HC Deb 28 March 1899 vol 69 cc656-7
MR. COGHILL (Stoke - upon - Trent)

There is one question to which I should like to refer. A statement appeared in the newspapers to the effect that the Government had given up their intention of dealing with the Question of the Redistribution of Seats during the present Parliament. I understood that it was in the contemplation of the Government to take this Question into their consideration, and I hope that the Government will do-so with a view to dealing with this subject without delay. I do not think that most honourable Members are familiar with the fact that there are many glaring: anomalies owing to the inequality of the size of the different constituencies at the present time, and though I do not think it right to take up time by reminding the House of these inequalities, they are so-great that they ought to be apparent. There is another point which I would also urge: if this Redistribution of Seats was put into force—if a thorough Redistribution of Seats was made, we should be free from Home Rule for ever. We were told by the Chief Secretary for Ireland the other day that Home Rule is still a great danger. If that is so, then one is lost in amazement at the utterances of Members of the Government on this subject, because it appears that so far from being anxious to get rid of Home Rule, they are doing all in their power to keep it where it is. We had a remarkable speech from the Duke of Devonshire upon this subject recently, who told us that Home Rule exercised a strengthening and fortifying effect upon the Unionist party, that Home Rule exercises a cementing and consolidating effect which is of great value to the permanent harmony of the Unionist party. I have always taken the opposite view. I do not believe in keeping Home Rule alive as a sort of bogey to frighten Unionist Members. As we are all decided against Home Rule, we ought to do our best to get rid of it, because there is this great danger: we are getting near to a General Election, and what will the state of the parties be after that General Election? It is perfectly certain that upon another election the Government will not be able to count upon having a majority of 140. In all probability the parties will be equally divided, and the balance of power will once more be with the Irish party, and under those circumstances I do implore the Government to take some steps to bring about a Redistribution of Seats in order that we may be saved from all prospect of such a danger in the future, and to insure that the balance of power may not again be in the hands of the Irish Party as it has been in the past. Before I sit down I should like to refer to what the honourable Member for Peterborough has said upon the Automatic Couplings Railway Bill. I sit for a railway constituency. The railway shunters in that constituency have had an opportunity of seeing the automatic coupling at work for nine months, and they have heard it spoken of amongst the men—the men on the North Staffordshire Railway—and they know what this coupling means. They say that this coupling is totally unfitted for a railway, and they have asked me to take what steps I could, and do what I could, to get that clause withdrawn. I do not speak for shareholders or for directors, and I put down that Motion at the request, and in the interests of, the workmen and shunters of that railway.