§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
I wish to ask the Chief Secretary, seeing that there are a number of Amendments down 1274 on the Paper, whether he will inform us when he will put down his Amendment with regard to county infirmaries?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND (Mr. G. W. BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
I am afraid I cannot assign any date on which to consider the subject.
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith), CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, in the Chair.]
§ (In the Committee.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
On a point of order, I ask whether it is in order—upon an Amendment referring to illiterate voters in Scotland—to discuss a question of illiterate voters in Ireland.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The subject the honourable Member intended to deal with is quite clear; but the Amendment will require some alteration in the wording. The Committee understand what he intended to propose.
§ CLAUSE II.
Amendment again proposed—
In page 1, line 21, after '1898,' to insert the words. 'Provided always that Section 26 of the Parliamentary and Municipal Elections Act, 1872 (35 and 36 Vic. c. 33), and the forms of declaration referred to therein shall not apply to this Act."—(Mr. R. G. Webster.)
Question again proposed—
That those words be there inserted.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. J. H. M. CAMPBELL (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
I hope this Amendment will be accepted by the Committee, at all events by the Members from Ireland, who are supporters of Her Majesty's Government, and I hope this matter will be tested by a Division. The representatives in Ireland of those interests and classes who are likely to be 1275 prejudiced and affected by the introduction of this Measure, have declared that it is their wish and their intention that this Measure should be passed upon lines which would advance the social and economic welfare of Ireland, and that it should as far as possible be divorced from anything calculated to intensify the political or religious strife in that country. That has been re-echoed by many honourable Members from Ireland who sit upon the benches opposite. It has been declared that they sympathise with this desire, and that they will endeavour to effect it as far as possible. Now, I think that the Amendment introduced by the honourable Member for St. Pancras will afford to the Committee and to the country the best possible opportunity for testing the sincerity of honourable Members opposite in their declaration. There is no political significance whatever in this Amendment from the point of view from which it is introduced by Unionist Members from Ireland. I am afraid it is not a very hopeful sign, either of the temper or the wisdom with which discussions in Committee will be conducted or of the success of any effort to enforce this Bill when it becomes law, in the interests of the social and economic welfare of Ireland, to find that the honourable Member who introduced this Amendment was answered by my honourable and learned Friend the Member for North Louth [Mr. T. M. Healy] in a speech which for him was exceptional in its absence of argument and in its presence of virulent and violent personal reference. Those who, like myself, enjoy the personal friendship of my honourable and learned Friend the Member for Louth are perfectly well aware that his bark is worse than his bite; but, at the same time, I think that the attitude taken by him in dealing with this, the very first Amendment that came from persons interested from the Unionist point of view in the welfare of Ireland, is not calculated to encourage the hope of those who expect that this Measure will be discussed and will be enforced wholly apart from religious or political considerations. The object and desire of the Unionist Members from Ireland is that this Bill should be moulded into a shape which will advance the economic and social welfare of the 1276 country. But I am afraid that there are indications that an attempt will be made to mould it into a new weapon for the already extensive armoury for political and religious dissension in Ireland. I have said that there is no political significance from our point of view in this Amendment. It will result in no practical disfranchisement of electors or voters. The percentage in Ireland of voters even on this most extensive and democratic suffrage that is conferred on electors under this Local Government Bill, who are enabled to put a cross on a ballot paper, must be very small; and small as the percentage must necessarily be, it will be exclusively confined to those who have the least stake in the administration of the local affairs of the country. An attempt has already been made on the part of honourable Members from Ireland to exclude from this extensive franchise several classes of voters. Amongst the rest, an attempt was made to exclude lodgers. Now, perhaps, it may be supposed that I am unduly sensitive on this question of the lodger franchise; but I think it ought to be known that my friends opposite are probably as much enamoured, when occasion suits them, of this particular form of franchise as the Unionists in Ireland are. I know that at the recent election for St. Stephen's Green Division an attempt was made by my Nationalist Friends opposite—or rather by those who were acting for them—to put 500 electors upon the franchise for St. Stephen's Green Division, and of these 300 names have since been discovered to be fabrications and forgeries.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I think that the honourable Member is not now keeping to the question before the House.
§ MR. J. H. M. CAMPBELL
The point of view from which I intended to refer to it was that there had been a keen anxiety displayed by honourable Members from Ireland opposite to exclude four distinct classes of voters.
§ MR. J. H. M. CAMPBELL
I think I am entitled to say—and it is the only point I intend to refer to—that at least the freeholders and leaseholders and lodgers and freemen can read and write, and I think they are at least as intelligent as the small percentage of those who would be bonâ-fide electors. I have said that there is no political significance from our point of view in this Amendment. I confess, so long as we can give credit to honourable Members opposite for the desire to secure that this Bill in its ultimate form will be one that can be applied for the economic and social prosperity of Ireland, that it is difficult to understand why they are so keen and vigorous in their opposition to this Amendment. They have already suffered, as they have proved by reference to the quotation of the honourable Gentleman who introduced this Amendment, owing to the use—or rather the abuse—of this power to claim to vote as illiterates; and the quotations from the Freeman's Journal and the Independent read to the Committee last night are a sufficient indication that at different stages in the history and progress of the sections of the Nationalist Party they have found that this weapon was being abused to their disadvantage. In the case of the Sligo and Kilkenny elections of 1891 I find in the Freeman's Journal that there is quoted a speech of a gentleman who was some time ago a Member of this House, in which the following statement is made—At the Kilkenny and Sligo elections intimidation had been used to make men declare themselves illiterates, so that they would be deprived of the protection which the ballot afforded, in order that when they went in to sign their papers they might do so in the presence of others.Again, in the case of the election for East Waterford in 1892, the Independent of the 19th July, 1892, denounced the interference of the Roman Catholic clergy. Owing to that interference they attributed the fact that 47 per cent. of the total electors polled had claimed, and had been admitted to vote as illiterates. If honourable Members for Ireland opposite 1278 have found by practical experience that this instrument of illiterate voting has been used, and has been abused to their disadvantage, I cannot understand why, in the Measure which they suggest they intend to administer from a point of view wholly apart from politics or religion, they should oppose an Amendment which would deprive either their opponents in their own ranks or their opponents in the ranks of the Unionists of the opportunity of turning that weapon to their disadvantage. I confess also I was not very much impressed by the suggestion of the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House that this was a matter that might be safely left to be disposed of by a general Measure hereafter. My reasons for not being impressed by that suggestion are as follows: In the first place, I have before me a provision which was inserted by the right honourable Gentleman himself in his Bill of 1892; and when we are on the form of this proposed Amendment I cannot do better than suggest to this Committee that they should adopt the exact phraseology of the right honourable Gentleman in his own proposal in the year 1892. These are the words—The provision of Rule 26 in the first schedule of the Ballot Act of 1872, as to voters making a declaration of inability to read, shall not apply to any election under this Act.My honourable and learned Friend the Member for North Louth will allow me to say that I had no act or part in the Amendment proposed by the honourable Gentleman who sits opposite me; but I think I may suggest this, that if you look at his Amendment you will find that the only mistake, so far as I can make out, is that he referred to Rule 26 instead of Section 26. I think no member of this Committee was in the slightest degree misled as to what the real intention and purpose was; and I do suggest that an Amendment of this character—the first that has been introduced by a Unionist Member, either from Ireland or from England—might more fittingly form a subject-matter of argument and debate than for personal criticism or minute criticism as to the wording of the Amendment. That was the view of the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House in the year 1279 1892. I appeal to him to tell us what has happened since to change his mind or his views as to the expediency of introducing such a clause as this. So far from anything having happened since to change his mind, I suggest that the experience of the interval has intensified to a very great degree the necessity and the importance of this Amendment. Let us take the figures that have already been previously mentioned by my honourable Friend as to the percentage of illiterates at the last General Election. When we recollect, subsequent to the declaration of the right honourable Gentleman's policy, so far as can be gathered from his Bill of 1892, the result of the General Election of 1895, we find that one out of 75 claimed to vote as illiterates in Scotland, that one out of something over 60 claimed to vote as illiterates in England, and that there was a percentage in Ireland of one out of every five voters who claimed to be illiterates. Let me give you one or two remarkable illustrations of the way in which this is worked. There w-as an election held in the county of Sligo in the year 1885, and the total number that polled was 6,002. Of these 1,059 voted as illiterates, being a percentage of something over 17 per cent. In 1891 there was a second election. That election occurred after the split, or division, in the Nationalist ranks. What was the result? Instead of a total poll of 6,002 the number was 5,754, and instead of 1,059 illiterates there were 1,783. In other words, the percentage had gone up since 1885 from 17 per cent. to 30 per cent. Again, in the case of the election for East Wicklow, in 1892, out of a total poll of 3,773 voters, 1,008 claimed to vote as illiterates; and in the division of West Donegal alone, at the General Election of 1895, there were as many voters who claimed to vote, and who did vote, as illiterates, for that one division, as the total number of illiterates for every county in Scotland. The total number of voters who voted as illiterates in Scotland at the last General Election was something over 3,000; and I believe the number 1280 in Donegal was 3,300. It seems to me that these facts, so far from weakening the position, as compared with the position of 1892, when the right honourable Gentleman introduced his Bill, afford an unanswerable argument in support of this Amendment. There is one other matter I would suggest to the Committee, with which this Bill does not attempt to deal. If the principle of allowing these illiterate voters be now admitted by this Committee, and afterwards by this House, and then becomes an essential portion of the Local Government Bill for Ireland, I cannot see how it will be easy to deal hereafter with the argument that so late as 1898 a Committee of this House, and the House itself, affirmed the principle of including illiterate voters in the local government franchise. Another reason why I suggest that this matter, while of such pressing and immediate importance for Ireland, is not of such importance for Scotland, or for England, is that the number of illiterates who claimed to vote as such at the General Election of 1895 in England and Scotland was insignificant. There is also the consideration—and that is of some importance, to my mind—that in the vicissitudes of Party politics the right honourable Gentleman may not, perhaps, have an opportunity, and if he has the opportunity he may not have the time, to introduce a Measure of a general comprehensive character. I therefore appeal to this Committee, and to honourable Members from Ireland opposite, who, at any rate to the extent of a large proportion of them, are really anxious in their declarations to assist the Unionist Members from Ireland in having this Local Government Bill reduced to a shape that will make it a Measure of permanent and lasting good to our country. I appeal to them to give way upon the matter of illiterate voting. It is a mere bagatelle in the Measure, assuming that it is honestly and properly carried into force, because the percentage of bonâ fide illiterate voters must be small, and must consist of a class who have lost a stake in the government of the country. By their arguments they 1281 have, on more occasions than one, admitted that these illiterates have been converted into a weapon of unfair political artifice against themselves. If that has been done amongst themselves in the past, is there any good reason to hope that the illiterate vote will not be used for similar purposes, or abused for similar purposes, at a time when the question that may arise may not be one between themselves, but one between Nationalists and Unionists? With the permission of the Committee I move that the Amendment standing in the name of my honourable and learned Friend should assume the shape that I have already mentioned, and which is as follows—That the provisions of Rule 26 in the 1st Section of the Ballot Act of 1872 as to voters making a declaration of inability to read shall not apply to any election under this Act.I repeat that it is the honest desire of all Unionist Members to unite with other Members from Ireland in the interests of a genuine effort to make this Bill a success. I can only say, on the other hand, that if this the first effort we have made for the purpose of introducing a much-needed reform is defeated, it will not be a hopeful augury for what will happen hereafter in the discussion of this Bill. It will, perhaps, be more convenient if we have this Amendment negatived.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The words which have been suggested by the honourable Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin go so far beyond the Amendment that I could not put them to the Committee until the present Amendment is disposed of.
§ MR. J. H. M. CAMPBELL
This would meet the difficulty. Instead of Section 26, change the words to—The provisions of Rule 26 in the first schedule of the Parliamentary Elections Act of 1872 shall not apply to this Act";or it can be altered to— 1282Providing always that the provisions of Rule 26 in the first schedule of the Ballot Act of 1872, and the form of declaration referred to therein, shall not apply to this Act.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
If we are to go to the foundation of things and make proposals we know there is very little chance of being adopted, we shall never get through, with this Bill, and if it is lost it will be undoubtedly due to those Gentlemen who propose these Amendments at great length. A practical difficulty about this Amendment, which will prevent it being possible to accept it, is that it deals not only with illiterates, but with all the other classes of persons in the same category. The honourable Gentleman who spoke just now pointed to this particular question as one between the Nationalist. Members and the rest of Ireland. The only practical proposal that has ever been made to this House for sweeping away the special provision for the illiterate vote, was made before a Committee by a Nationalist Member, and it was unanimously adopted. This Amendment would disfranchise all the blind and paralytic voters, as well as remove the special provision for those who are illiterate. I myself will support the Bill suggested by the Leader of the House last night if he deals with Parliamentary elections only. This is much more difficult in the matter of boards of guardians with large wards than at Parliamentary elections. In the case of single-member seats, it is very easy for an illiterate to find which is his man. There are very few persons so illiterate that they cannot distinguish between the two candidates when their names are printed in large type. You are beginning at the wrong end if you try to deal with this matter as regards local elections. When you come to deal with Parliamentary elections, it is a different matter. One fatal objection to this Amendment is, that it would disfranchise large numbers of voters.
§ MR. W. E. H. LECKY (Dublin University)
I think it is perfectly unnecessary, after the statement made by the Leader of the House yesterday, to divide on this question, but the Government ought to be asked for a more definite and explicit pledge that within a short interval they will bring in some Measure to deal with this most grotesque and mischievous scandal. One out of every five of the electors profess, some of them truly, many of them untruly, to be unable to read the name on the ballot paper. It may suit some Members of the House to contend that these are persons who ought to be on the electorate, but I think that in the Palace of Truth, or in the ingenious atmosphere of the smoke—room, few would venture to assert it. The right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean has told the House that a Select Committee has, on the motion of a Nationalist Member, reported in favour of the illiterate vote. If the Nationalist Members are so strongly in favour of it, I do not see why a short Bill should not be brought in on the subject during the present Session.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
Mr. Lowther, I trust this Amendment will not be carried, and I also trust that no pledge will be given as to the future. It will be sufficient to deal with that question when the question arises. For my own part I can say from experience that there are in Ireland a great number of people who are illiterate, but who are, at the same time, perfectly well qualified to exercise the franchise, either in county council or Parliamentary elections. I believe the proposals to deprive them of the franchise emanates from a certain class of doctrinaires, who believe that because a man is unable to read or write he should be treated as a sort of pariah in society, though laws can be made by which his life or his property may be seriously interfered with. I think it is against all sense of justice to disfranchise any class of the community, who 1284 otherwise would be entitled to vote, simply because they have not had the benefit of an education. I have met many illiterates in Ireland who are among the most honest and the least corruptible portion of the community. [Ministerial laughter.] This may be a laughing matter to those who have been born in the purple, and whose parents have had the means of educating them, but it is not a laughing matter to the illiterates themselves. The Amendment as framed is perfectly absurd, both on technical grounds and on the merits of the question; therefore, I trust that the House will throw out this Amendment without further attention.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
It is quite clear from what passed last night, and what has happened this morning, that we cannot possibly divide upon this question with any advantage, though I entirely dissent from the view—the general and abstract view—put forward by my right honourable and learned Friend who has just sat down. I am strongly in favour of the general change. I do not, however, share the scepticism my honourable and learned Friend [Mr Campbell] appears to entertain as to the probability of a Measure being introduced to deal with this question. My honourable and learned Friend is a comparatively young Member of the House—[Mr. SWIFT MACNEILL: He is only a lodger.] But he appears to have drunk in with extreme rapidity a certain flavour of scepticism of Government pledges, which only those inured to Parliamentary proceedings possess. But let me point out, to console my honourable and learned Friend, that the change which he and I both desire would certainly receive a very large measure of support from the other side of the House, both among Members from Ireland and England, while it is almost unanimously desired by Gentlemen on this side of the House. I think it could be carried out 1285 by about two lines of Parliamentary print. As a reform—a general reform—it would have no more strenuous advocate or supporter than myself, but I cannot willingly consent to see an alteration as to the franchise introduced for the first time in a Local Government Bill dealing with only one, and that a comparatively small, part of the United Kingdom. I hope I have satisfied my honourable Friend that this is not an Amendment that we can debate or divide upon with any advantage on the present occasion.
§ COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
I think there is more ground for scepticism than the right honourable Gentleman is aware of. I would remind him that there has been a Bill in my name on the Papers of the House for the last 12 years dealing with the subject. It has repeatedly been brought forward to a First Reading, but it has never had a chance of a Second Reading. I have suggested to the Government over and over again that they should adopt it, but they have not done so.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I was not in my place last night, but I understand it was stated by an honourable Member in the discussion that, in the constituency which I have the honour of representing, 47 per cent. of the voters recorded their votes as illiterates, and it has also been stated that clerical intimidation had been used. I do not know where the honourable Gentleman got his figures from as to the illiteracy of the electors. With regard to the statement with reference to clerical intimidation, perhaps I may be allowed to say that at no meeting which I have attended in Ireland has there been a refusal on the part of the people to record their votes on any given subject. On the other hand, I may say that I have been at numerous meetings in this country where it has been asserted by the promoters of the meeting that, owing to clerical intimidation, it was not safe to put motions to the meeting. English Members will bear me out that at many Liberal meetings in villages the promoters have refrained from putting 1286 resolutions to the meeting for fear of intimidation.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
I wish to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, as the assurances of the Government are quite satisfactory, and I would further point out in regard to a criticism of my Amendment by the honourable and learned Member for Louth, that I described the Ballot Act by its long and not by its short title, and was perfectlv accurate in doing so.
§ Both Mr. WEBSTER'S Amendment and Mr. CAMPBELL'S Amendment were then by leave withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork City)
I wish to raise a rather important question as to time. The Bill, as it stands, provides that the Local Government Board shall have power to divide the counties into county electoral districts, and in that way fix the number of councillors for each county. It then goes on to say that this shall be done by order, and that the order shall be made before the 1st of January next. I would submit, Sir, that the order of the Local Government Board, to be operative, should be made considerably before the 1st of January. Each district is a separate constituency, and each district requires a separate register. The registers are made up in November, and if we are not to know until the 1st of January what the constituencies are to be how can the registers be made up in November? I beg, therefore, to move, as an Amendment, to substitute the 1st of November for the 1st of January in that section of Clause II., providing that the number of district councillors, and the divisions in every county, shall be those provided by an order of the Local Government Board made before the 1st of January next.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The Local Government Board will undertake the work, as soon as possible, and it will be completed before the 1st of January. I fail to see that there will be any difficulty or inconvenience in the arrangement 1287 proposed under the clause. The register will be made up separately for each election, and the Bill further provides that the county council elections shall not take place until the following March.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I should be satisfied if I received some assurance that the Local Government Board would endeavour to get the work done by November.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I cannot see the necessity of putting the constituencies to the expense of preparing a local government register every year when there will only be an election once in three years.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ MR. E. F. VESET KNOX (Londonderry)
After what happened yesterday, I do not propose to move the Amendment substituting the word "two" for "one" in the fourth line of the clause, thus providing that there shall be two councillors elected for each electoral division. I shall, however, move to insert after the word "councillor," in line 6, the following—Provided also that the divisions shall be arranged with a view to the population of each division being, so nearly as conveniently may be, equal, regard being had to a proper representation, both of the rural and urban population, and to the distribution and pursuits of such population, and to the due representation of any minority holding separate views from the majority of such population, and to the last published census for the time being, and to evidence of any considerable change of population since such census.
§ COLONEL E. J. SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I rise to a point of order. I and my honourable Friends are in favour of the Amendment to insert "two," and I therefore beg to move it.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
My position is that, after what happened yesterday, honourable Members opposite should be left to fight their own battles.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I do not think that what happened yesterday alters the position of the honourable Member in bringing this Amendment before the House. He says he intends to leave us to fight our own battles. That is not the way we look upon this Bill. This Bill does not deal with any one class in Ireland. The object of the Bill is to benefit the whole country. It is perfectly immaterial to me whether a good Amendment is moved by myself or by my colleagues or by honourable Members opposite. The Amendment which stands in the name of the honourable Member is one which we can all support. It is one which commends itself to a large body of public opinion in Ireland, who believe, rightly or wrongly, that it will be safer for the minority in Ireland if they have two representatives instead of one. Do not let the Committee mistake me when I use the word minority. The minority in Ireland are the large cess-payers of all classes. Undoubtedly, there is a considerable amount of misapprehension existing in the minds of the minority—no matter what class they belong to—but they believe, so far as I can gather from their expressed opinions, that they will have more chance of a fair representation on their county boards if there are two members chosen instead of one. They argue that if there is only one member before the constituency the majority will choose the man of their own political colour, but that if there were two they would not allow the colour of the candidates to influence their votes so much as the merits of the candidates. This is the view, I know, that is taken by a large number of the Irish ratepaying class. I, myself have had a large number of communications from Ireland—not from gentlemen of my own political opinions, but from men of all classes—who have great fears as to the effect of the Bill. I know there is the objection, if there are two representatives for the various constituencies instead of one, that the county councils may be unduly large. I do not think so. I think it will be found, when this Bill becomes law, that great difficulty will be experienced in getting members to attend. Taking the members who do not belong to the 1289 leisured classes, but carry on business, it will be found, I am perfectly certain, very difficult on many occasions to get a sufficient number to make a quorum, when the members find that it will involve a considerable loss of time to their ordinary avocations and considerable expense to devote a large number of days to carry on the work. There may be a glamour attending the meetings of these councils at first, but that will soon wear away, and, therefore, I think it is most important that amongst those elected in the future there should be a considerable number of men who have a certain amount of leisure and a certain amount of money to enable them to attend those county boards without undue loss to themselves. Therefore, as this Amendment has been put down by the honourable Member opposite, I venture to say that there are several Members on that side of the House who are in favour of it. I and my colleagues will support it, because it will meet the object ions offered by a very considerable class in Ireland. I think, therefore, the Government might fairly give the Amendment their support.
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The honourable and gallant Member who has moved the Amendment has not explained the position he has taken up. Does he contemplate by this Amendment the doubling of the county council, or does he propose that the electoral areas shall be enlarged and made into two-member constituencies? That is a point on which we should be perfectly clear before we can proceed with the discussion of the Amendment. If his proposal is to unduly increase the number of the council I shall certainly oppose it. If, on the other hand, his proposal contemplates a great increase in the divisions—in fact, a doubling of the areas—I am not quite certain that the object of the honourable and gallant Member will be achieved, in so far as it is a protection of the rights of the minority.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
May I explain to the honourable Gentleman that I do not propose to double the size of the districts? I propose that there shall be two members for each district; 1290 in fact, to double the number of the council.
§ MR. DILLON
I am certainly opposed to that. What is the argument which the honourable and gallant Member advanced in support of the Amendment? He assumed that if only one member were elected, the county electors would return a man of their own political colour, but that if there were two members the same electors who elected one man of their own colour would turn and elect a man of another colour to represent the minority. If the elections are fought on political lines, the electors will return two men of their own political colour. Sir, I entirely agree with the view put forward in the speeches of the Secretary for Ireland and the First Lord of the Treasury. No such artificial arrangement will protect minorities under this Bill, but by creating public opinion they cease to be minorities, and if they will join with others in doing the work of the country in that they will find their best protection. Where a minority shows that spirit they come before the electors with a fair chance, and, as the honourable and learned Member for Dublin said, upon equal grounds. But if they endeavour to convey to the minds of the people that by some artificial arrangement they are seeking to retain as a political minority their hold on the county representation, I venture to say they will find that the electors will have two or three representatives of a political colour.
§ DR. JAMES A. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
I oppose this Amendment brought forward by my honourable and learned Friend, and there is something novel in opposing something which is brought forward on your own side. Now, I cannot say that I have any personal feelings against the Mover of the Amendment. The only argument I have to put forward is that in a two-member constituency a man, having satisfied his political conscience by voting for one Member, will then turn round and elect 1291 another, in order to neutralise it, because a second member, unless he will vote in opposition to the first member, will be of no value whatever. If a second member is always to follow the member put forward by the political conscience, clearly the fact of his being put on the council would be to destroy the value of the other altogether. Therefore it seems to me that no man who had any political feeling in regard to the election of a member would be so foolish as to elect two members of the same colour. Has not that been our experience on the London County Council? Almost in every case two members of the same political colour, whether fighting on political or non-political lines, were returned. That being so, and seeing that we have the example before us, it makes the matter perfectly clear as to what would happen in Ireland; and, consequently, it appears to me that the argument in favour of two-member constituencies passes away entirely. But, Mr. Lowther, with reference to the other side of the question, it seems to me that the objections to two-member constituencies are very great indeed, and in no place would they be greater than in Ireland. With regard to the objections that strike one, the first would be that both seats would generally be won by one man. That is the general rule in two-member constituencies, where a strong man takes a weak man on his back and carries him in. In point of fact, I remember the honourable and learned Member for North Louth once saying, in a speech, that in the county of Monaghan he took a certain gentleman on his back and carried him in. I have no doubt that he did, but he was not at all unique or peculiar in that respect, because that is the general experience we have on the London County Council. That is the only way in which we can account for the fact of an extremely strong man and an extremely weak one being elected together, with almost exactly the same number of votes. If that happens in two-member constituencies; if very weak men—perhaps on account of being extreme and making outrageous statements—are to be carried in on the backs of those strong men who are able to make reasonable speeches it will be a very bad thing to have those 1292 men on the county council or on any public body whatever. I think that is one of the evils of carrying in a second member, and that would almost always be the case. But then there is the tendency that one candidate will accuse the other of having played him false during the election. That is a common practice at Parliamentary elections and elsewhere. Suppose that two Liberals and two Conservatives stand for a double-member constituency, and suppose, as sometimes happens, that one Liberal and one Conservative win, and one Liberal and one Conservative are beaten. Now, it is a common experience for the beaten Conservative to say, "Oh, my colleague passed the word round privately that they should plump for him." No doubt it is the habit of the Liberals to say the same thing, and it so happens that these statements are invariably made—and made sometimes to my certain knowledge with absolute and entire truthfulness. I know of one case where one of the joint candidates—although they both appeared every night together on the same platforms—wrote leading articles in a newspaper every day attacking his colleague. [An HON. MEMBER: Give the name.] The honourable Gentleman must excuse me for not giving the name. Certainly we know that such accusations were in the habit of being made, and would be made in almost every case where one candidate got in and his colleague was left out. Then, again, with regard to an election when a member is retiring. Suppose, for example, that, there are two members of the same colour sitting for one division, and suppose that one of them has made up his mind to retire at the end of the three years. It is very likely that in his year or so on the council he may have given some votes or have made some speeches calculated to leave a very unfavourable impression on the minds of his opponents on that council, but those votes and speeches, though putting himself in a good enough position, would be very disastrous to his colleague who intends to face the electors again. I can assure honourable Members that that is the case, and that it has frequently happened, and if they ask those who have had experience of being joint colleagues with another gentleman they will find 1293 that it is exactly the truth. Then there is another reason, and that is this: if a vacancy occurs in a certain division where there is a representative of one political colour and another of another colour, that contest would be fought upon strong political lines. There is nothing so distressing as to find a constituency represented by one of your own side and one of the other, and you can never rest comfortably until you get that state of affairs altered. That is a feeling experienced equally on both sides by all those interested in politics. Then, again, there would be possibly a case of one colleague getting up and denouncing another colleague on the Council. I have heard in this House of a joint member of a two-member constituency getting up and denouncing his colleague and saying that he would never be returned again. I was denounced that way myself once, but it was not by a colleague, but by a constituent, so that did not count so much. But it would be a very painful experience for anyone to have. Consequently, I for one am very thankful that I am not a member of any body on which there are two members returned for the same council. I have had my experience of that on the London County Council, and I do not require that experience again. I am decided opposed to this Amendment, which I think would do no good whatever in the direction in which my honourable and gallant Friend desires and in the direction in which I heartily agree with him. My own impression is this: that the only way in which a minority—I am citing this of my own constituency—whether the rate paying minority or the loyal minority, or any other minority, can be returned on a public body, is not by jerrymandering the franchise, but by the freewill of the majority of the electors of the division. It seems to me highly probable that if the gentleman will come forward in the one-member constituency, and offer his services to his fellow-countrymen, and ask them for their vote, he will have a far better chance in appealing to their heads, so to speak, rather than by appealing to the political conscience for the second vote. If I could not pull off an election on my own strength, I would not be carried in on the back of another man, and be accused of having given a 1294 secret promise that on all-important questions and occasions. I would either support and vote with the man with whose political colour I do not sympathise, or else take care to be absent. What I think is this: that if the second man went in representing a minority, which my honourable and gallant Friend speaks of, then if the senior member voted right his presence would be of no consequence. If his senior member has voted wrong, and if he votes against him on every occasion, I will guarantee that the political conscience will stretch at the next election, and then that man will have to go out. He will either be a person following his leader, or will vote against him on all important occasions, and thus neutralist the representation of that constituency and practically turn out both of them. Therefore, I think that this Amendment would serve no good purpose whatever, and I hope that the Government will not accept it.
§ MR. J. G. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, E.)
I have listened with very great pleasure to my honourable and learned Friend's speech, and I regret that two right honourable and distinguished Members of this House were not present to hear that speech. I refer to the right honourable Member for Montrose and the right honourable Member for Bodmin. I am very glad that the honourable and learned Gentleman made that speech, for this reason: that it shows that in the minds of honourable Gentlemen on that side of the House there is some rudimentary trust in the people of Ireland that they will return the best man for the representation of the majority of their fellow-countrymen, and, above all, that we shall get rid of those hateful words, "loyal minority."
§ MR. HORACE C. PLUNKETT (Dublin County, S.)
This question was first raised by The O'Conor Don, who pointed out that at the first election the electors will, as the Bill now stands, have to choose between the sitting guardians, who would, in all probability, be Nationalists, and the grand jurors. The Government have expressed their desire to harmonise the interests of all, as far 1295 as possible, in county government, and they are trying to get everybody to work on a common platform, and there seems to be a disposition on all sides of the House, and among the Members from Ireland, to assist the Government in every way in their power to realise that ideal. Personally, I do not feel very strongly on this Amendment, and I understood my right honourable Friend the Chief Secretary to say that he had been for a long time in considerable doubt about it himself. It is quite possible that it would make these new bodies unwieldy. On the whole, I think if they were only of this unwieldy size for the first three years the advantage of bringing a large number of men into the new local administration from all classes of the community would counterbalance any little difficulty that might arise from the large number. Therefore I myself rather favour this Amendment. There is one other point. There is an Amendment moved lower down in the name of the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, which would give women a seat upon the county council, and if his Amendment were passed I should very strongly favour the adoption of this Amendment, which would admit of an interesting choice between candidates of either sex.
§ MR. J. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
I wish to turn for a moment to what would be the effect of adopting an Amendment like this. I think there is a great objection to this proposal of having two members for each constituency. I do not like this Siamese-twin arrangement by the two members representing the same division. The best thing the Government have done so far is in that portion of this Bill in which they show a wish to trust the people entirely, and I think that in this matter they should trust the people entirely, and let them elect one man, and let the people take the responsibility of electing a wrong man. If you scatter the representation by giving them the opportunity of electing one good man and the other a bad man you will not have the best results. The honourable and learned Gentleman opposite said that if there were two members the elector would first satisfy the conscience of his 1296 political friend, and then the economical ratepayer. I think the result with hundreds in Ireland, instead of being of that mixed description, will be that the elector will vote for the whole ticket, and that he will not split his vote. If they are to be elected as politicians—and I hope they will not—if there is to be waste and extravagance, when, these local bodies are turned into mere political machines, I think it is far better that a single representative should be responsible for that waste and extravagance, and that the people should have the opportunity of turning that man out, and of making him solely responsible. There is another point of view which has not yet been considered, and that is the question of the expense of increased accommodation in the board-rooms if the numbers are increased. I happen to know a good deal of the board-rooms in five or six counties in Ireland, and if you double the number of members you will have to increase the space for them, and that will be a very serious item. At present, as everyone knows who has had any experience in these matters, most of the business is done by about a dozen men, and if yen make three or four or five dozen members for the district council, you will have to very largely increase the size of the board-rooms. With regard to the objection that was raised, that men would hesitate to come forward, and that grand jurors would be filled with this modesty and would not come forward to oppose sitting guardians, I think chat is a mere academic objection. Where there are members who are grand jurors or landlords, where there are men of that stamp who take a practical interest in the working of the county council or district council affairs, I think these men will have no hesitation in coming forward and opposing sitting members. Where the people are convinced that these men will work economically and well, I am sure the electors will elect them. There is a further objection against two-member constituencies. The members will not be inclined to attend so regularly as if you had only one member. One of the troubles in connection with the working of these county councils and of these district councils will be that in the first year or two the novelty will work off, and you will not be able to induce men to travel long distances to attend the 1297 meetings. But if you make the members so many in number that there are two for each constituency, you will encourage laziness among the men in various districts, where they will both sit at, home. But if you make the number smaller the pressure of business will make him attend to the work at these meetings. The Government will be wise in sticking to the proposal in their Bill of one-member constituencies.
§ SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I think if this Amendment is adopted there will be a difficulty, because I do not see, if you are going to adopt the dual representation of constituencies in the case of county councils you must be guided by the same principle in the case of district councils. You cannot help it, on the ground that the minority must be protected. You must adopt it on the same ground, for it is much more important in the case of district councils. They would then be too big. I certainly think the Government would be wise to stick to their Bill. I know that there is a strong feeling in favour of my honourable and gallant Friend's proposal, and he was perfectly right in bringing it forward. I think, however, myself that on this matter it is wiser in the interests of all parties in Ireland that single Member constituencies will be found to be the best and the wisest.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I did not rise immediately after the speech of the honourable and gallant Member for South Armagh, because I was anxious to learn something of the views of the Committee upon the subject. The question was not one in which a vital principle in our judgment was involved, and I was prepared to be guided to some extent by the drift of feeling and opinion in the House. My own views I have already stated on the Second Reading of the Bill, and I am bound to say that individually, I think there is a great deal of force in what has been urged by my honourable and learned Friend the Member for East Down in his somewhat amusing reminiscenes. There are certain differences of opinion expressed, but I am rather inclined to think that, even in Ireland, on the part of a certain 1298 section of the people there is a stronger feeling in favour of a double-member constituency than has been expressed in the House to-day. My own opinion has remained unchanged, and, indeed, has been somewhat strengthened by what has been said on both sides of the House in this discussion. But what I would suggest is this: I would ask my honourable Friend to withdraw this Amendment, so that by Report stage the question may be raised again. In the meantime public opinion, both inside and outside of the House, may have an opportunity of ripening.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I have been asked, in the absence of Mr. KNOX, to move the following Amendment standing in his name—Page 2, line 6, after 'councillor,' insert, 'Provided also that the divisions shall be arranged with a view to the population of each division being, so nearly as conveniently may be, equal, regard being had to a proper representation, both of the rural and urban population, and to the distribution and pursuits of such population, and to the due representation of any minority holding separate views from the majority of such population, and to the last published census for the tune being, and to evidence of any considerable change of population since such census.'I think it would be desirable that this question of the arrangement of county divisions should not be left to the discretion of the Local Government Board, and I do think that the precedent set in the English Act should be followed.
§ MR. DILLON
I do not say that I oppose this, but the only point to which I think there is any serious objection is the latter part, which has regard—To the due representation of any minority holding separate views from the majority of such population.Now, what is the meaning of those words? That is the only reason why I feel inclined to criticise those words. You have in Ireland, on this county government question, two stereotyped parties, 1299 the majority and the minority, and the Local Government Board in Ireland are in a position to break up the country and divide the population into separate electoral divisions. I ask the Mover of the Amendment to state what majority and what minority he means, and in reference to what question. That is really the only objection I have to this Amendment, to which very much importance is attached. I take it simply as a hint to the Local Government Board, and I fancy the Unionists of Ireland will have a very strong objection on the same grounds. [Colonel WARING: It means the large cesspayers and the small.] The honourable Member justifies what I have said. It means the breaking of the country into two camps. If you establish hostility between those who pay the large cess and those who pay the small cess, it is a condition of things which will be extremely dangerous. The one principle upon which the minority can hope to be sufficiently protected is by securing the confidence of the majority, and I criticise this Amendment simply from that point of view, because I feel that it introduces into the Bill words of a dangerous character, which are calculated to convey the impression that this is to be recognised in the Bill as a normal and perpetual condition of things.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I sat down just now in consequence of an interruption before I had finished what I had to say. I began by saying that this Amendment was largely formed upon the English Act, and I was going on to show this very point. That being so, it is only fair for me to say a few words as to what those particular words convey to me. I am under the impression that words somewhat of this character were introduced into the Act of 1885. I do not know whether I am right or wrong, but am certainly under that impression, though I am not sure on that point. There is one thing which the latter portion of the Amendment certainly does not mean, and cannot mean, and that is the meaning attributed to it by the honourable and gallant Member for North Down. This is not the time to discuss such a 1300 point as the protection of the large ratepayer, and there may be something further said upon it when it is raised. It is quite clear that this Amendment has not raised that question, and I am ratter surprised that the honourable Member for Mayo has any doubt as to what this Amendment means, in view of the fact that the whole of this question was last Session discussed in reference to Belfast. There is nobody in this Committee who doubts that that was a wise division. I can quite conceive, Mr. Lowther, that in the case of several northern counties, such as Tyrone and Armagh, and certainly in a number of northern constituencies, they could be so divided in certain cases as to exclude sometimes a minority of Protestants from all representation. On the other hand, if the attention of the Local Government Board were directed to that particular point, and they were told that that was a matter which they might very properly consider in the division of the counties, they might very well contrive, in some of these cases, that the areas should be so framed that minorities, sometimes Catholic and sometimes Protestant, should get representation which they would not otherwise receive. Mr. Lowther, this is not an Amendment in which I am specially interested, for I am a Member for the south of Ireland, where matters of this kind are not at all in use; but in the north of Ireland I do think that, both in the interests of Catholics and Protestants when this Bill becomes law we should not have, in the case of these county divisions, the same class of unpleasant discussions which we constantly had in the case of some northern boroughs. I hope it will not be open, after this Bill has passed, to any minority in Ireland to say, either in politics or religion, that when the Local Government Board carved the counties into divisions they did so in such a manner as to leave any minority without representation, which they could have given to them if their attention had been drawn to the matter. That is the object which I conceive that my hon. Friend had in view. I think it was a good object, and therefore I certainly am in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I think it is quite clear that this Amendment does not bear the interpretation which the hon. Member for East Mayo has suggested. All it does is to direct the attention of the Local Government Board to their consideration. It simply gives a hint to the Local Government Board, and it cannot possibly do more, and I do not object to it on the part of the Government. Indeed, these are considerations which the Local Government Board will furnish; but, Sir, as to the precise meaning of the words—Due representation of any minority holding separate views from the majority of such population.if that point were raised, I am afraid I should not be in favour of the interpretation put upon them by my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for North Down. I do not think it would be fair to say in this House that the large cesspayers are to be described as a minority, having separate interests from the majority of the people. The question of the minorities has been very fairly stated by the honourable Gentleman opposite.
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE (Cricklade, Wilts)
I do not intend to offer any advice to the representatives of Ireland on subjects which they understand better than I do. The English Act has been quoted from, but there seems to be a considerable misunderstanding in regard to the analogy, which is no doubt very important, and if I venture to intervene in the discussion I hope the Committee will understand that I do so because I acted as a Boundary Commissioner and as Chairman of County Council and Quarter Sessions. Consequently, I have had a good deal to do with the subject of boundaries. If the honourable Member who moved this Amendment will look closely at the English law he will see that it does not contain any words similar to, much less identical with, those which the Chief Secretary for Ireland has objected to.
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE
The object of the honourable Member who moved the Amendment would be attained by adding the words "and area" after the word "population." If the honourable Member will follow the words of the English Act he will find they were intended to meet the view put forward by the honourable Member on the other side of the House, so as to obtain complete representation. The words which the honourable Member who moved the Amendment quoted, and for which he is not responsible, and to which objection has been taken, are—The due representation of any minority holding separate views from the majority of such population.That must mean either political or religious views.
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE
If the honourable and learned Gentleman puts that construction upon those words he is even more ingenious than I suspected.
§ DR. RENTOUL
There is a great distrust on the part of large ratepayers in London with regard to it.
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE
That is a question more or less of fact. I am inclined to think that no court of law would find it easy to put an exact construction upon those words, and all that they can do is to try to go into political and religious questions, and I think that would lead to bad results.
§ MR. DILLON
I desire to apologise to the honourable Member for the City of Cork if he thought I had the least intention of interrupting him; and I may say that I am very much obliged to him for the explanation he has given of the meaning of those words. I stated just now that I had not at all made up my mind whether or not to oppose it, because I wanted to know what the object of the Amendment was. Now we have had two explanations of the object of these words—one from the Member for Armagh, who 1303 put an interpretation upon that which was repudiated by the Government, and which was an absurd interpretation. The honourable Member for the City of Cork put another interpretation upon them, which was very much more rational, and which, no doubt, does apply to certain circumstances existing in certain parts of Ireland. Now what does that mean? The honourable Member for the City of Cork put the interpretation forward that these words are to secure that there shall be an adequate representation of minorities. Very well; now he expressed surprise that I did not understand these words after taking part in the Belfast debates. Well, Sir, I confess that my dislike of these words will be greater now. I do not say that if the honourable Member puts them to a Division I shall vote against them, but I do think it would be unfortunate to extend them. The Government themselves have declared and expressed the hope that at the very beginning these words should not be extended, because they might extend over the whole area of Ireland to a great measure those principles and those party conflicts which up to the present have come before the House only in connection with the city of Belfast. Those Members of the House who have in their mind and who remember the Debates which have frequently occupied the attention of the House in reference to the city of Belfast will remember that on every occasion in which those unfortunate and unhappy matters were brought before the House, including the occasion when we got a Committee appointed upstairs, we had special specific and peculiar circumstances to justify our action. Rightly or wrongly, we obtained in regard to the city of Belfast a peculiar arrangement, which was not put in force as regards any other part of Ireland. It is one thing to deal with the city of Belfast and apply remedies on the ground justified by facts fully brought before the House, and it is another thing to bring into a great Measure like this words which are to be the basis of the whole local administration of Ireland for the future. These words are based upon the assumption that the people of Ireland will be divided into two hostile religious camps. I want to hear some stronger arguments brought forward in favour of these words, and I confess that all that 1304 has been said confirms me in my view of the question; and unless some very strong arguments are used to alter my mind I hope that perhaps the honourable Member for the City of Cork will accept the proviso which has been suggested.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
I desire to amend the Amendment, because, after all, it is only a small matter. It is most unfortunate that anything should be introduced into this Bill which is likely to arouse political or religious prejudices, and I beg to propose to omit from the Amendment the following words—And to the due representation of any minority holding separate views from the majority of such population, and to the last published census for the time being, and to evidence of any considerable change of population since such census.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I confess that, after giving the matter such consideration as I have been able to, I do think there is something to be said for the words in the Amendment. I am sure the Member for Belfast will not object if I use the case of Belfast again. Now, Sir, let me take the case of Belfast and suppose that they acted rightly. Now, Sir, it will be possible to divide Belfast as it was divided last year, so as to exclude from representation on the city council a large minority of the population. On the other hand it would be possible to divide Belfast as it was divided last year, by the Act mapping it out in two or three divisions in such a manner as would give the minority some representation. Now, Sir, I ask any Member of this House, having possibly an idea of that kind before him, can he doubt for one moment what line the Local Government Board should take in the case of Belfast? Ought the Local Government Board, in a case of that kind, to proceed to divide Belfast solely in relation to political circumstances, or should it take into consideration these religious and political differences which exist in that place? It is obvious that it would be monstrous to do other than the Act of last year did; that is, to divide up a constituency of that 1305 kind, taking care that no substantial minority of it should be able to complain that it is without fair representation. Now, Sir, the case of Belfast is exactly the case of several northern counties in Ireland. It has been said that the business which these county councils will be doing will be attending to roads and bridges and public works, and will have nothing to do with religion and politics. Now, that is exactly the case. Their business will be to sweep the streets and light them, and not to devote themselves to religion and polities. In spite of the fact that the Legislature, with a constituted majority of 150 Conservative Members, solemnly decided that it was wrong that Belfast should be divided upon any other principle than that in vogue at present, we hope in future these areas in the North of Ireland, when they proceed to elect county councillors, will show their backs to all religious matters, and devote themselves solely to the questions of gas, lighting, sewerage, and public works. I hope they will, but I do not believe they will. It may be, Sir, that when the millennium arrives these northern constituencies will act in this delightful manner, which we should all desire to see. And really, Sir, let us clear our minds of froth, and let us face concrete facts that will exist in these northern counties when this Bill comes into law. In Tyrone, Armagh, and Antrim it will be the duty of the Local Government Board to map out areas in these counties for the purposes of representation. Now, we all know that your religion and your politics depend very much upon where you live. We all know that in Belfast you can tell a man's religion and his politics from the street he lives in. It is so in the northern counties. There are certain geographical areas in these counties which are en masse for Protestants or Catholics. Now, Sir, are we not to look at these circumstances? In the first place, let me ask this question: Will the Local Government Board have regard to these circumstances or not? If they will not, then I say that is a conclusive reason for this Amendment. Therefore, Sir, having given the matter such, consideration as we can, I think my honourable Friend was wise and prudent in inserting these words, and I hope the Government will not oppose them.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I do trust that this discussion will now be allowed to terminate, as I do not think it can come to any practical good. I have already said that the Government are indifferent as to whether this Amendment is put in or not. Such considerations as have been put forth would undoubtedly be attended to by the Local Government Board. The words appear to have given umbrage to the honourable Member opposite, and I would suggest to the honourable Member for Cork that he should withdraw this Amendment, for in any event, the circumstances to which allusion has been made will be taken into consideration by the Local Government Board.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I think this is rather hard, because the Government were at first willing to accept those words. Then the honourable Gentleman the Member for East Mayo got up and raised certain objections, and there has since been a tendency to support the honourable Member for East Mayo's objection very strongly on the Conservative side. Any honourable Gentleman who took part in the discussions regarding Belfast will see the absolute necessity for words of this description. I do think that the right honourable Gentleman might consent to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend, for if he would do so he would be doing a very fair and reasonable act. But, perhaps, to some extent he is disappointed at the fact that in Belfast, where something of this kind was carried out a year or two ago, the results of the elections there, perhaps, have not turned out in accordance with his expectations. I would suggest that we should discuss these matters not by reference to personal professions, but by reference to the just requirements of minorities. I can conceive nothing more necessary to achieve this object than the existence of words of this kind. If these words are rejected, and if, in consequence, the Catholic and Nationalist minorities in the north lose their representation on the county councils, it will be solely due to the action of a certain Member of this House, and I shall consider it my duty to lay the blame at the door of the honourable Member for East Mayo.
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I regard the words proposed to be left out as bad in principle and dangerous in practice. The honourable and learned Member who has just sat down may relieve his mind of any uncertainty as to how the Irish people will regard this proposal when I tell him that the majority of honourable Members sitting here reject his words. The honourable Member has been invidious in the remarks he has made regarding the honourable Member for East Mayo, and I have no hesitation in saying that this Amendment is an invitation to the whole of the Local Government Board to jerrymander. The honourable Member for Louth will find that not only the Conservatives, but the majority of the Irish Members sitting on this side, are opposed to the retention of the words, which are calculated to work great mischief and harm in various parts of Ireland. By those words you invite the Local Government Board to jerrymander these constituencies, and I for one am not willing to give them unlimited confidence. I say the words are mischievous, and we shall oppose them strongly, and if put to a Division we will vote against them.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL
The undertaking of the right honourable a Gentleman the Chief Secretary being so perfectly reasonable, I am astonished it is not accepted. I, for my part, object to be bound by the precedent of Belfast. There can be no doubt that "separate views" mean separate political views; they cannot have reference to property matters, or road-making, or the repairing of bridges, and there must be some object in introducing words which do not occur in the English Act of Parliament. The words of the Amendment purport to be taken from the words of the English Act, but in that Act they do not occur. I say it would be a great misfortune
§ to put on the face of such an important Act of Parliament a recognition that Catholics and Protestants were different in any way. I therefore trust that the Amendment of the honourable and gallant Baronet will be carried.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I beg to say that I shall not divide the House. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has frankly undertaken that, without these words, the Local Government Board will be instructed to inquire into the matter. Without them we are compelled to place our trust in the Local Government Board and rely on a body constituted in a manner which compels us to distrust its action, and in submitting to the decision of the Government I hope the day will not come when the Catholics and Nationalists of the north of Ireland will reject them.
§ MR. TULLY
In the first place, the Amendment ought to be objected to because it goes in for cutting up districts by mathematical rules according to population, and destroys old landmarks. I think that is a most objectionable thing. The Local Government Board have sent out circulars asking the people to sign with regard to the changing of divisions of counties, etc., but in such cases the people have objected and torn up the circulars.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The only question is whether the words proposed to be left out—And to the due representation of any minority holding separate views from the majority of such population,should stand part of the proposed Amendment.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 19; Noes 236.—(Division List No. 78.)1311
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Healy, Thos. J. (Wexford)||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Lough, Thomas||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Curran, Thos. B. (Donegal)||Macaleese, Daniel|
|Farrell, James P. (Cavan, W.)||M'Hugh, E. (Armagh, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)||Mr. T. M. Healy and Mr.|
|Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)||Pease, J. A. (Northumb.)||Ffrench.|
|Hammond, Jahn (Carlow)||Robertson, H. (Hackney)|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Flower, Ernest||McDermott, Patrick|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Flynn, James Christopher||M'Ghee, Richard|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Folkestone, Viscount||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||McIver, Sir Lewis|
|Ascroft, Robert||Gartit, William||Maddison, Fred.|
|Asher, Alexander||Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Mandeville, J. Francis|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. H. J.||Minch, Matthew|
|Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Molloy, Bernard Charles|
|Baird, John George Alex.||Gold, Charles||Monk, Charles James|
|Balcarres, Lord||Goldsworthy, Major-General||More, Robert Jasper|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Graham, Henry Robert||Morrison, Walter|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. J. B. (Clackm.)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Moss, Samuel|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Greville, Captain||Muntz, Philip A.|
|Barry, Rt. Hon. A. H. Smith-||Gunter, Colonel||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Barry, F. Tress (Windsor)||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Hardy, Laurence||Myers, William Henry|
|Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Harrington, Timothy||Newdigate, Francis Alex.|
|Bethell, Commander||Harwood, George||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Billson, Alfred||Hatch, Ernest Frederick G.||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Birrell, Augustine||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Blake, Edward||Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hedderwick, Thomas C. H.||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Mdsx.)||Helder, Augustus||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Brigg, John||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. C. H.||O'Neill, Hon. Robert T.|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down)||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Hill, Sir E. Stock (Bristol)||Parnell, John Howard|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Hogan, James Francis||Pease, Alf. E. (Cleveland)|
|Burns, John||Hornby, William Henry||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Burt, Thomas||Horniman, Frederick John||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Caldwell, James||Hutchinson, Capt. G. W. Grice-||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Cameron, Sir C. (Glasgow)||Jackson, Rt. Hon. W. L.||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Jacoby, James Alfred||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. C.|
|Carew, James Laurence||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Carlile, William Walter||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Jenkins, Sir John Jones||Pryce-Jones, Edward|
|Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W.||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Purvis, Robert|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Randell, David|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Johnstone, John H. (Sussex)||Rankin, James|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Joicey, Sir James||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Jordan, Jeremiah||Richardson, J. (Durham)|
|Colston, C. E. H. Athole||Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt. Hn. Sir U.||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)|
|Colville, John||Kenrick, William||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. T.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Kenyon, James||Roche, Hon. J. (Kerry, E.)|
|Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow)||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. Wm.||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Crean, Eugene||Kilbride, Denis||Round, James|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Kitson, Sir James||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Cruddas, Wm. Donaldson||Knowles, Lees||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Curran, Thos. (Sligo, S.)||Lafone, Alfred||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Daly, James||Lawrence, Sir E. (Cornwall)||Saunderson, Col. E. James|
|Davitt, Michael||Lecky, Rt. Hon. W. E. H.||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Denny, Colonel||Legh, Hon. T. W. (Lanc.)||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Dillon, John||Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Sharpe, William E. T.|
|Doogan, P. C.||Lewis, John Herbert||Shee, James John|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Llewellyn, E. H. (Somerset)||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Duckworth, James||Loder, Gerald Walter E.||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Skewes-Cox. Thomas|
|Ellis, T. E. (Merionethshire)||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Smith, A. H. (Christchurch)|
|Engledew, Charles John||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Lyell, Sir Leonard||Strachey, Edward|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.||Macdona, John Cumming||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Fenwick, Charles||McDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Qn. 's Co.)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Maclure, Sir John William||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Fisher, William Hayes||MacNeill, John G. Swift||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-||McCalmont, Mj. -Gn. (Ant'm, N.)||Tully, Jasper|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmund||McCalmont, Col. J. (Ant'm, E.)||Ure, Alexander|
|Flannery, Fortescue||McCartan, Michael||Vernoy, Hon. Richard G.|
|Wallace, Robt. (Edinburgh)||Weir, James Galloway||Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hudd'rsf'ld)|
|Wallace, Robert (Perth)||Williams, J. Powell- Birm)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. R. Stuart-|
|Walrond, Sir William Hood||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Wylie, Alexander|
|Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)||Willox, Sir John Archibald||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Waring, Col. Thomas||Wilson, John (Govan)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Warr, Augustus Frederick||Wilson, J. W. (Worc'sh, N.)||Sir John Colomb and|
|Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)||Captain Donelan.|
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
then put the Motion that the Amendment, as amended, stand part of the Bill, which was agreed to.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
Mr. Lowther, the Amendment which I now intend to move is to omit Sub-section 5 of Clause 2. That sub-section provides for the qualification of a person who may be elected a county councillor, and the qualification prescribed is that he must be a local government elector in such county. I have no desire to prolong the proceedings on the Bill in any way, but I think the Government will feel that this is a substantial point, and one on which I think action should be taken. I desire to give three or four reasons why it would be most desirable to leave out the qualification for persons elected as county councillors. One reason is that it is contrary to the principle which has been adopted as governing the franchise which the Bill gives. The principle which has been adopted is the Parliamentary franchise, and under that franchise anybody can be selected as a Member of Parliament. Therefore, if for the important position of representative of a constituency in this House you may elect anybody you choose, I think it would be quite safe to leave the electors free to elect any person they please. The first point I make is that the Government, having adopted the principle of the Parliamentary franchise, should follow the analogy, and impose no qualification whatever on persons to be elected. The second reason I give is that, although I am quite sure the object of the Government is to secure good representatives, and that they think the best representatives can be secured by imposing the qualification included in the Bill, yet I think that intention will defeat itself. In many cases they will not get the best but the second best candidate, if they preserve this qualification. I know the feeling of the Committee 1312 will be that there will be still such a large class to select from that we need not mind the restriction. I have some peculiar experience on that point, which I desire with great humility to put at the service of the Committee. I have been connected for the past six years with a body in London which has interested itself, since the Parish Councils Act and the Local Government Act were passed, in getting candidates for the local bodies under these Acts. That is the London Reform Union, which has acted in the last three county council elections, and in many guardians and vestry elections which correspond to the elections mentioned in this Bill, and I have obtained a good deal of experience in the matter of securing candidates. It will be said that there cannot be any analogy between the difficulties or facilities of obtaining candidates in London and in the Irish counties, but if I can show it is difficult in London then I will have gone a long way to prove that there will be much greater difficulties in Ireland. Of course, I will not go into the matter in any detail. On our side, which is the Progressive, in the county council and other elections, we have constantly a difficulty in this vast capital, where a great number of people are qualified, in getting suitable candidates with the party qualification, and we oftentimes have to pass over the best man simply because he has not that qualification. I know the same difficulty is experienced by our opponents—the Municipal Reform Association—in getting gentlemen as candidates who possess the necessary qualification and are willing to stand. In this Bill the Government have very wisely adopted the principle of omitting any obvious defects which have become apparent in the English Act passed in 1888. They have adopted the Party franchise, and I ask them to go the full length of the principle and take this experience which nobody will dispute, and everybody with a knowledge 1313 of the question will confirm, about the difficulty of getting candidates, and leave the election in each county perfectly free. The last point I would impress on the Committee is this: the honourable and gallant Member for North Armagh has down an Amendment later on. His object, like that of the Government, is to obtain the best candidates, and he proposes that we should adopt a stronger restriction than is contained in the Bill. In case my Amendment is not adopted, I purpose proposing another less stringent qualification than that contained in the Bill. The object we all have in view is to get the best men, and that can be best secured by leaving the electors absolutely free. Take the case of an Irish county. The population is not very large, and there is still a small lettered class—hardly a large class—belonging to the landlords, in which there may be one or two men or women with, perhaps, private incomes, but lacking most likely the qualification enabling them to become candidates. It would be a great pity to shut out these people who have created no animosity against themselves. The difficulties of qualification are much greater in Ireland than in England. The principal qualification in Ireland is real property in connection with the land, and people are very slow to transfer land. Of course, it may be said that they can get the lodger franchise, but there is a very small number of cases in each county in which the lodger franchise has been taken advantage of, and there would appear to be some reluctance on the part of the people to avail themselves of it. From my own experience I can state that there are a number of people who have not the qualification included in the Bill, but who are well fitted to render good service if this provision is not embodied in the Measure. We will require in each county 30 or 40 good respectable persons as county councillors, and 100 or 120 as district councillors. That is a good number of responsible persons to provide, and my argument is that any restriction will be a great injury. I would ask the Government to consider the Amendment in a fair spirit. I think I have shown it is in accordance with the franchise they have selected, and that it will widen the sphere of selection 1314 and improve the quality of the candidates. I have much pleasure in moving to omit Sub-section 5, Clause 2.
§ DR. RENTOUL
It seems to me that this Amendment would introduce into the county councils ex-officios of the very worst kind. I am perfectly certain that if this Amendment were adopted many Members of this House would be elected county councillors. I might possibly be selected myself as a county councillor for a division of my native county, and if I were asked to stand, I should be tempted to become an ex-officio county councillor, because I could not attend more than once a year at the very most. That seems to me an almost fatal objection to the Amendment. But let us see what are the arguments put forward by the honourable Member. First, he says that the Parliamentary franchise, having been adopted, we ought to carry out the principle to the end, that since the same qualification exists for electors for county councillors as exists for election for Members of Parliament, the same qualification should be applied to candidates. But a Member of Parliament is dealing with national questions which do not touch any particular division. Nine-tenths of the Members of this House are not locally connected with the constituencies they represent. Just in the same manner you may have a county councillor belonging to county Dublin representing a division in county Donegal in which he has no possible interest whatever, and he will be voting away money, not a penny of which he has contributed. The honourable Member says that because gentlemen are allowed to enter Parliament without qualification they should also be allowed to stand for county councils without qualification, but I have already pointed out the great difference which seems to me to exist in this matter. A man who is returned to Parliament represents not merely the interests of one county, but the interests of the entire kingdom; whereas a member of a county council represents a county alone. A candidate for a county council need only have a qualification in the county, not in the division in which he is standing, and accordingly there will be the entire county to select from. 1315 You have the whole of the county to select from, and it is not likely that one district of a county would prefer to go into another county for its representative. It goes to the county itself. Then the honourable Member says it will not give the best man, but put a limit upon the class, and only give the second-best man. Now, I most respectfully submit that the local candidate, if he can be got, is always the best for the county council, and is essential from every possible point of view. Honourable Members, I am sure, will quite see, although there are some counties with which they are well acquainted, and in those counties they would be well qualified to act on the council, there are other counties the circumstances and conditions of which they know nothing, and which they could not learn in a dozen years. Therefore it is that I say that, in my opinion, a local inhabitant of the county, no matter how weak his intelligence may be, is a stronger candidate than a person who has to go to somebody else to obtain the information which he requires. The right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean laughs, but his knowledge of all parts of the kingdom is so vast that perhaps he is not able to comprehend the difficulty which confronts a humble individual like myself. The honourable Member says further that there will be persons coming forward as candidates belonging to the landlord's family who have not created any feeling of hostility against themselves. Well, it is a difficult thing for me to conceive that a constituency should say: "Here we have to elect a county council, and for one member let us go to the landlord's family. We cannot elect the landlord himself, because he has made himself so unpopular, but his family will be so entirely unbiased, so impartial, so unprejudiced, that a member of his family will do extremely well for the county council." Would any constituency—does anyone suppose that a constituency would think for a moment that the landlord, being an objectionable candidate, the landlord's son would be the premier candidate for the constituency? No. It seems to me there is no possible argument in favour of this contention of the honourable Member. There is another 1316 point which, in my opinion, is a somewhat important one, and that is, it is going away from the English Act. So far as it is possible for me to do so, I shall stick to the English Act. If I depart from the lines of the English Act in this particular instance I should be occupying a very false position if I refused to go away from it upon the invitation of the honourable and gallant Member upon another point. I, therefore, shall stick to the English Act.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I quite understand that there is something to be said for an Amendment of this kind, but, at the same time, the honourable Member has referred to the case of the London County Council, and says that the case of London shows the necessity of enlarging the qualification or withdrawing it altogether. It would have been very much better, I think, if the honourable Member had taken the case of a county council outside the council of London, which stands in a somewhat different position to any other council in the country. Had there been found any difficulty in connection with the qualifications of a candidate for county councillor in England, no doubt it would have been quoted when the question was considered in relation to Scotland. It was not quoted, and in this particular the Scotch differs from the English Act. I do, however, think that where women are allowed to sit upon the council there may be some reason, not for removing any qualification, but for inserting a residential qualification. I am not pledging myself in any way, but when we come to consider the question of the district councils, I am not prepared to say that I will not insert a clause as to the residential qualification for district councils. So far as the county council is concerned, we are not prepared to depart from the precedent of the English and the Scotch Acts. We are not prepared to do so, because we think this is a large question, and should be raised generally. I trust what I have just said will show honourable Members that, so far as reasonable I shall be prepared at another stage to consider that question.
§ MR. DILLON
I find myself in a somewhat peculiar position. Having made inquiries amongst those with whom I usually act, I find that I am in a hopeless minority. I think the general feeling prevailing on the Irish benches is against the Amendment, though I am strongly in favour in all elections of placing no limit upon the choice of the elector. I think the elector ought to have absolute freedom as to their selection and of placing upon the council that man who, in their opinion, is most fit to represent them, and who, in their judgment, will do their business best; but, as I said before, I find myself in a hopeless minority upon the Irish benches.
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE
I hope the Government, before the Report stage, will consider especially what has fallen from the lips of the honourable Member who has just sat down, who represents Irish opinion.
§ MR. DILLON
I am afraid I cannot say so in this instance; I am sorry to say I am in a hopeless minority.
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE
I think the honourable Member is a little too modest; still, after what has fallen from him, I hope the Government will consider this question. What I was anxious to point out to the right honourable Gentleman is the change in this Bill. In reply to what he has said about the reference made by an honourable Member to the London County Council being unfortunate, I think if he will inquire with a certain amount of detail of anybody who is connected with the working of the other county councils the right honourable Gentleman will not experience any difficulty in finding plenty of places where these rules of exclusion have worked a considerable amount of inconvenience and injustice. I know that on this occasion we are liable to all sorts of alarms. The honourable Member for Down has referred to the carpet bagger. A most harrowing picture has been drawn of the whole of the Irish Members of this House hurrying over to Ireland with their carpet bags for the purpose of 1318 seeking election upon these county councils. The honourable Member for Down having placed this harrowing picture before us answered himself when he indulged in the eloquent and glowing description of the advantages that a local man would have over a stranger. That is perfectly true, and anybody who knows anything about the county council elections knows that the local man is always elected. Of course, we know that in Parliamentary elections a man comes down to the constituency, speaks, and gets elected, but in a county council election or in a district council election the fear of the "carpet-bagger" is absolutely chimerical. Now I desire to point out to the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary that in the Parish Council Act residential qualifications exist. I do not wish to weary the House with personal illustrations, but I could quote one case within my own experience with regard to myself personally when I was very nearly, although I was a resident, disqualified for sitting upon the council, although I was invited to do so by no less than three constituencies in the county merely because I was residing in a house belonging to a relative. These arbitrary rules of exclusion never by any chance exclude anyone whom nobody wants, but they very often exclude those whom the people do want upon the council. In my county this year there was a great desire to elect a gentleman either as an Alderman or a Councillor, but it was found that he could not be elected, because, although he had always lived in the county he had no qualification to sit upon the council, merely because he had been living in his father's house. Now I do ask this House to dismiss from its mind all these fears and bogies, and to trust the people of Ireland to know whom they should elect.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I do ask the Government, while they do retain this qualification in the Bill, to widen it to the slight extent which is suggested. No doubt it is reasonable. I say that the Bill provides that not only must the man who is elected have a qualification when he is elected, but if he loses the qualification afterwards from any circumstance he will be disqualified from acting. Now 1319 let me point out the effect of that in Ireland. First of all he must have the Parliamentary franchise in order to qualify him for the council, and he must have a qualification as tenant or owner. With regard to the hardship caused by disqualification, I would point out that there is one case of a judicial tenant, a man who has had his rent fixed for 12 years, who was disqualified from his Parliamentary vote because the point was taken against him that he could not show the devolution of title to him from his deceased father because he had not taken out letters of administration to his property. John Smith will be elected on one side or another, and electioneering agents will go about seeking to discover whether he has administered his father's estate, and may so disqualify a most worthy and deserving man. It is only since the Act of 1881 that in rural districts anybody has ever dreamed of taking out letters of administration to a deceased father's estate. When a father dies the landlord puts the son's name upon the books, and that man was then considered the tenant; but now, instead of the elder son being put upon the books, it is the widow who is put on, although the son is the man of the house, and the person who ought to have the vote. There is another consideration which one ought to have regard to. What I put to the Government is this: if they insist upon the existing qualifications let them leave out that portion of the clause in the Report stage which provides for the continuation of the qualification. If a man had a qualification at the commencement let him continue to act. Let them insert—if they insist upon the qualification—let them insert the words "providing that the candidate should possess some other qualification as may be prescribed." because the result, unhappily, is that men who have paid rent, rates, and taxes all their lives cannot get Parliamentary qualifications for reasons of the most technical description. And while the Government is willing to furnish us with a Measure which is both broad and liberal I do think that in some sense it is exclusive. There are the rate books of the county, and anybody who appears upon the rate books and is paying rates ought to have a right to be a candidate for the county 1320 council, although he has not, I regret to say. Would it not be reasonable to extend this rule a little in that way?
§ MR. DILLON
I do hope the Government will see their way to accept the suggestion of the honourable Member. I do think that some compromise might be arrived at upon the lines suggested by the honourable Member for North Down. The law as it stands in Ireland will not allow of a landlord's son becoming a member of the council. Now, I myself do know of some cases where the landlord's son would be most acceptable as a candidate, but where the landlord himself would be most unacceptable. Then take the farmer's son. There are many of the farmers' sons who are very much better qualified than their fathers to act, and have much more time to act, and there is no reason why these men should not be qualified.
§ MR. TULLY
The reason why I object to the Amendment is that its acceptance will lead to the preparation of lists of candidates in Dublin and Belfast, and if men are to be brought out from the cities I know very well what the result will be. We shall get lists of candidates from Dublin and Belfast, and in my opinion we have had too much Belfast in this Bill already. I think that the candidates we should have ought to be men who live in the counties and know something about them. If those men went astray the people in the county would be able to seize them by the throat and bring them to their senses; but, on the other hand, if these gentlemen are sent down from Dublin with their carpet bags, they can carry out any jobs they like without any chance of being interfered with. I know, as a Press man, how politicians can be made to appear so exalted as to be above human nature. It has been said that everything which is unknown is magnificent, but I have also heard upon equal authority that a dead dog at a distance smells like musk. I object most emphatically to be pelted with the lists of these Dublin men. I think if we are to make this Bill a success it must be the local men whom we shall have to depend upon, who will have the 1321 working of it. I know how candidates are magnified, as they will be by the Press, and they will put these men on the simple people of the country, and thus create a large amount of extravagance and jobbery, of which we shall be ashamed, as we have been ashamed before now by the scenes which have taken place in this House on the part of the candidates which we have sent here. I hope the men who will have the working of these councils will be local men.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
The object of the honourable Member who has just sat down might be attained by the adoption of a compromise of the English Act. I am in favour of giving the constituencies full choice to elect whom they please. If you will not follow that principle, take the principle of a residence within a radius of three miles of the district. If you pass the Bill as it stands, consider the hardships it will entail, not only on the people named, but on others, such as farmers' sons. Look at the position of a farmer's son. A farmer's son, as a lodger, having a vote, might be elected, but if he marries and becomes a householder, then he is disqualified and loses his seat. He might be a most valuable member of the county council, or he might be the chairman, and under those circumstances off goes his qualification and the council loses its chairman. Look at the case of the trades unionists of Ireland, whom the trades unions desire to represent them, or the case of the small occupier, who has something the matter at his dwelling, fever, or what not, and he takes lodgings for a week while he has his house disinfected. He loses his vote, because there is a break in the continuity of the tenancy, and under this Bill you cannot remedy that defect. If you do not see your way to an automatic principle of freedom of choice, then adopt the principle of the last English Bill, where it was found necessary to adopt the principle of residence.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
As I said, I am prepared to consider the residential qualification in connection with the rural districts, and I suggest that this Amendment should now be adjourned. If any 1322 solution is found to be possible for this difficulty, I think it will be found in the direction suggested by the right honourable Baronet.
§ MR. LOUGH
Of course, after the statement of the right honourable Gentleman that he will reconsider the matter, I will withdraw the Amendment. I think the Committee will readily agree that there has been a good case made for it. I have got another Amendment a little lower down, which, perhaps, he will consider also. If it is withdrawn, perhaps the right honourable Gentleman will consider whether he cannot extend the qualification in the direction I have indicated, and on that ground I desire to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
I beg to move an Amendment to Clause 2. I do not propose to detain the House very long, although this is a matter of some importance. This disqualification of women from being elected on county councils is not contained in the Bill itself. It is contained in the clause and schedule which give power to apply the Scotch Act, and, of course the Scotch Act forbids women to be members of county councils. There is no such statutory provision as regards England and Wales, and, in these two countries, the disqualification of women from sitting on county councils was judge-made law. I am sorry to say that this House, with the extraordinary laxity of phraseology which it has constantly displayed in dealing with this subject, did not settle the question one way or the other, but left it to the judges to interpret—in fact, left it to judges to make the law on a matter of this great importance. I may say, in passing, that, personally, I object very strongly to the extension of the principle of legislation by reference which has been adopted in this Bill. It seems to me most objectionable that the House, instead of assuming responsibility 1323 for these questions and putting actual words into the Bill, puts in a clause and a schedule enabling another Act to be adopted by the Government—leaving it to their choice whether they will have this Scotch Act put in or not. It may amount to this: that it will be left to the absolute discretion of a Member of the Government, and that seems to me to be a most objectionable extension of a bad principle. This question, which has always been left to judicial interpretation, should be placed in the Bill itself. As regards the English law on this subject—which is judge-made law—forbidding women to be members of county councils, that was the result of the extremely doubtful case of Beresford-Hope v. Sandhurst—Lady Sandhurst having sat and voted as a member of a county council in England. This disqualification was absolutely the result of a judicial decision, but the grounds of that decision were exceedingly doubtful. Lord Esher, who pronounced a very elaborate judgment in the case, went so far as to say—Neither by the common law, nor by the constitution of this country, from the beginning of the common law until now, could a woman exercise any public function.It was on that ground that Lord Esher gave his decision. He forgot the fact that women had exercised many public functions in this country, not only by statute, but by common law. The function of overseer has always been discharged by women, under the common law. We know that while, in other countries, women are incapacitated from filling the office of King, in this country that has never been the case. It seems to me impossible to justify the phrase that Lord Esher used. The other judges of the Court of Appeal, in that famous case, went so far as this: that the words of the English Act were obscure, and inconclusive, and they made a strong attack upon this House for refusing to face this question and settle it by Act of Parliament, as it should be settled in one sense or the other. I believe that I was the author of those unfortunate words which were originally included in the Act of 1869, and 1324 afterwards were put in the Consolidationi Act. The Court of Appeal decided those words to be inconclusive, and therefore interpreted them as not extending the right to women to sit upon county councils. I think I have carried the Committee with me so far as this: that it would be desirable that we should face this question, and in some sense settle it in this Act of Parliament. As to the merits of my proposal, I will say very little, because I am quite sure that almost every Member of this House has made up his mind one way or the other upon this question. It is not worth while, therefore, to deal with it at any length. My own view is in favour of the free choice of the people to elect whom they choose to represent them upon these bodies—to elect the people whom they think will best do their work. See in what an absurd position we stand in regard to local government in this Bill! You give the people the franchise, and then yon specially refuse them the right to elect whom they choose to membership of one of the bodies created under this Bill. Women have the right to sit upon the other bodies, but you refuse them the right to sit upon the county council. I believe that in Wales there are two districts where women are qualified to be elected to be district councillors, and in these two districts—wealthy districts—the financial interests are double as important as they are in some of the Irish counties. I merely say that in order to prove, if any proof were necessary, that it cannot be on the ground of the magnitude of the functions that you admit women under this Bill to membership of the district councils, and exclude them from membership of the county councils. Extend the right to women to be elected on those county councils. Perhaps not many women would desire to be candidates, but still there may be some, and at any rate the electors should have a free choice as to the persons whom they desire to see representing them on such an important body as the county council.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I do not think that this is a convenient time to discuss this question, although, of course, as the Government has included the matter in the scope of this Bill, it was obviously open to any Member who washed to raise it, to raise it as has been done. The right honourable Baronet thinks we ought to face this question in this Bill; he says that words in previous Acts were generally obscure and inconclusive, but, if I remember right, the Scotch Act of 1889 was passed before the Courts had given their decision in the case to which the right honourable Baronet has referred, and which attracted the attention of the House of Commons to this matter. He says we ought to face the question; I say the question was faced when we passed the Scotch Act. I am not going outside the decision of the Court of Appeal, although possibly I may be of the same opinion as the right honourable Baronet as to its merits, but I do think it is important not to raise a discussion in connection with this Bill
§ which really has a much wider bearing. All that we have done in the Bill is to bring the state of the law of Ireland, in connection with the position of women on district councils and on county councils, exactly up to the point where it stands in England. I have done that simply in order to avoid raising this question. No doubt the time will come when that question must be raised, but further than that it is not desirable to go at present. The only way to deal properly with the matter would be to bring in a Bill for the whole of the United Kingdom, so that the state of things may be, as I trust it will be in time, identical.
Clause ii., page 2, line 16, after county, add—'And no person shall be disqualified by sex or marriage for being elected or bring a councillor for a county.'"—(Sir Charles Dilke.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 90; Noes 235.—(Division List No. 79.)1329
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)|
|Allen, Wm. (Newc.-under-L.)||Healy, Thos. J. (Wexford)||Perks, Robert William|
|Asher, Alexander||Healy, T. M. (Louth, N.)||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Hedderwick, T. C. H.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. C. H.||Randell, David|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. J. B. (Clackm.)||Hogan, James Francis||Reid, Sir Robert T.|
|Beach, W. W. B. (Hants.)||Holburn, J. G.||Richardson, J. (Durham)|
|Brigg, John||Holland, Hon. Lionel Raleigh||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Burns, John||Horniman, Frederick John||Roberts, John H. (Denbighsh.)|
|Burt, Thomas||Jacoby, James Alfred||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Shee, James John|
|Colville, John||Jordan, Jeremiah||Souttar, Robinson|
|Courtney, Rt. Hon. L. H.||Kinloch, Sir J. G. Smyth||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Leng, Sir John||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Doughty, George||Lewis, John Herbert||Thomas, Alf. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Duckworth, James||Logan, John William||Ure, Alexander|
|Dunn, Sir William||Lough, Thomas||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Evans, Sir F. H. (S'th'mpt'n)||Macaleese, Daniel||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Fenwick, Charles||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Wayman, Thomas|
|Ffrench, Peter||McCartan, Michael||Weir, James Galloway|
|Field, William (Dublin)||McDermott, Patrick||Williams, John C. (Notts.)|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||M'Ghee, Richard||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||McKenna, Reginald||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Foster, Sir W. (Derby Co.)||Maddison, Fred.||Woodall, William|
|Gold, Charles||Minch, Matthew||Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hudd'rsf'ld)|
|Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley||Moss, Samuel|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||Norton, Captain Cecil Wm.||Sir Charles Dilke and Mr.|
|Harwood, George||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Davitt.|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Owen, Thomas|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Duncombe, Hon. H. V.||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.|
|Allsopp, Hon. George (Worc.)||Edwards, Gen. Sir J. Bevan||Loder, Gerald W. E.|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Engledew, Charles J.||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. J.||Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller|
|Bagot, Captain J. F.||Fardell, Sir T. George||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Farrell, J. P. (Cavan, W.)||Lucas-Shadwell, William|
|Baird, John George A.||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.||Lyell, Sir Leonard|
|Balcarres, Lord||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Macartney, W. G. E.|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Finch, George H.||Macdonnell, Dr. M. A. (Q'n's Co.)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch.)||Finlay, Sir Robert B.||Maclean, James Mackenzie|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds)||Fisher, William Hayes||Maclure, Sir John William|
|Banbury, Frederick George||FitzGerald, Sir R. U. Penrose||McArthur, Chas. (Liverpool)|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Flannery, Fortescue||McCalmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)|
|Barry, Rt. Hon. A. H. Smith-||Forwood, Rt. Hon. Sir A. B.||McEwan, William|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Fox, Dr. J. F.||M'Hugh, E. (Armagh)|
|Barry, F. Tress (Windsor)||Garfit, William||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Gibbons, J. Lloyd||McIver, Sir Lewis|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Giles, C. T.||Mandeville, J. Francis|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l)||Godson, Augustus F.||Martin, R. B.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Goldsworthy, Mj.-Gen. W. T.||Milton, Viscount|
|Bethell, Commander||Gordon, Hon. John E.||Molloy, B. C.|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.||Monk, Charles James|
|Biddulph, Michael||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo's)||More, R. Jasper|
|Blake, Edward||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Morrell, George H.|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Graham, Henry R.||Morris, Samuel|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Green, Walford Davis||Morrison, W.|
|Bowles, Cap. H. F. (Mid'sex)||Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Greville, Captain||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Gunter, Colonel||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. J.||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Myers, William Henry|
|Brown, Alexander H.||Hammond, John (Carlow)||Newdigate, Francis A.|
|Brunner, Sir J. T.||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.||Nicholson, W. G.|
|Brymer, William Ernest||Hardy, Laurence||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Buchanan, T. R.||Harrington, T.||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)|
|Caldwell, James||Hatch, E. F. G.||O'Connor, James (Wicklow)|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Heath, James||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Carew, J. L.||Hickman, Sir Alfred||O'Neill, Hon. R. T.|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down)||Parkes, E.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W.||Hoare, Edw. B. (Hampstead)||Parnell, J. Howard|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Hobhouse, Henry||Pease, A. E. (Cleveland)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Hornby, William H.||Pease, Arthur (Darlington)|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Howard, J.||Phillpotts, Captain A.|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. H.||Hutchinson, Cap. G. W. Grice-||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Clancy, John J.||Hutton, Alf. E. (York, W. R.)||Pirie, Captain Duncan|
|Coghill, D. H.||Jackson, Rt. Hon. W. Lawies||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Cohen, Benjamin L.||Jebb, R. Claverhouse||Power, Patrick J.|
|Collery, Bernard||Jeffreys, A. F.||Pretyman, Captain E. G.|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Jenkins, Sir John J.||Pryce-Jones, E.|
|Colomb, Sir John C. R.||Jessel, Capt. Herbert M.||Purvis, Robert|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. A.||Johnstone, John H. (Sussex)||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Condon, Thomas J.||Joicey, Sir James||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow)||Jolliffe, Hon. H. G.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Cornwallis, F. S. W.||Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt. Hn. Sir U.||Rentoul, James A.|
|Cox, Robert||Kenrick, William||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Crean, Eugene||Kenyon, James||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Cripps, C. A.||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.||Roche, John (Galway)|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Knowles, Lees||Rothschild, Baron F. J. de|
|Cruddas, W. D.||Knox, Edmund F. Vesey||Royds, Clement M.|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks)||Lafone, Alfred||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lambert, George||Rutherford, John|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Laurie, Lieutenant-General||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Daly, James||Lawrence, Sir E. (Cornwall)||Saunderson, Col. E. J.|
|Davenport, W. Bromley-||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)||Savory, Sir Joseph|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir J. P.||Lawson, J. G. (Yorks., N. R.)||Scoble, Sir A. R.|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Legh, Hon. T. Wodehouse||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Doxford, William T.||Leighton, Stanley||Skewes-Cox, T.|
|Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh.)|
|Spencer, Ernest||Waring, Col. Thomas||Wilson-Todd W. H. (York, N. R.)|
|Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||Warkworth, Lord||Wodehouse, Edmund Robert|
|Stanley, H. M. (Lambeth)||Webster, Sir R. E. (Isle of Wight)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Strutt, Hon. C. H.||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Tanner, Charles K.||Whiteley, George (Stockport)||Young, Samuel|
|Thorburn, W.||Whitmore, Charles Algernon||Younger, W.|
|Thornton, Percy M.||Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Tollemache, H. J.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Tully, Jasper||Willox, Sir J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Verney, Hon. R. G.||Wills, Sir William Henry||Sir William Walrond and|
|Wallace, Robert (Edinburgh)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)||Mr. Anstruther.|
Amendment proposed, page 2, line 16—
After 'county' to add—'and possess the qualifications required for an elected poor law guardian for such county immediately before the passing of this Act.'"—(Colonel Saunderson.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I cannot rule it out of order. We have been considering the question of qualifications.
§ COLONEL E. J. SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I think the qualification should be that of those who would be elected councillors. I have had the honour to have a seat in this House for a good number of years, and I have heard many Irish Resolutions brought in—some of the most extraordinary character; but I can say this, that I never remember a Bill brought into the House of Commons from the Government point of view under such favourable auspices. First of all, this Bill has not been proposed by the other side of the House. I make these remarks simply as it affects the Amendment. We are considering the Amendments on the Bill. It is not a Bill that has excited much passion or excitement in Ireland, and, therefore, in dealing with the Amendments, the Government are specially favourably circumstanced, because they can accept our Amendments as they please without the slightest danger of aggravating passion or social confusion in Ireland; and when I submit an Amendment of this kind to 1330 the House, and to Her Majesty's Government, I think I am justified in alluding to this satisfactory state of things. This is not a Home Rule Bill, or a Land Bill; it does not propose to destroy or rob a class; therefore it is not a Bill to excite the patriotism of the Irish people. I think the Government may fairly deal with the Amendment on its merits. Take the ordinary principle of the Bill as I regards Parliamentary election. Perhaps I may say, in passing, from my point of view—although a number of my friends in Ireland differ from me on this—that once you establish the fact that these councils are to be elected, whether they are to be elected on a Parliamentary franchise or not, does not matter at all. We have left, that; we have come to the question of whether it is possible that this can be a safeguard that those who spend the money shall have, to some extent, some direct personal interest in the expenditure, which they are supposed to supervise. The honourable Member for Oxford a short time ago objected very much to the idea of carpetbaggers coming down to a county and assuming responsibility. In the party to which I belong we have not got the large experience which, no doubt, he has got on that point. I am as much opposed as he is to the idea of carpet-baggers. I think the opinion in Ireland is undoubted that if those who pay no rates have the power of choosing councillors, who also pay no rates, the economic administration of county affairs will be open to grave doubt. These men have no object in dealing economically with the rates. They will be elected by those 1331 whose object probably will be to have the rates raised. There are works proposed to be carried out, and in many cases an elector will be able to earn more wages in one week than he does in a whole year. Therefore, undoubtedly it will be from human nature the object of these men who pay no rates to raise the rent. I have had the suggestion made to me from various parts of Ireland on behalf of men who sympathise with me not at all in political matters, and I have gathered this: that there is a widespread feeling of alarm in Ireland at the present moment as to the economical working of this Bill. We admit—I think everyone in this House will admit—that we are making a very great experiment in Ireland with this Bill, and I do not blame the Government for making it. I believe it ought to be made, but, at any rate, some safeguards such as I have proposed ought to be introduced into the Bill which will calm the minds of men in Ireland to this extent: that the Bill provides that those who are elected to spend rates are men who pay rates themselves. Now, what happens sometimes in Ireland? We all know that in Ireland boards of guardians have sometimes acted with more generosity than discretion in spending money for which no possible justification has ever been given. They often sign cheques which they have no business to sign. I heard of a case the other day which happened some time since, and I have it on good authority of a certain board of guardians in Ireland.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I shall just be as definite as I please. I mention this fact on good authority. It was an occasion on which the whisky was being tested at a board of guardians, as it always is. The result was that the guardians got somewhat mixed, and the clerk signed a cheque—which he had no right to sign—with the whisky, and the chairman drank the ink. Of course, I know we could never have had anything of that kind in Scotland. Now, the law at present is that when a cheque is signed which ought not to have been signed a surcharge is made, and the money is recovered from those who signed the cheque. Now, what would happen if this Bill passes as it now stands? Why, you can elect any man in the street, whether he is a ratepayer or not, and you could elect corner boys if you liked. They will, as I have already said, no doubt be endowed with great generosity at other people's expense. They will not consider whether there is anything to meet the cheques they sign at the bank or not. That probably will be the result, and how are you going to surcharge such men as corner boys if elected? It cannot be done, for a corner boy is a man who stands at a street corner, and generally drinks whisky. Well, I am pointing out a possible difficulty in this Bill which may often arise. You may elect men who do not pay any rates, and who, consequently, have no inclination to be economical. They will elect men in Ireland who very often pay no rates at all, with the result that a great number of the ratepayers in Ireland will have to suffer, because, undoubtedly, the election of men of this kind leads to extravagant expenditure in the country. I can see, therefore, no objection—no logical objection—on the part of this House to place a limitation in the Bill of this kind. You have the same franchise in Ireland as 1333 you have in England, Scotland, and Wales, or, rather, as in Wales and Scotland, for there is some limitation in England in electing county councillors; but, at any rate, you have this Parliamentary franchise established. You may ask, why should we not have this small safeguard, that only the man who pays rates at the passing of this Act shall be qualified to give a vote for those who are going to spend his money? I consider that that is a very moderate demand on my part, and I feel perfectly certain that the vast majority of Irish ratepayers will sympathise with me in the steps I am taking in making this proposition. Now, Sir, the Government have two methods of dealing with the Amendments which are proposed. My right honourable Friend the Chief Secretary may say, in dealing with this Amendment, that he will refuse to accept any Amendment which differentiates the Irish Bill from the condition of the law in England, Scotland, and in Wales. Of course he may take that view, but I hope he will not. No one can assert that the condition of affairs in Ireland, and in England, Scotland, and Wales, are the same, and what might be fair treatment in this country might be very unfair in another. You have got your Parliamentary franchise the same, but there are undoubtedly some constituencies in Ireland which differentiated from England or Scotland. I do not think any Irishman will deny that. That being so I hope the Government will not take up the line of non possumus in dealing with the Amendments submitted to them, from either side of the House, on the ground that it differentiates the Bill from the law as it now exists in England and in Scotland. My right honourable Friend the Leader of the House, when he brought in a Bill in 1892 made a speech which I remember very well, in which he said "equality of treatment demanded similarity of conditions." Now, that was an eminently statesmanlike observation. We know perfectly well, and everyone knows, that the condition of affairs in Ireland, and in Scotland and Wales, are entirely different. You never hear of a Scotchman getting up and 1334 advocating the taking of somebody by the throat in order to reason with him. That follows incidentally from what an honourable Member opposite had done, and it gives some indication of the difference which undoubtedly exists between the two people. There undoubtedly exists in Ireland a disposition to reason in this personal manner with those who hold opposite views. Therefore I do hope that in dealing with this Amendment the Government will not take up the ground that the Amendment differentiates the Bill from the law as it stands in this country. There is another reason why I think the Government ought to accept this Amendment, and that is, that almost for the first time in history, as far as I am aware, when a great Measure has been brought in it has been found that Irish Members can work together; and I think that shows that when Irishmen get up and propose Amendments to this Bill they are not actuated by any desire to injure the Bill, but by the knowledge that Irishmen possess of their own country; they are desirous that those opinions should be embodied in the Bill which will undoubtedly, for weal or woe, affect our own country for so long a time. I admit that this Amendment will bring about a certain limitation in choice, which is not desired or approved of in some quarters in Ireland. I have had a resolution sent to me from the Board of Guardians at Tralee, where evidently they are opposed to any limitation in the choice of councillors. They sent me this resolution in order to show that they wish to have a very wide choice when they choose their councillors, for they have passed the following Resolution—That imprisonment should not be a disqualification for membership of the various councils, where the offence arose out of a political or agrarian dispute.That is to say, if a man blew up the Government, or tried to blow up the Government, or took a pot-shot at his landlord, that ought not to disqualify him from a seat on the county board. Therefore, of course, my proposal will not satisfy the wishes and the requirements of the Board of Guardians of Tralee. Now I do hope 1335 the House will accept this limit, for I do think that it is quite reasonable that in Ireland men elected to these councils under this Bill should be men who at the time of the passing of the Bill should be paying the poor rate. I say—and I know something about the matter—that men who pay rates in Ireland, whether large or small ratepayers, are more amenable to arguments in favour of economy than men who pay nothing. For this reason, believing as I do that my proposal will satisfy a very considerable class in Ireland who are very anxious as to the results of this Bill, and believing that this restriction in choice will also satisfy a large class, and tend to bring about economy in administration, on behalf of those who care for Ireland, and desire the welfare of this Bill, I beg leave to move this Amendment.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
My honourable and gallant Friend has expressed the hope that the Government will not meet any Amendment which may be merely put forward on the ground that it will differentiate their proposals for local government in Ireland from the provisions already in force for local government in England and Scotland. I certainly will not consider such a differentiation a final argument against any Amendment that might be moved. On the other hand, my honourable and gallant Friend will admit that strong reasons should be given for making such a differentiation. With regard to this particular Amendment, it is not at all necessary for the hon. Member to fall back upon the example of England and Scotland. I am ready to join issue with the honourable Member on the merits of the Amendment itself. The honourable and gallant Member is much alarmed lest the now bodies we propose to create should be found extravagant and uneconomic. I think his fears on that head are somewhat exaggerated, especially as regards the Guardians. My own opinion is that they will be inclined to be parsimonious rather than given to great extravagance. 1336 As regards road-making for relief work, I admit that the authorities might be somewhat lavish in expenditure, but against this the Government have made provision. But my honourable and gallant Friend says: "Why not accept this small safeguard?" Sir, the main reason for rejecting this "small safe guard," as the honourable and gallant Member calls it, is that it is a very small safeguard-so small as not to be a safeguard at all. And there is no doubt that its introduction into the Bill would be irritating in the highest degree, and would be greatly resented. My honourable and gallant Friend has referred to the speech made by the First Lord of the Treasury in introducing the Bill of 1892. Similar safeguards were introduced in that Bill, but if they found favour in the eyes of the honourable Member and his friends they have since come to the conclusion that some of these safeguards would be illusory and undesirable. They were rejected by the House, and I cannot recommend that the House should go back upon that decision. My honourable and gallant Friend also raised the question of qualification, but I put it to the House—is it likely that a rating qualification of £8[Mr. T. M. HEALY: Sometimes £5.] It is not the least likely that a qualification of £8 will have the smallest effect upon the votes, or would be in the smallest degree likely to restrain a tendency to incur any extravagance on the part of members of county councils or district councils. I would, moreover, remind my honourable and gallant Friend that, the question of qualification to elected bodies has been fairly tried in the balance, and has been found wanting; and I am certain that, if tried now, it would be found wanting.
§ MR. TULLY
Will the right honourable Gentleman inform the House whether or not there is to be a rating qualification for the members of these bodies? Only a few years ago the qualification for Poor Law 1337 guardians was £20, but the right honourable Member for the Montrose Burghs reduced it to £8. I have had a good deal of experience of different unions in Ireland, and I know that not half a dozen men are elected who are rated at £8. The ratepayers have an objection to elect men who have very low qualifications. They object to what they call, in their own expressive language, "light men"; they must have "heavy men." If the qualification is still further reduced very few will be elected, unless they have ability above the common, which will get over the objection of the electors to elect men who have no rating qualification. The House may rely upon it that the poor peasants of Ireland, and the poor farmers, who think twice before they take a shilling out of their pockets, will not elect men who have no interest in the expenditure of the rates, but will insist on electing men who have rating interests.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. P. J. POWER
With reference to the Amendment in my name, I wish to ask if a man is to be elected for a county council or district council must he be a resident in that county?
§ MR. P. J. POWER
As I understand it, if a man is a county elector in any part of the county it is competent to him to be elected in any division. In these circumstances I withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I wish to ask the right honourable Gentleman 1338 the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether before the Report stage of the Bill we can have any information as to the manner in which the boundaries will be settled; and also if he proposes to make any preliminary inquiries as was done in the Franchise Act of 1885? I do not suggest we should have such an elaborate arrangement as was made then, but there' are many places in Ireland where some kind of inquiry might be made with fair results.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
We have been making local inquiries, in order to ascertain the views of boards of guardians, and I hope before the Report stage of the Bill is reached to give the House the information which the honourable Member desires.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I hope to be able to place a map in the Tea Room, showing the boundaries of counties and the districts proposed.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
With regard to these electoral divisions, the Local Government Board has at present ample powers to group them or change them as it likes, and as the districts stand at present nothing could be more unsatisfactory. Some have very extensive areas, others have areas of small extent, and if this system of single-member constituencies is adopted there will be very uneven representation in point of area, rating, and population. I desire to ask whether, in the course of the very important proceedings in which the Local Government Board in Ireland are now engaged, they are considering a readjustment of the existing electoral divisions, with a view to bringing about equality of representation, and basing that representation on area, population, or rating?
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
I should like to point out that 1339 that raises the very important question as to the number of elected representatives who will carry on the work of the unions, and that is a question that should receive careful consideration.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
With regard to the number of county divisions, the counties differ so much in size that it would be difficult to give a general answer; but I should think that in a county of average size, about 25 would be the number. The honourable Member asked me if there would be an adjustment of the existing poor-law electoral divisions with a view to equality of valuation and area. Well, Sir, that is a task which I should be very loth to undertake. It would be a very big thing. As the electoral division already exists and is now recognised, I think it would be more advisable to leave them as they now stand. Of course, if there were some very exceptional case—some very large electoral division with a very high valuation—we might consider the question. That would, perhaps, to some extent, meet the point of the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin. At the same time I may say I do not share his view. If the ex-officio guardians were in the habit of attending the ordinary meetings the councillors might be inconveniently numerous, but if reduced to their normal number, and if there were only one member for each electoral division, the councils would be large enough.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
May I point out to the right honourable Gentleman that there will be two reductions under the Bill? There will be first the reduction of the ex-officios. Then take an electoral division now returning three guardians. Is it only to return one under the Bill? Of course, if each electoral division returns the same number as now the question is settled.
§ Question put, That Clause 2 as amended stand part of the Bill.
§ Agreed to.
§ CLAUSE III.
§ On Question, That Clause 3 stand part of the Bill—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Mr. Lowther, on a point of order, is it in order to discuss the omission of a sub-section before Amendments to it are considered?
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The honourable Member is entitled to move the omission of the sub-section; but I will take care to safeguard the rights of honourable Members having Amendments on the Paper.
§ MR. LOUGH
Clause 3 embodies a new principle unknown to any Local Government Act hitherto passed by this House, and which should be looked at from a broad standpoint. In Clauses 1 and 2 we have given to Ireland most valuable institutions. Now we commence Clause 3 with what I think is the first of a series of pernicious innovations. The proposal in this sub-section is that the chairman of a rural district council shall be a member of the county council. Then there is another sub-section, which provides that the vice-chairman of a rural district council shall be a member of the county council. In order to understand the proposal it is necessary to turn to the portion of the Bill which constitutes district councils. There it is provided that both the chairman and vice-chairman may be chosen from outside. I think it is the wish of the Government that they should be so chosen. But we may get on each rural district council two gentlemen who have not been elected by anybody, and who, owing to their positions on the district council, become members of the county council. I think that is a most undemocratic proposal. 1341 For instance, in the county of Cork there may be as many as 36 of these non-elected members. I believe there are to be two county councils in Cork, and in that event there might be 18 non-elected members in each. That would be a great alteration in these bodies as we have constituted them. Even in the smallest county there may be five or six rural district councils, and each of these may send two gentlemen to the county council.
§ MR. LOUGH
I think if the right honourable Gentleman refers to Clause 21 it will be seen that both the chairman and vice-chairman become members of the county council. [SEVERAL HONOURABLE MEMBERS: No, no!] Well, at any rate, the chairman becomes a member, with the result that there may be six or seven non-elected members in a county council. I think that should strike the Committee as a very bad proposal. What is its object? It is probably to harmonise the working relations existing between the county and rural councils. A most excellent object, and one which ought to be secured under the Bill. But my point is that we are going the wrong way about it. It ought to be secured by allowing the member who represents the area of a rural district in the county council to be an additional member of the rural district council, and I have put down an Amendment to carry out that object. I think if the clause is carried as it stands, it will really defeat the purpose the Government have in view. They are assuming that district councils may be elected on strict party lines, and that it would be desirable to choose as chairman a man of influence in the locality, in whom party feeling did not run very high. That is the idea in the Bill, but I think this sub-section ought to be omitted. Every member of a rural district council 1342 will see that in selecting a chairman from outside he is not only selecting a chairman of his own body but also a member of the county council, and he will perhaps hesitate to depart from those party lines which it may be desirable to depart from. Therefore I think the alternative proposal is more desirable. As the clause stands the will of the electors may be contravened by gentlemen not elected from any part of the county, whereas if the Committee adopt my proposal the rural district councils will be strengthened and the county council will not contain members who have not received the sanction of election for the position they occupy. I hope the Committee will understand the object I have in view.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
As I understand the honourable Member he does not object to the proposal which we have introduced into the Bill—which is not in either the English or the Scotch Act—to establish direct relations between rural district and county councils. But ha objects to our proposal to make chairmen of district councils ex-officio members of county councils. Let me at once point out that the honourable Member is quite in error in supposing that the district councils are to send two members to the county councils, for if he will read the sub-section and also Clause 21 he will see that it is the chairman alone who is to be a member of the county council. If the chairman were elected a member of the county council it would be open to the district council to send another representative. The honourable Member objects to the arrangement, which, he says, might result in every rural district council being represented in a county council by a person not elected. As regards that, the district council will know perfectly well in electing a chairman that he will be an ex-officio member of the county council. So far from that being undesirable, I think it will add to the importance of 1343 the position of chairman, and will be a strong inducement to district councils to elect as chairman a really influential man either from their own body or from outside. I have also to point out that the alternative suggested by the honourable Member is not practicable, as the county districts will not coincide with the county divisions. Again, one of the functions of the county councils will be to discuss proposals of the district councils, and therefore I think it would be desirable that the district councils should be directly represented on the county councils.
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE
I think this is a very vital matter. What I want to point out is that the objections raised by the right honourable Gentleman to the proposal of the honourable Member may possibly, to a certain extent, be made against his own. In the clause as it stands there is nothing to distinguish between chairmen of rural district councils and chairmen of poor law unions, and you might have a chairman sitting on more than one county council. That is a point I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to consider.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Under the Bill a union may be cut into two where it is situated in two counties. In that event each part of it would be included in a different county council. The chairman of the poor law board was a very different person indeed from the chairman of the rural district council.
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE
I take it from the explanation of the right honourable Gentleman that the part of a union falling within a county is to be incorporated with the rural district council. In that case my argument falls to the ground.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
My proposition is one which must necessarily be adopted for reasons which I will explain. This is not a question of dignity at all—it is a question of hard cash. Take the county of Louth. The town of Dundalk pays to the county at large about £1,000 a year. It is proposed under this Bill to merge Drogheda in the county, and I suppose Drogheda pays another £1,000. The whole county levies about £8,000. It appears to me that the town areas have a, special right to special representation. I will state why. The towns in question must pay their proportion of the salaries of the grand jury officials, and they have also to keep up a town clerk and a surveyor of their own, for which they receive no contribution from the county to assist them. The Chief Secretary referred me yesterday to the returns. Unfortunately, I have not had time since he gave me the information he was good enough to supply showing the cases in which, under the Public Health Act, cities and towns became separated for certain grand jury purposes, but I venture to think the ordinary man returned from the town council and sent to the county council will not be so apt a representative in the matter of the votes as would the chairman of the commissioners, who has a practical and thorough understanding of the business which requires to be done. There is one objection that I can see to my proposal, and that is that you would greatly enlarge the county councils. I do not think that is a, great objection. I do not think that objection is considerable, and there is the only one alternative that 1345 I can suggest, and that is to make the town a separate fiscal entity, and leave the rural districts TO manage their own affairs. This Bill changes the law for many purposes. Formerly, whenever there was what is called a mail road running through the country, of the expenses of the road, half was paid by the county at large and half by the barony or the towns; but now you propose to abolish the mail road altogether and give it to the county council, and leave the matter to them to discharge the expenses of maintaining the road. You leave to the county council the decision as to what shall be main roads, as against the old mail road, of which half shall be paid by the county and half shall be paid by those towns which get no contribution from the county council nor any of what is called the agricultural grant. Unless you make this apply to "rural" and "urban" you must make the towns a separate entity. The only possible alternative will be to make the chairmen of the local town councils members of the county council. I move that in Clause 3, page 2, line 17, "rural" be left out.
SIR R. U. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
I think this is a most useful Amendment, and I see a great many strong reasons in favour of it. The honourable Member who introduced it called attention to one or two. I will put one or two more. Whatever happens in connection with this Bill before it passes, there is the increased prospect of having to deal with the harbours and piers, and so forth. There are a great many towns like Donegal and Queenstown, where it would be extremely valuable to the good working of the Bill to have the chairmen of such urban district councils on the county council, because you will have to deal with the harbours and piers, and a great many other things, besides the roads of the country. In any case they will be a valuable addition to the councils, and 1346 the increase of the number of the members of the councils will not be very important.
§ MR. DILLON
This is a very important thing, and I hope the Government will see their way to accept the Amendment. The urban districts are, I think, somewhat hardly treated under this Bill. I entirely differed from the honourable Member who moved the last Amendment, but I think this is a very good one, and I heartily support it.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The question as to whether chairmen of urban sanitary councils should have the right to sit ex officio as members of the county councils in the same way as the chairmen of rural district councils has been considered by the Government, and the Government came to an adverse conclusion, because, while the county council will have the complete control over the rates of the rural district, councils, the urban sanitary councils will raise their own rates, besides which it would net be desirable to increase the number of the members of the county council. The case quite differs in regard to the towns, which will have the right to raise their own rates. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No, not so.] Yes; it is quite true that a certain amount will be raised by the county council, but in addition the urban district council will, by its own rating authority, raise their own rates. This much I admit. I think there is some point in the Amendment, and the honourable Member's remarks, and, although I have not fully considered the matter in all its bearings, I am at present disposed to introduce an Amendment as to that.
§ MR. CLANCY
I am surprised the right, honourable Gentleman has not accepted this Amendment. It is supported by every section of the Irish representation. It is true the same relation does not exist between the county councils and the urban district councils as will exist 1347 with the rural district councils, but I submit that it is only a fair proposition that the urban district councils should be directly represented.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
So they are, they send elected members to the county council. The only question is as to ex officio members.
§ MR. CLANCY
I am quite aware of that, but I say the urban council should be represented as well as the district it represents. To-day a good deal of anxiety is displayed to ensure that this county council should consist of men of experience, of public responsibility. Now, if there are any people in Ireland to-day who at all fulfil those qualifications, they are the chairmen of the boards who have had the working of public affairs. Here you have in one county six corporations or councils which have been in active operation for a considerable number of years. The chairmen have acquired great knowledge in the management of public affairs through the working of those boards. They are the most competent men for the office of county councillors that we have. Does it not strike the right honourable Gentleman, if he wants to put up a central body for the county, that to ensure having thoroughly capable and responsible men he should place upon it the chairmen of the towns boards and the district councils? In Dublin there are seven gentlemen, chairmen of different boards, who have been thoroughly trained in public affairs, who possess the confidence of everybody, and I say, if the Nationalists of the district have no objection to their inclusion, the Government ought to include them.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL
I have only one word to say, and that is that I hope the honourable Member for Louth will press this to a Division. Take my own county, unless this Amendment is accepted, the more intelligent urban class and the class more conversant with public 1348 business will be excluded from the advantage you give to the less conversant rural class. There is no reason why that should be so. The urban district has a direct interest in the taxation imposed by the county council. It has to contribute to the maintenance of the roads. The concession the Chief Secretary holds out is no concession at all. I believe I am correct in saying that the number of urban districts in Ireland which have the control of the roads are very few compared to those which have not. I ask the Chief Secretary or my honourable and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland to show any possible reason why the chairman of the rural district council should be ex-officio a member of the county council and the chairman of the urban district council should not.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
I do not see that the question of ex-officio membership should arise. If you are giving an ex-officio representation to the chairmen of the rural district councils you ought to give it to the chairmen of the urban councils. I think this is an invidious distinction as to the intelligence of the urban district council as against the rural district council. But there is no doubt the urban councils are more accustomed to business, and I think the Government would be wise in meeting the wishes of the Irish Members on this point.
§ MR. J. DALY (Monaghan, S.)
The urban districts of Ireland will have to contribute their share towards the county cess, and keep up the rates, and I cannot see why the chairmen of the urban district councils should not have as much right to sit upon the county councils as the chairmen of the rural district councils.
§ The Debate had not concluded at 5.30, when by the Rule of the House the Debate was adjourned.
§ House adjourned at 5.35.