HC Deb 07 June 1898 vol 58 cc977-80

Order for Second Residing read.

Motion made— That the Bill be now read the second time."—(Mr. Courtney.)


I beg to move the Second Beading of this Bill. It deals with the machinery regulating the voting at school board elections, and is of a purely permissive and experimental character.


I hope, Sir, that my right honourable Friend will explain the Bill, if it is only in general terms. I receive the recommendation of the right, honourable Gentleman with a little suspicion, and, as the Bill is to deal with voting at school board elections, I should like to know whether it is a development of the minority voting system.


I shall be glad to explain, although I think it has been explained already. School boards are elected under the cumulative vote, and you cannot tell whether you overrate or underrate your strength. This Bill would allow the voter to indicate the person for whom he wishes to vote, in case his vote is not wanted. But it is a purely experimental measure, and unless a school board wishes it to be adopted, or if, having adopted it, it finds it an inefficient, system, it may revert to the old method; it is an entirely optional and experimental measure.

MR. J. GRANT LAWSON (Yorks., N.R., Thirsk)

The right honourable Gentleman is always very clear in his explanation, but the system of this Bill would reduce an election to a pure game of chance. Suppose there are five candidates, A, B, C, D, and E. According to my right honourable Friend's Bill, the way you are to vote would be something like this: suppose you prefer B. Very well, you put his name first, then A second, and so on. Then the papers are all put on a very large table in heaps, and you go on shuttling the cards until you have arranged that A, or one of the candidates, has an absolute majority of all the votes recorded. What would happen if no one could get an absolute majority? I have not the faintest idea, and it appears to be an alternative not allowed for. Well, after A has got his absolute majority he is to be considered elected, and then all the other votes given to A first are to be distributed over the other four candidates until one of those gets enough votes. I repeat it is a pure game of chance. Supposing there are a certain number of votes given to A first and B second and a certain number to A first and C second. We will suppose A gets sufficient votes to be elected. He gets them either out of A first and B second, or out of A first and C second. If A first and B second come up first, while A is being elected, then B loses all those votes, because they have already gone to A's poll; so B's chances have vanished altogether. If, on the other hand, A gets elected by the assistance of votes to A first and C second, then that puts C out of the running. I hope I am making myself clear, because if I were to carry out the condition of thing* which would exist if there were 27 candidates, I really think I should confuse the House. But, confining myself to only five candidates, I think I have made it pretty clear to the House that this is a game of chance as to who should be elected. It strikes me as being a very interesting system of chance, and my right honourable Friend suggests that it should be tried. But I would ask him, where is he going to find a town that is going to try it? I surmise that they will have to pay for the counters should they be willing to enter into this interesting game, because the counters will not play at it for nothing. An enormous number of counters will be required, because the system would be a very com- plicated one. What is wrong with the present system of school board elections? I know that we get exceedingly varied bodies represented upon the boards. Any party of any political or religious distinction can get its members on to the school board. Take, for instance, the Roman Catholics. They may be a small body in a city, but they hang very closely together. If people will take the trouble to notice school board elections they will see that the Roman Catholics get in at least one of their representatives. That is an advantageous result of the present system, and I do not see why we should allow opportunities for trying experiments on that which is already working so well. There may be things in this country which are not working well, such as financial systems. which might be given over to my right honourable Friend for experiments, but I do not think this is at all a legitimate opening for that ingenuity which I am perfectly certain everybody will give him the greatest credit for. I hope, before this Bill comes on again, that every Member will make himself as thoroughly well acquainted with its provisions as I am, and that they will get up in their own rooms an imaginary game of playing at school board elections, under the principle contained—


Order, order!

And it being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned until Thursday.