check upon the list. Certain names would be handed to the overseer, and he would not be able to say whether any particular person had occupied any particular compartment or not; he would have no means of identifying the persons, or of saying whether anyone was qualified or disqualified. With the list before him, what power had the overseer or the political agent of either party of objecting to any person? The 1193 revising barrister, the overseer, and the political agents must be entirely in the hands of the employer for the purpose of determining whether particular persons were or were not qualified.
§ SIR. J. B. MAPLE
asked if the hon. Gentleman was aware that the names of everybody entitled to vote were published?
§ * MR. MCKENNA
said he was aware that the names would be published on the church doors, but the hon. Gentleman knew as well as he that the number of persons who studied the list was so limited that as a protection such publication was practically worthless. As a matter of fact, the names put on the list by the overseers were in 99 cases out of 100 accepted without objection. In this particular case there would be no means of inquiry; it would not be possible for the registration agent of either party to object to any particular name. That was a very serious danger, and an overwhelming reason why the enfranchisement of these persons could not be done by the method proposed by the Bill, but should be done by the method suggested by the right hon. Baronet, viz., by an enfranchisement of all persons. The next objection he had to the Measure was that undeniably if placed the power of enfranchising find disfranchising in the hands of employers of labour by the slightest of structural alterations. The merest dividing line would constitute a compartment in the room. Let the House consider for one moment the absolute control which such a provision gave to the employer of labour to enfranchise and disfranchise. Why was it that only one person might vote now in respect to a single dwelling? Because only one person could be identified as the ratepayer. Parliament had been overwhelmingly cautious in the past. Had Parliament been mistaken? If it had been mistaken let the precautions be removed for all persons, and not merely for that class of persons who were in service, and bound to obey the orders of their employers. Why should such a far-reaching Measure as tins be allowed by the Government to be brought forward by private Members on a Wednesday afternoon without the Government expressing, at any rate, so far, any responsibility for it? Registration reform was part of the programme of the responsible leaders of 1194 the Conservative Party at the last Election. Registration reform introduced by the Government would be of a more comprehensive character than this Bill. Let hon. Members opposite rely with confidence upon the electoral promises of their own leaders. [Cries of "No, no!"] It seemed that hon. Gentlemen opposite shared with him some doubt as to the reliability that was to be placed on the electoral promises of the occupants of the Government Bench. It had been shown that this Measure was partial in its character, and that although, it remedied an evil it remedied that evil in the wrong way. Another objection he had to the Measure as it now stood was that under the construction which the Courts had put on the term "inhabits," a person who inhabited a, house must sleep in it. It did not appear that under this Bill it was necessary for a person to sleep in the compartment he occupied. Under the circumstances, he trusted the promoters of the Bill would withdraw the Measure, and rely with confidence upon the leaders of the Conservative Party introducing a proper Measure in due time.
On the return of Mr. Speaker after the usual interval,
§ MR. ROBERT ASCROFT (Oldham)
said he thought that the House was justified in refusing to agree to the suggestion which had been made that they should wait until the Government thought proper to bring in a scheme dealing with registration and with redistribution. There was a great grievance and injustice to a large number of ratepayers which they desired to redress. That grievance had not been caused by the action of hon. Members on that side of the House, but by a decision of the Court of Appeal. There was no doubt that hundreds of ratepayers who had been placed on the register, and who had exercised their right to vote, would at the next election be removed from the list, and be denied all right of taking their part in the legislation of this country. He therefore protested against the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean that this was an attempt to place on the register a new class of voters. He submitted that the House would be neglecting its duty 1195 did it not follow up the suggestions and arguments which had been given by hon. Members on that side. The hon. Member for Monmouth had said that an injustice was also done to Undergraduates. That was not an objection to this Bill, but it would be a good ground for the hon. Member, when they got into Committee, to move an Amendment for the purpose of extending the Bill in that direction. They did not want to alter the existing registration law, but to carry out what were the intentions of Parliament when the Act was passed. With respect to the argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Newington, he thought that if only 12 police constables would be affected in his constituency that was a good reason for the Bill, and not a reason for its withdrawal. He believed those who had listened to the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean must think that in reality he was not an opponent but a supporter of the Bill, and he would be much surprised if the right hon. Gentleman did not go into the Lobby with them. The object of the Bill was good, and questions of draftsmanship and wording were matters for the Committee stage. The right hon. Gentleman desired a broad and generous measure of franchise, and hon. Members on that side of the House would be equally willing to make such a scheme effective, coupled no doubt with a redistribution scheme. The Bill did not attempt to create a new class of voters. They were told that farmers might bring down a large number of hop-pickers and put them into barns, thus making voters of them, but this difficulty had not been experienced in the past. The hon. Member for Monmouth said something about Undergraduates at Oxford and about Canons, but surely that was a rather ridiculous objection to raise to a Measure of this description. Then they were told that they were tinkering with the franchise. In fact, from beginning to end of the speeches opposite it came simply to this—the great scheme of enfranchisement must be dealt with once for all. He felt perfectly certain that Members opposite could not oppose this Bill seriously and conscientiously, and he did not think the hon. Member would care to go before his constituents on the ground that he opposed a Bill intended to remove a grievance and to remedy an injustice. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he had come down to the House rather inclined to oppose the Bill, but he had an open mind. The speeches of his right hon. Friend (Sir C. Dilke) and his hon. Friend (Mr. McKenna) had converted him. He should support the Bill. [Ministerial cheers.] He quite agreed with his hon. Friend. There were no doubt a great many defects in the Bill, but they might be considered in Committee. ["Hear, hear!"] But there never had been a Bill which, was not capable of amendment. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad to get that admission, seeing that the most important Bill of the Session passed through the House without any amendment at all. [Cheers and laughter.] He had listened very carefully to the speeches of his right hon. Friend and his hon. Friend. He had come to the conclusion that the Bill was a good Bill, and he could not refrain from saying a word in its favour. The only thing they were entitled to ask, he thought, was that when the Bill got into Committee, the promoters of it would accept bonâ fide amendments, and that there should be no attempt to rush the Bill through the House. He had not the least doubt that it would then be a useful Bill. His great reason for supporting the Bill was that it was an extension of the franchise. The hon. Member for Monmouth said there were other inequalities, but that was no answer to this Bill. Did the hon. Member bring in a Bill to redress those grievances? But surely the fact that other classes had grievances was no reason why they should withhold the franchise from an important and deserving class. ["Hear, hear!"] They could not get sweeping reforms carried. This was the way in which the franchise had been extended from time to time. They must go on by degrees. [Cheers.]
§ * CAPTAIN JESSEL (St. Pancras, S.)
trusted the House would excuse him in making a few observations on this Bill, as the interests of his constituents were largely affected. He could assure hon. Members opposite that there was no intention by this Bill to make large constitutional reforms. It was simply a Bill to give back the rights and privileges granted by the Act of 1884, and which had been taken away by the recent decision of the Court of Appeal. 1197 He thought that the police, the members of the fire brigade and soldiers had been deprived of the franchise contrary to the intention of Parliament. The hon. Member who had just sat down had told them that if they were willing to accept bonâ fide Amendments there would be no objection to the Bill. They would be quite ready to accept them; and speaking on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, he said they should be only too glad to accept any Amendment which would not strike at the principle of the Bill. Their sole object was to remedy a grievance. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY,) Inverness Burghs
said that, in common with many others, he took the same view as the hon. Member for Carnarvon of the speeches delivered by the Members for the Forest of Dean and North Monmouth. The hon. Member said he had come to the House rather intending to oppose the Bill, but with an open mind; and that he had been converted by the speches referred to. They were told that they ought not to remedy a small matter of this kind without going in for a large and comprehensive measure. It was all very well to take up this high and dry attitude, but he thought it would be difficult to get those who were suffering from the grievance to share that view. Those who had opposed the Bill had forgotten the provision contained in the Act of 1878. Under that Act the Legislature had recognised the separate occupation of part of a house, and that must have been in the mind of the Legislature when it passed the Bill of 1884. They must take it that Parliament was looking at the sort of occupation which would confer the vote. Objection was taken on the ground that the Bill did not confer the franchise on Undergraduates and Canons, but he thought the hon. Member who raised that point overlooked what was the objection in these cases—namely, that there was no continuous 12 months' occupation. Then the hon. Member asked, Why should they not deal with the case of young colliers who took a house jointly and occupied it? This Bill professed to deal only with the case of those who inhabited dwelling-houses by virtue of their employment, and where the dwelling-house was part of the premises of the employer. If the 1198 colliers who clubbed together for the purpose of taking a house had the house divided, so that each occupied it separately, then each collier would be in possession of a dwelling-house, and would be entitled to a vote. But there was no severance in that case; therefore, he submitted that the grievance the hon. Member referred to in this matter, by reason of the Bill not being more extensive in its scope, was purely theoretical and had no relation to actual fact. The hon. Member had said that the Bill would apply only to cases where the dwelling-house consisted of a mere compartment in a room. He did not at all agree with that view. He thought the effect of the Bill was that where there was an occupation of a dwelling-house—whether it be the whole or part or a compartment in a room—such occupation, in virtue of service, was sufficient to confer the franchise, notwithstanding any conditions, restrictions, or disabilities imposed upon the occupation. He did not at all agree that the operation which relieved the occupier from the effect of the conditions or restrictions would be confined to the case where the dwelling-house occupied was merely a compartment in a room. But, after all, that was a matter for consideration in Committee, and if there was anything in that or other points raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman, it would be most fully considered. ["Hear, hear!"] Again, the hon. Member had criticised the Bill because it did not deal with the question of what constituted the inhabitancy of a dwelling-house. That was perfectly true, and, in his opinion, the farmers of the Measure had been well advised in not attempting to deal with such a point. The Bill had been directed solely to removing grievances felt by many persons in consequence of a, recent decision of the Court of Appeal, and to embark on the question of what constituted inhabitancy would be to raise many problems. A good deal had been said about the revolutionary character of the Bill, but what it did was in effect merely to declare the law to be as laid down by that very distinguished Judge, Lord Justice Rigby. The Bill dealt with two points. The first was whether the fact that the dwelling-house in question merely consisted of a compartment of 1199 a room, or a cubicle separated by partitions not going to the ceiling from the rest of the room, prevented its being a dwelling-house for the purpose of conferring the franchise. The majority of the Judges in the case of Clutterbuck v. Taylor held that the claimant failed in his assertion to the right of the franchise. This Bill remedied that grievance, and it put into Parliamentary language the view of Lord Justice Rigby, who held that the claimant was the occupant of a dwelling-house and was entitled to a vote, as the Franchise Acts, in referring to the expression "a dwelling-house," could not be confined to the ordinary sense of the words. The second question dealt with was that of the restrictions and conditions that were imposed upon the occupation of these cubicles by those who enjoyed them in virtue of their service. The majority of the Court, again differing from Lord Justice Rigby, held that the conditions were such that the franchise was not acquired. The Bill provided that these restrictions on occupation should not debar a man from having a vote, and, as in the previous point, merely put in Parliamentary language what Lord Justice Rigby said. Upon the whole, it appeared to him that the House would be well advised in agreeing to the Second Reading of the Measure. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
observed that he might be pardoned for speaking on this question, as the city of Derry, which he represented, had sent more cases to the Court of Appeal in Ireland relating to anomalies of the franchise than all the rest of the United Kingdom put together. It was his interest, as well as that of his constituents, to support any Measure which had for its object the extension of the franchise. But what he noticed was that when hon. Members brought forward measures of electoral reform, they were invariably designed to remove one or two anomalies which happened to tell against their own party. Their policy was to get as many of their own supporters on the register as they could, and to keep off as many supporters of the other side as possible. This Bill was obviously designed for the party advantage of the Gentlemen who brought it forward. He supported the Amendment because he ventured to think the anomalies as a whole 1200 in the electoral system were becoming such an absurdity that it was essential they should be removed by the Government in a thorough way. He could not say that the Liberal Party could claim that they, when they were in office, did deal with these questions in a thorough way. They introduced three Bills in succession, and as those Bills went on, they became less thorough. The result of the attempts made by the Liberal Leaders in the last Parliament to tinker with the electoral law only showed all the more certainly that if they were to improve the present registration laws and to get some simple system, they would have to abandon their whole elaborate system of fancy franchise and go to one of those simple and single qualifications which had been adopted by other countries. There were at the present time twelve separate qualifications under which a man might become entitled to a vote in this country, and so long as they kept up this variety of qualifications they would have, in every constituency every year, the process of fighting out claim after claim in the registration courts, at great expense to both political parties. The waste of time and money in the registration courts in every closely contested constituency in England and Ireland was one of the scandals of the time, and there was no way to remove that scandal except, he ventured to think, by giving up all these varieties of qualifications, and passing on to the policy adopted by most other countries both on the Continent of Europe and America of manhood suffrage. Once they made that step, which he suggested was what the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean desired, it would no longer be necessary to have an annual revision at all. That being the only logical outcome of their electoral difficulties, they would only make matters worse by attempting further to tinker with the present system. Every additional qualification or every slight modification of the existing qualifications they introduced would only the more increase the annual struggle in the registration courts, add to the political expenditure of both Parties, and place more difficulties in the way of poor men who wished to take part in politics. It was quite true that the Bill removed one anomaly. 1201 It certainly was an anomaly that the fact that, with obvious benefit to themselves, those gentlemen who lived in cubicles shared the air of the whole compartment, should deprive them of the franchise. The Bill removed that absurd anomaly, but it created or perpetuated several others equally absurd. It made it the law that for the future a man who inhabited one of these cubicles, and had no further control over the means of ingress and of egress, should have a vote if he was a servant and had an occupation as a servant, but that he should not have a vote if he paid for it as a tenant. That he thought was an absurd anomaly. It was an absurdity that they should confer a franchise upon the man who paid nothing for his cubicle, and deny it to the man who paid for his cubicle. It might be said that this objection was frivolous; but, as a matter of fact, an anomaly somewhat similar, even if at all different, did occur and was a matter of constant controversy in Deny, and he believed in other places, especially in Scotland. He understood that, his right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean was not opposed to men living in cubicles having votes. His right hon. Friend wished all men to have votes; but why should the man who lived in a cubicle in his master's house have a vote if his master did not reside on the premises, and yet be denied a vote if his master resided on the premises; or, why should a man who lived in a cubicle have a vote if he had it in virtue of his services, and be denied a vote if he paid for it as a tenant?
§ * COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich
thought the supporters of this Bill would find themselves in a, difficult position hereafter with regard to further extensions of the franchise. It would, for example, be impossible to maintain, the lodger franchise at the present value of £10 if this Bill passed, because every person who slept in a cubicle would naturally claim the same right as a servant who slept in a cubicle. The same would apply to tenement houses. It would not be a question of occupying a room simply divided from other parts of the house, but of making half-a-dozen cubicles in each of the rooms, and each of those beds would be entitled to a vote if occupied. The statutory period of twelve months was a certain protection, no doubt, but 1202 that period might by-and-bye he shortened to six or even three months. He believed cubicles in common lodging-houses had often the same tenant for six or twelve months. If this Bill passed, he saw no way of resisting manhood suffrage. It might be said that this particular Bill remedied a grievance felt by a deserving class, but Statesmen ought to look at the matter in its general aspects. He could not see why a servant living in his master's house and sleeping in a cubicle should not have this privilege just as much as in the case of a man whose master did not live on the premises. Until be heard that his Leaders were prepared for manhood suffrage, he was bound to vote against this Bill.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkealdy Burghs)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down had hit upon the weak point of the Bill. It would be felt with especial severity as far as Scotland was concerned. They would be able to enfranchise a very large proportion of farm servants—those who happened to sleep in bothies, but on the other hand, those who slept in the farm house would not come under the operation of the Bill. He hoped this was a point on which the promoters of the Bill would keep an open mind when the Bill got into Committee. As far as the principle of the Bill was concerned, he was in favour of it. He desired to see a uniform franchise. The Bill was unsatisfactory in some respects, but still it was a step in the direction he desired, and that being so, he should vote in favour of the Second Reading.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ MR. MARKS moved: "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Law, Etc."
§ MR. KNOX
submitted that this was an objectionable course. A Franchise Bill was peculiarly one of general importance, and it was most desirable, therefore, that it should be considered in Committee of the whole House, where fair consideration could be given to all 1203 the Amendments. He appealed to the hon. Member not to press his Motion.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
supported the appeal of the hon. Member. He certainly thought that this, being a matter concerning the constitution of this House and involving an important principle of electoral law, should be discussed and decided in Committee of the whole House.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
, taking the same view, believed there was no precedent for a Bill affecting the franchise being referred to other than a Committee of the whole House. This was a simple, clear Bill, conferring manhood suffrage. It was undesirable in his judgment that the House should put any barrier between itself and the full consideration of this extremely important Bill in Committee of the House. The House had taken a step, the importance of which could not be overestimated, and he thought it was impossible for it to check itself on the course upon which it had now entered.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said that the proposal before the House involved a grave departure from the original intention of the House in setting up the Standing Committees on Law and Trade. In fact, the proposal was a flank movement in the promotion of manhood suffrage; it involved important constitutional considerations, and could not fail to have important results hereafter. He submitted to the First Lord of the Treasury that the question which the House had decided was not one which could well be disposed of without some intimation from the Government as to their view of the suggestion now before them.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
hoped that the First Lord of the Treasury would give the House some guidance on this question. He concurred in the view which had been expressed that this Bill involved a great change in the franchise, and that it was not a Measure which ought to be sent to a Standing-Committee. It was a Bill the importance of which it was impossible to exaggerate, and therefore its details ought to be dealt with in Committee of the whole House. He looked upon the Bill as a Measure which embodied a great constitutional change, every stage of which should be in 1204 the hands of the House. The Standing Committees were intended to deal with commercial details and technical matters, and he objected to a precedent of this kind being established, because if the Measure passed the Standing Committee without amendment, its future conduct would be practically taken out of the control of the House.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
said he did not assent to the description of the Bill given either by the right hon. Gentleman or by those who had spoken on the other side of the House when they described it as a great constitutional change. He did not think it was so either in form or in substance. After all, the Bill in substance only restored a practice which had been upset by a recent decision; and if that were true, it was an excess of language to say that the Bill involved a grave constitutional change. On the other hand, though he did not go the length of the right hon. Gentleman in his description, it was impossible to deny that as far as it went this was a reform—in other words, it was a Bill dealing with the franchise of the country. If the House could confine itself to this Bill alone, and say that there would never again be a large Measure dealing with the franchise question, and, therefore, that there would be no precedent set in sending the Bill to a Grand Committee, he should be inclined to assent to the suggestion to send this Bill upstairs. But he thought it would be a dangerous precedent, a dangerous example—[cheers]—to say that a Bill which, as far as it went, was a Reform Bill, was one which it was proper to deal with in a Grand Committee. The right hon. Gentleman suggested a further danger, which, though, probably it would not prove to be operative, was nevertheless a possible one—the danger that the Bill might pass through, the Grand Committee unchanged. On other occasions he had pointed out to the House the danger of a Rule which was quite proper as applied to proceedings in the House—that a Bill passing through Committee without amendment should not go through the Report stage—was a very dangerous Rule when applied to a Grand Committee. The House generally would feel that such a result would be a great scandal; and, therefore, he was reluctantly forced to the conclusion that, in the 1205 interests of the general conduct of the business in the House, this Bill should be retained within their control in all its stages. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for To-morrow.