§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [28th January] to Main Question [16th January]. "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, as followeth:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled. beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech 1218 which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Colonel Harry M'Calmont.)
And which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words—
But we humbly represent to Your Majesty the desirability of remedying the defects and anomalies which at present exist in the representation of the people in this House by introducing a measure for the redistribution of seats, and which will also provide for the permanent representation of the British Dominions beyond the seas in the Imperial Parliament."—(Mr. Louis Sinclair.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."—Debate resumed.
§ *(12.10). MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)
said the time placed at his disposal on the previous night for dealing with the subject of the Amendment was so brief that he was obliged to condense his remarks to an extent which he was afraid made them of a very imperfect character, especially as he was at the time suffering from severe physical indisposition. He might therefore be pardoned if he now recapitulated what he then said. The importance of the question did not need to be proved: it had been admitted by successive Governments for years past, as the quotations he proposed to read very decisively proved. In February, 1893, he brought forward in the House a special Motion declaring that the electoral disparities were such as to involve the danger of the will of the nation being misrepresented in the House of Commons. Hon. Members who now occupied the opposite benches were at that time on the Ministerial side of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, who was the Leader of the House, stated in reply to the Motion that he did not rise to traverse any of the statements or principles which had been enunciated in support of it, as no one could deny that great inequality existed in the representation not only of Ireland but of London, and that sooner rather than later there must be a Redistribution Bill. Later on Mr. Gladstone, in the celebrated Home Rule Debate, said we were a self-governing people, and if there was anything in 1219 the great principle of self-government, and if it were a reality it was one which could never work except by the machinery of the laws of representation. He meant of course the laws of representation properly worked. In due course there came a change of Government, and in 1897 the present First Lord of the Treasury in answer to a Question said the subject was well worth attention, and although he could not promise that an investigation should take place in the autumn, he would undertake there should be one without undue delay. That seemed to him to be rather a watery answer, so he renewed his efforts in the following session, when the First Lord said in reply to a further Question he did not doubt that the anomalies and disparities in the representation of the people in Parliament were real and increasing, and deserved the very serious attention of the House. The right hon. Gentleman did not say, however, whether and when the Government would take the matter into their consideration, and so he returned to the charge the next day, and again he failed to get any definite pledge from the Government, although he was reminded that by constitutional usage a Reform Bill was the immediate prelude of a dissolution. He was, however, further told that the matter was engaging and would engage the serious attention of the Government. The session passed, the Parliament passed, a dissolution took place, and nothing was done. In 1899 he again brought the matter before the House, and published some facts in The Times which were widely circulated through the Press of the country. To those facts he received no negative criticism, on the contrary, throughout the length and breadth of the land the matter was admitted to be one of considerable urgency.
Let the House consider what the question was. Analysed to the bottom, it was: "Who governs this country?" Not the King, God bless him. He was the worthy, noble, and dignified symbol of the power which really did govern the country. What was that power? It was the majority of the people represented by the majority in that House. He admitted that it was a very imperfect system. They had to go by the counting of noses. The majority in the House 1220 nominated the men who were to lead them, and those leaders were, as a matter of course, named by His Majesty the King as his Ministers. They were really the Ministers of the sovereign power of the kingdom for the time being. But what if the majority in the House did not represent the majority of the people of the country? He pointed out on the preceding night the great salient fact, which the people who thought they were governing themselves should always keep before them, was that at the present moment, out of 670 Members of the House of Commons 400 were sent to Parliament by less than one half of the electors of the country. There were 6,800,000 electors, and out of these 3,000,000 sent 400 members to Parliament, while the remaining 270 members were sent by nearly 4,000,000 of the people. Could it be said that the people were governing themselves in the face of those facts? It might be that the majority of the House represented the will of the nation outside. But if that were so it was by accident. Was this country to be governed by accident? Was it to be a chance thing that the majority of the Members of the House were to represent the majority of the people outside. No until, as Mr. Gladstone said, they got the machinery of representation in good order, until the Ship of State, and especially its steering gear, was in good order, they would never be actually certain that the ship would go in the right direction. It was absolutely ludicrous to say that the people of the country were represented in that House if the opinions of the large majority of them were represented by only a minority of the House.
Now, he would go a little into detail. In 1885, after the passing of the last Reform Bill, the extreme disparity between the largest and the smallest constituency sending a single member to Parliament was in the proportion of eight to one. In 1893, when he made the motion in the House to which he had already referred, it was ten to one. In 1897 it was twelve to one; in 1898 fifteen to one; and now it was no less than eighteen to one. These disparities would be seen to be still more emphatic and glaring when they were in possession of the register returns for 1901. It was the fact that there were 1221 seventy-six constituencies in England and Scotland, the least of which was five times, and the largest of which was ten times larger than any constituency rep-represented by hon. Gentlemen seated on the Nationalist Benches. He hoped it would not be thought, however, that he intended his arguments to have any personal bearing towards hon. Gentlemen opposite. He was happy to say he had some very good friends among them, and he hoped he would always continue to have some. But justice must be done, even if our brothers had to suffer. At Newry, the smallest constituency in Ireland, there were less than 2,000 electors, while in Romford, which was represented by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment to the Address, there were 35,556 electors, according to the Returns for 1900. There were several gentlemen on his own side of the House, each of whom represented an electorate equal to that which sent five or six members from Ireland—
§ * MR. KIMBER
said he feared the excesses of electors were nearly all on one side; there were none in the case of Ireland.
§ * MR. KIMBER
said he wished to point out that the average size of the English constituencies was 10,183, and that average was annually increasing. He was not directing his remarks against Ireland in particular, for he admitted it would not be fair to deal with this question except on the basis of the United Kingdom as a whole. He had studiously endeavoured to prevent his mind even thinking of party in connection with the question, as he held that such a topic ought not to enter into the consideration of the subject, which must be dealt with from an impartial and statesmanlike point of view, and not from the point of view of what was to the interest of any particular man or set of men. Now, the total electorate of the United Kingdom 1222 was 6,800,000. Of that, in round figures, England 5,000,000, Scotland 700,000 and Ireland 735,000. Ireland and Scotland were therefore very nearly the same, but while the electorate of the former was diminishing, that of the latter was increasing. Scotland had 72 Members and Ireland 103, and, consequently there was a disparity between those two portions of the United Kingdom which constituted a legitimate grievance. England was entitled to 499 Members but she only had 465, and most of the deficiencies existed in the metropolis and its surroundings. His own constituency—the largest metropolitan constituency—was populated by men who were engaged all day and nearly every day of their lives in business of that great metropolis—which was the business of the whole world and certainly the business of the Empire. Surely in the rights of those men the whole nation was interested. England was entitled, as he had said, to 34 additional Members. Scotland was entitled to 69 instead of the 72 she now possessed, and of course they could not ask Scotland to reduce her representation in the face of the excessive Irish representation. Ireland's proper proportion was 72 Members; she had therefore an excess of 31 Members. These figures included the University representation, and he admitted that the nine University seats constituted a difficulty. Every sentiment of educated men clung with fondness to the thought that culture and research in science and in literature should be specially represented in that House. It was felt to be only right that men who spent their lives in thinking, writing, and working for the benefit of their fellow men should have some special representation. But when the matter was worked out the inevitable conclusion was that, after all, when it was a question of the Government of the people by themselves, they must go on the principle that it was man for man that had to be represented, and they must live in the hope that the average of every thousand men, cultivated or not cultivated, who were called upon to elect, would sufficiently safeguard the interests of the nation. After his letter appeared in The Times in June last, it was suggested to him that it has his duty to 1223 propound some plan for dealing with this on seeing that the Government, although at one time he thought they were sympathetic, had not attempted to do so.
There was a natural disinclination on the part of those who held office to grapple with this subject, which must, when handled properly, be thorny and disagreeable, and perhaps hurt the toes of some of their best friends. He admitted the difficulty, but it seemed to him that it was the duty of the Government to get over that disinclination. Before the war commenced he appealed to the First Lord to take the matter into consideration, and the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to promise that it should be brought before the next Cabinet meeting. He made an exception that the subject of the war, which was just breaking out, must take precedence, and, of course, he could not but yield to that view. But he could not admit that the war was for ever to be used as an excuse for not dealing with a question which concerned the machinery by which the United Kingdon and the empire itself was governed. This was a matter of crucial importance, and unless it was dealt with at once they might some day find themselves on the edge of a precipice—they would be having the will of people negatived by the decisions of the House of Commons, and then they would have to apply a remedy which would be far less pleasant. Already the Government had strained the allegiance of many of their best supporters. Holding as he did a position of greater freedom than the occupants of the Front Bench, having also less responsibility, he was free to say, and he did not hesitate to say it, that there were many points in the manner in which public affairs had been conducted by the Government which did not meet with the cordial support or appreciation of their supporters. In the metropolitan constituencies, and in the view of some of the best men of the day, there was a feeling that the management of affairs, in Ireland in particular, by the present Government was very weak.
§ MR. HAVILAND-BURKE (King's County, Tullamore)
May I ask if it is in order for the hon. Member to discuss the administration of Ireland on this Amendment?
§ * MR. KIMBER
said that was not his intention. He was simply pointing out reasons why it was worth the while of the Government to attend to grievances under which so many of their best supporters suffered, and he was also reminding them that, strong as was their allegiance in view of the overwhelming importance, from a patriotic point of view of carrying this war through, while their loyalty and allegiance would not be wanting until the war had been bronght to its legitimate and proper end—so long as it was conducted in a vigorous and determined manner—yet on other questions it was only fair he should caution the Government that they had weakened the allegiance of their supporters. When the war was over the pendulum might swing, and, as he had shown, the present condition of things, while the machinery was out of order, was such that even with a majority of 150, the Government might find it difficult to keep in office.
He had issued and circulated among Members within the last few days a plan for dealing with this question. He knew that it had defects, one a geographical one which, by some carelessness on his part, or on the part of those who had assisted him, had crept in. But the main principle he had suggested was, he thought, a fair one. He had followed what he believed to be the best, course to adopt, having regard to the tremendous amount of friction, discussion, and opposition which was bound to arise upon any Redistribution Bill. He had adopted such methods of dealing with the constituencies in which there were excesses or deficiencies as were calculated to encounter the least resistance. He had suggested a plan by which they would deal, not with the 670 scats, but with only 124, with perhaps a few additional ones whose boundaries would have to be rectified. They must not expect to find in his plan absolute perfection or mathematical accuracy. He had simply endeavoured to arrive at an approximation of the circumstances in each case. He had laid down 15,000 electors as the maximum, and 5,000 as the minimum, but it might be that the 1225 minimum would have to be raised as time went on. There were 76 seats with electorates varying from 15,000 to 33,000 and each of these was only represented by one Member. Then there were 48 seats with constituencies below 5,000 which would have to be dealt with. With regard to the excesses, in the worst cases he had adopted the simple method of dividing the constituencies. There were, it so happened, 27 double-Member constituencies, and he proposed that 11 of these should each surrender one Member. That required no alteration of boundaries, and it would remove 23 of the greatest disparities, while it would also reduce the extreme of disparity down to about 10 to 1. That alone was worthy of a Bill in itself. It did not, however, seem to him to be his duty, as a private Member, to bring in such a Bill, but he did think that if the Government would adopt the modest measure he suggested, they would find it well worth their while doing so. In the case of England and Scotland he would enlarge the constituencies that were below 5,000 by taking in some of the excess of the adjoining constituencies. In Scotland there were 27 seats out of which they could easily save 3 to give to England, and the rest of their excesses could meet the rest of their deficits. The remainder of the wants of England could be met by dealing with that which must be dealt with, viz., the over-proportion of seats in Ireland to the number of 31. He had made an omission from those 31 seats, for he should have included Cork and Dublin University. He had in the previous part of his paper pointed out that those constituencies, being double-membered constituencies and both being below 5,000, could fairly be asked to give up one. When they came to a case like that of Galway, it seemed to him that they could hardly regret that when the electorate of that city, which had only 2,000 electors, sent to Parliament a man who made a boast, and made it the ground of his election, that he had fought against our sons and our brothers in the field of battle.
§ MR. HAVILAND-BURKE
Is it in order, Sir, for the hon. Member to attack the selection of candidates by Irish constituencies? I respectfully sub- 1226 mit that that has nothing to do with the question of the redistribution of seats.
§ * MR. KIMBER
I respectfully submit, Sir, that I am doing nothing of the kind. I was referring to Galway, which is a constituency with a less number of electors than 5,000, which is the number which I propose should be the minimum. It has only 2,000 electors, and I was speaking of the suggestion in my plan that this and other boroughs in Ireland should simply lose their special representation and be merged in the counties. I was pointing out a reason why it seemed to me this House should not regret, and would not regret, that the electors of Galway should be practically disfranchised because—
§ * MR. KIMBER
I am not going to pursue it, MR. Speaker, further than to say that I thought it was a fair observation to make. I think I am entitled to say that. It is a thing which is very material to the hearts and consciences, and ought certainly to be so, of every man in this House.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not paying attention to my ruling. That may be a proper subject for discussion at the proper time, but it is not now.
§ * MR. KIMBER
said he did not intend to pursue the matter further. He would not weary the House with details of his plan. No doubt hon. Members would be able to find defects in it, but such as it was he offered it for their consideration, believing they would be able to make it effective. He thought he was entitled to say, in conclusion, not only on behalf of he great metropolitan constituency which he represented, but also on behalf of the two million electors of this country who were practically either not represented or mis-represented, that they respectfully demanded that the way in which they were voiced in the House should be altered, and that they should have quality of weight in the voice of the nation, which certainly they had not now. He was not a party to putting down that Amendment to the Address.
1227 He was not fond of Amendments to the Address, for he was one of those who thought that the fortnight spent in that sort of discussion was not well spent. At the same time he was bound to say that the hon. Member for Romford was quite entitled to bring the matter forward, and, in fact, it seemed to be the only constitutional one among the Amendments on the Paper. Surely if there was any question more legitimate than another to be raised on the Address to their gracious King it was one which went to the root of the working of the constitutional machinery, and therefore the hon. Member was perfectly justified in bringing it forward. He did not quite agree with the latter part of the Amendment which suggested that the Colonies should be represented in this House. Not that he thought the Colonies ought not to have a voice in the councils of the nation, but because he felt that the method proposed would not prove an effective way of dealing with that question. Still, he did not suppose that his hon. friends intended to press that matter. What they were desirous of doing was to secure that the Government of the day should direct its attention to this very important question. They had been reminded that matters of this kind were only dealt with on the eve of a dissolution of Parliament. Nobody knew, of course, when there was going to be a dissolution, but one had taken place since he first raised the question, and there might be another before the Government took it in hand. Now he asked the Government to say whether they would have this matter considered and a plan of some kind worked out and laid before the House and the public, so that it might be thoroughly thrashed out before the probable last session of the dying Parliament. It was a matter too important to be trifled with. It ought not to be dealt with by any mere caucus or committee or by a meeting between the heads of parties. He did not ask, nor would it be possible, that in an inquiry and examination of the details of his or any other plan the whole House should take part. They were already too unwieldy a machine for that. But he did ask that the matter should be considered by the responsible heads of the Government, that their proposals should be put upon paper, and that hon. Members and their constituents should have an opportunity 1228 of examining them before the session in which it was proposed to deal with the question by law. That it would have to be dealt with sooner or later, and sooner rather than later, was absolutely certain, and failure to deal with it only meant postponing the evil day, and adding to the evils of that evil day.
§ (12.50.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (MR. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I do not propose to deal at any length with the Amendment which has been moved and seconded from this side of the House, and which has just been supported in a speech by my hon. friend; not because I do not think the Amendment a very important one—for I think it is important in itself, and that it deals with a very important topic—but because I do not think that anything would be gained by my endeavouring at this stage of the sesssion to deal in detail with the question of the principle on which any redistribution of seats ought to proceed. I agree with my hon. friend, as I think everybody in the House agrees, that the anomalies of our representation are great and growing, and are likely to grow; and everybody agrees, I should think, that the special cases which he has pointed out, the special constituencies, of which I believe his own is one of the most remarkable specimens, do show a hypertrophy, an abnormal growth, which is not only extremely inconvenient to the hon. gentlemen who have to represent them, but which does make them an anomaly in our Constitution that calls for treatment.
So far I agree with my hon. friend. There were some other observations which he made in the course of his speech with which I confess I do not agree. I do not agree, for instance, that the present Government are to be blamed for not dealing earlier with his subject. He has gone through the various Questions which he has put to me from time to time in this House; and he founded upon them, as I understood him, a charge that we had shown ourselves slack and remiss in deallng with this subject, that we allowed a dissolution to pass, since I gave the answers to the earlier 1229 Questions of my hon. friend, without dealing with the question, and that from our behaviour in the past, he thinks he has a right to augur very unfavourably of our conduct in the future. I would remind my hon. friend, as I think he himself admits, that legislation on this subject is not proper in the earlier years of a Parliament. It is quite true, as he said, that nobody can tell when a dissolution will come, and therefore no one can with certainty say when Parliament is, I will not say growing old, but is nearing its demise. But every one, including my hon. friend, I am sure, is of opinion that for a Government, not elected certainly upon the question of redistribution, to come down in the earlier stages of that Parliament's existence, and propose a great change in the balance of voting power in the country would be a very foolish proceeding, and a proceeding which, if successful, would necessarily have to be followed very rapidly by an appeal to the country. Now my hon. friend says that we ought to have done it in the course of the last Parliament, but surely he must remember that the national difficulties in the middle of which the last Parliament was dissolved, and which over-clouded its last years, did not afford a very favourable moment in which to deal with the constitutional issue which my hon. friend raises.
Another point on which I do not agree with him is upon the constitutional principles which ought to underlie any change in the redistribution of political power in this country. My hon. friend has convinced himself that the only just, rational or statesmanlike arrangement which we can make for representing the people of this country is based upon principles of simple arithmetic—so many voters, so many representatives. That was adopted at one time by, and was very much in fashion in, as I think, a rather narrow school of philosophic Radicals; but I was surprised to hear it advanced in this House and from these Benches as an unassailable and fundamental principle of the British Constitution. It has never been, and, for my own part, I hope it never will be. We have always acted from those far distant days when our representative system began, not on 1230 that principle alone, but upon a mixture of principles incapable of being stated in these simple and, at first sight, attractive formulæ—attractive at all events to a certain school of political theorists—which I do not think commend themselves to the minds, or ever have commended themselves to the minds, of practical politicians in this country. Number is, of course, a most important element, an element which cannot and ought not to be ignored. I will go the length of saying that it is perhaps the most important element. But it never has been the sole element; we have always considered the history of the localities represented, the character of the communities represented; and we have always based our representation as much upon the history of the past as upon the purely arithmetical considerations connected with the present.
§ * MR. KIMBER
The right hon. Gentleman will recollect I said that exceptions might be made. In speaking of the Universities, for instance, I do not attach exclusive importance to numbers; but the preponderating weight, no doubt, is to be given to numbers. That is the principle.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I perhaps misunderstood my hon. friend. As he now states his views, I have not much to quarrel with. But it is not only with regard to Universities that I think some action qualifying the principle of numbers must be admitted. There was another point in my hon. friend's speech with which I do not say I differ absolutely, but I think he put the matter too strongly. I very much dislike and very much distrust arguments upon this subject founded simply upon considerations of nationality or of the divisions which make up the United Kingdom. I do not say Ireland is over represented, or that England or Scotland is over represented, or under represented, as the case may be. It is a fact which I admit cannot be forgotten, it is a fact which must have its due weight. But we do not come here simply as representing nations. We are here as representing constituencies; and in so far as we are representing constituencies it is a matter of absolute indifference whether our 1231 constituencies are in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, or England. You cannot wholly ignore the national element, but do not attach too much weight to it; do not regard it as of exclusive value; and, above all, I should not like this controversy as to the redistribution of seats to degenerate into a three-cornered fight between England, Scotland, and Ireland as to which is to snatch the greatest share of representation within these walls.
Having thus expressed such small differences as divide me from my hon. friend in this matter, allow me to say in conclusion that I very cordially agree with what I take to be his main thesis—namely, that the state of our representation is now becoming so anomalous and so exceptional, so widely different from what it would be were numbers alone to be considered, that it is impossible for this House indefinitely to postpone the consideration of the question. For my own part, I certainly express the very confident hope that this Parliament will not come to an end before the House has had some opportunity of considering this very important question in a practical spirit. So far as we are concerned to-day the discussion is an abstract one; and the hon. Gentleman will probably be satisfied with having elicited from various sides of the House and the Government a declaration of opinion. I shall certainly regret if we have not an opportunity before many sessions are past of considering, not as an abstract resolution, but with some definite proposals before us, the method of dealing with the ever growing anomalies of which myhon. friend has so long complained.
§ (1.8.) MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I have neither title, Sir, nor any disposition, to intervene in the domestic discussion between the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters. It seems to me that the debate on the Address had been prolonged by a additional day for the purpose of discussing what the right hon. Gentleman himself said—and I so far agree with him—is an abstract and academic proposition. One of the hon. Members to whom I have listened, with the command of metaphor which I envy and which I wish I could imitate, spoke of this matter as being one of those thorny questions which, if not properly handled, were apt to tread upon somebody's toes. Sir, I entirely agree with him. If I intervene for a few moments 1232 —and I do not wish to prolong what seems to me to be an exceedingly barren discussion—it will be simply for the purpose of making clear one or two fundamental propositions. In the first place, I think we are all agreed that the existing state of our representation as regards distribution is anomalous and indefensible and calls for a speedy remedy. I was very glad to take note of a remark which fell from the First Lord of the Treasury. I hope we also are agreed that it is a matter which, if taken up, should be taken up not partially, but as a whole, and, as the right hon. Gentleman says, not with an exclusive or even a main regard to what may be called merely national considerations. I thought that early in the autumn. I had heard declarations which pointed in an entirely different direction and were certainly hailed by many supporters of the Government both on the platform and in the Press as an indication of a desire not to deal with the subject as a whole, but to treat it piecemeal, in the first instance at any rate, and with special, if not exclusive, reference to these very national considerations which the right hon. Gentleman, I am glad to say, has, if not entirely discarded, put in their proper, which is a secondary and subordinate, place. Lastly, there is the fact which we on this side of the House should at any rate make clear that we cannot look for redistribution simply on the basis of our present system of electoral franchise. There is University representation. The hon. Gentleman, I think, was inclined to temper the application of his rather crude instrument of numerical proportion by making an exception in favour of the Universities; some of us would say that that exception is one of the least defensible of his propositions. It must not go forth that there is any general agreement with us on that point. Again, as illustrating the same branch on the subject, the hon. Gentleman rather argued on the basis of the number of the electorate in different constituencies. How is that electorate made up? It is made up in the county constituencies, more particularly in the county constituencies of England, largely also in Scotland, of persons who, in the view of many of us, ought not to be in the 1233 electorate at all. I do not think it is possible to argue the question without taking into account also the grave evil of dual and plural voting which to a very large extent adulterates the electorate and makes quite as great an anomaly as the apparent anomaly produced by a smaller number of persons in one place returning a greater number of members than in another by the importation of an alien element. With those reservations, which it seemed to me necessary and opportune to make, I entirely agree that the matter is one which calls, and which I hope will receive before the termination of the present Parliament, the attention of the Government and the House.
§ (1.12.) MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said the right hon. Gentleman the Leader 'of the House was not such a good student of his own speeches as he was. Both the right hon. Gentleman and the Colonial Secretary in the atmosphere of Blenheim on the 7th of August poured forth the vials of their wrath on the Irish Members, because they had discharged in this House their duty conscientiously and in accordance with the wishes of their constituents. Grattan once said that a prophet could never be reasoned with, he could only be disbelieved; but there were exceptions to every rule. He would mention one prophecy for which he had a particular regard because he had heard it delivered himself nearly twenty years ago by a man whose memory, he was sorry to say, was fast fading from the public mind, and who was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, man that Ireland produced during the last century. He referred to Isaac Butt. Again and again during the debates on the Home Rule Bill of 1893 he had heard point after point raised which Isaac Butt had foretold. The prophecy to which he wished to refer was spoken in November, 1873, at a great Conference of the Home Rule Association which was held in Dublin. He himself was a boy, but from the outskirts of the crowd he hung on the words of Isaac Butt. On that occasion Butt stated that if Ireland at the time of the Union were given her proper representation on the basis of population she would have, not 100 1234 Members, but 226 Members. On that occasion Isaac Butt said—I anticipate the objection which I know is suggesting itself to your minds, that Ireland has not her fair share of representation in the Imperial Parliament. There is no doubt that in the arrangement of the Union Ireland was defrauded of her just proportions of Members. Mr. O'Connell unanswerably showed that upon a mean of population and revenue Ireland ought to have had 170 Members. If population alone were considered he calculated that relatively to England we were entitled to 291. But, Sir, this injustice no longer exists. It is the only grievance of the Union, which the operations of the Union has itself redressed, but it has redressed it, not by increase of Members, but by diminishing our resources and our population. If the 658 Members were apportioned to population, according to that which seems the rule in modern politics, Ireland would be entitled to 112 Members and a fraction of one. We return at present 103 Members. If our vacant seats were filled up we would have 105. Even if we fail in obtaining the additional Members to which our population entitles us—even in the present Parliament and under present arrangements—the deficiency is not a very vital one. It seems hardly credible that within 70 years, the period of the life of man, the Union could have so altered the place of Ireland in the Imperial confederation, that while in 1800 our relative population would have entitled us certainly to more than 200 Members, in 1871 we could only claim 112. I am afraid that in the twenty years which have elapsed since 1871 our claim is reduced to 110. Yet incredible as this may seem, it is strictly and literally true. In 1800 the population of the whole United Kingdom did not exceed fifteen millions, of which Ireland was estimated to have five. In 1871 it was 31,600,000, of which Ireland had 5,400,000. A few years more of the Union and England will have a pretext for insisting that our number of Members shall be reduced to the number to which our diminished proportion of population will entitle us. I could not adduce a more damning evidence against the Union—a more decisive proof that we have reached the point at which the process of national downfall should be stayed.That prophecy was made by MR. Isaac Butt a quarter of a century ago.
He was very sorry the First Lord of the Treasury had left his seat. They were now having an academic discussion, introduced upon an Amendment to the Address, which was, if anything at all, a vote of censure upon the Government itself. An Amendment to the Address was usually a vote of censure upon the Government, and yet there had been at least five or six such Amendments proposed from the Ministerial side of the House. Speaking in the House of Commons on the 24th of March, 1884, MR. Bright said— 1235For myself, I am determined to stand by the Act of Union. Nothing shall persuade me to vote for any smaller number of the Irish Members and if by reason of the separation of Ireland from Great Britain the difficulties of intercourse, and the less power they have to influence Parliament and opinion in this country, it is thought necessary by the Government to keep the representation as it is, I shall have no difficulty in supporting it. This I must declare most solemnly—that I think the House would commit a grievous injury, a grievous affront, a grievous insult, and a grievous wrong, if they departed from that great Act of Parliament which is called the Act of Union. Upon all the rights which it guarantees surely the Irish have a right implicitly to rely.That was what Mr. Bright said upon this question. There was another gentleman who opposed the reduction of the number of Irish Members. He had been reading the debates which took place in 1884 upon this subject, and they were very lively. He found that in those debates there was a gentleman who loomed very largely in public affairs at that time. He was a political gentleman, who came from Birmingham, and a namesake of the Colonial Secretary. This gentleman made a very violent speech in favour of the retention of the Irish Members. He said—Unless the House is prepared to abandon all idea of a constitutional treatment of the Irish question and all idea of a representative system in Ireland, let us take care that the representative system then shall be a reality and not a sham—not a mere fraud and imposition upon the public. We may like or dislike the opinions held by the majority of the Irish people, but we cannot suppress these opinions, and under these circumstances it is to our interest, it is wise statesmanship and sound policy that these opinions, however unpopular, should at least be represented in this House, and we should tempt the people of Ireland to bring their grievances to a constitutional test and not force them by driving them into secret, conspiracy into a desperate course.By reducing Irish representation they would give Irishmen an opportunity of showing to all the world how badly they had been treated. He hoped he would not hurt the feelings of his hon. friends opposite by what he was going to quote, but this Member for Birmingham went on, and after pouring scorn and ridicule on the Tory idea for the partial disfranchisement of Ireland, said—It has been said with reference to a statement made by the Prime Minister that he declared he was in favour of maintaining the 1236 existing numerical proportion of the representation of Ireland. This statement has been received with very strong dissent by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are really to be congratulated on their newly pledged enthusiasm for logical completeness in any scheme of political re-distribution. It appears, according to them, that each district of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland should be strictly represented according to the number of their population. How far will they carry this opinion of theirs in favour of electoral districts? What I care about is that one equal value shall be given to every voter in every case. It has a great bearing upon the question raised by the Prime Minister. There is a large Irish vote in many of our large towns—in London, Liverpool, and other places, as hon. Members on both sides know sometimes to their advantage and sometimes to their cost. I say on both sides of the House because, however hon. Members opposite may denounce the conduct of the Liberal party in this respect, I have never found a Conservative candidate at all slow to ask, invite, and even truckle to the Irish Vote.He wanted hon. Members to bear in mind that if they were going in for restricting Irish representation to the exact proportion, they ought not to refuse to Irishmen in their large towns the full representation to which they were entitled. The First Lord of the Treasury evidently thought that the best way to deal with the Irish rebels was to reduce their representation. It was only when the Irish representatives were elected by the popular vote that all this talk about over-representation arose. From 1800, when Ireland was entitled to 290 votes in the House, down to 1870, when her representation was 112, not a single English Member urged that she should have an equal voice in Parliament according to her population. But when England through her legislation and misrule had taken the roofs off the houses of the people, decimated the population, and driven thousands out of the country, then came the cry, "Let us be fair! Ireland is over-represented." Instead of faithfully observing an agreement which should have the force of a treaty, England was trying to defraud the Irish people of their just rights.
The First Lord of the Treasury, when he assumed the rôle of philosopher, admitted that numbers should not be the sole determining factor in the question. That was true, but leaving aside altogether the question of proportionate representation, there were exceptional reasons why the Irish Members should be retained in 1237 the House. Several years ago MR. Gladstone said his great fear with reference to the representation in the House was that it would gradually partake of the mammonised character of the age. The Irish representatives, thank God, were above that temptation; they could not be "got at;" they were proud of their poverty; and they were able to fight for a a principle without caring one farthing about office. Was it not better to have such an element in the House than a body of combined Cabinet Ministers and Company directors? This attack was made because Irishmen were honest and true. The hon. Member who had raised the question was not a very old Member of the House, nor had he been a British subject long. Pitt was the son of a Prime Minister; he had been from his earliest years connected with British politics; he entered the House of Commons at the age of twenty-three; but though inclined to reform, he did not venture to advocate it as a Government measure, so clear was he about the difficulties surrounding it. Once or twice he tentatively expressed his opinions, distinctly stating that they were not Ministerial utterances. Like the present First Lord of the Treasury, he was a doctrinaire reformer. He held the same pious opinion with regard to reform as the right hon. Gentleman held with regard to female suffrage. When the Act of Union was passed—an Act which, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University was carried by the grossest Parliamentary corruption of any age—still there was no reform. But where Pitt was fearful to tread, the hon. Member for Romford, with all the inexperience of a new Member and of a somewhat new Englishman, rushed boldly in.
This zeal for equal constituencies came strangely from the party who from 1765 to 1832—when they were forced to consider the question literally at the point of the bayonet—kept up the system of the old unreformed Parliament, under which two Members represented three stones and two nails in a wall, and two others represented a mound near Stonehenge. Redistribution was wanted merely for the purpose of destroying Irish representation. The Government had been reproached for not having introduced a Reform Bill before the last 1238 dissolution. Of course, they did not. A Reform Bill was a trump card held in the hand. The last election was won on the war; the next was to be won, if possible, on the destruction of Irish representation. Everything that had been done with regard to Ireland was done grudgingly and meanly. When England got her Reform Billin 1832, the Irish rotten boroughs, such as Portarlington and Cashel, were left. When five Irish Members were added, one of them was to Trinity College, Dublin. That was the English idea of reform for Ireland. The Irish representatives were scorned because the people whom they represented were scorned. Therefore, anything in the nature of an attack on the representation would be regarded by the Irish Members as an attack on Ireland itself, and requited accordingly. Let England go on, and prosper in her efforts. Whether Ireland was disfranchised or not, the flag of Irish nationality would be upheld, and the Irish representatives would continue to protest in favour of the defenceless and oppressed, to unmask England's hypocrisy and deception, and to show up her money-making propensities. In their individual capacity he was sure they would be the last to perpetrate an injustice or go into the lobby for what they knew to be wrong. He had been a great many years in the House, and he thought he might claim that he had fought his corner as a party politician pretty well. It was no use hon. Members opposite coming up to them in the lobby and saying, "how do you do, old man," and sympathising with their views, because they must either be for them or against them. The Irish cause would go on and would extend to the colonies wherever there were any Irishmen who felt that their country had been wronged.
§ *(1.46.) SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON (Staffordshire, Handsworth)
said that in this own constituency the Handsworth division of Staffordshire there were 22,500 voters. There were in this division, two large towns, Handsworth and Smethwich, each containing well over 50,000 inhabitants. It also contained an agricultural and a colliery district, and in addition, all freehold voters in the large towns of Walsall, Wednesbury, West Bromwich, Tipton, and Darlaston. This 1239 case did not come into the category of the places referred to by the First Lord of the Treasury, where additional representation was asked for on the ground of a mere numerical counting of heads. Take the case of Smethwick,for example, which had a population of about 54,000 and a Mayor, Corporation, and Bench of Magistrates of its own. It had very large interests in trade and manufactures, and its own civic life quite distinct in every way from the equally large and important town of Handsworth. Nor did this division come into the class of county constituencies referred to by the right hon. Member for East Fife, where, if the non-resident freehold voters were eliminated, there would be nothing to complain of, for, in the case of the Handsworth constituency if all the non-resident freehold voters were taken away there would still be enough voters left to have a right to claim two Members. He would not detain the House any longer as the facts he had given were more eloquent than any remarks he could make. He thought the House would agree with him, that it was a scandal to their system of representation that two such important towns, and the other districts contained in the constituency, should have to share between them one single Member of Parliament.
§ (1.50.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
The intimation which fell from the first Lord of the Treasury that the Government considered this question one which they might probably deal with before the end of this Parliament appears to have given an importance to this discussion which it would not otherwise have enjoyed. Perhaps this makes it desirable that a very few considerations beyond those already given should be stated to the House. At the same time, I shall put these considerations in the shortest possible form, because to enter upon a discussion of the grave issues involved would certainly be unsuitable on this Amendment. The question has two aspects—the aspect in which it relates to Ireland, and the aspect in which it foreshadows a general Redistribution Bill. As for Ireland, it must, of course, be admitted that looked at from the point of view of population Ireland is at present 1240 over-represented. The figures are incontestable, and if Ireland were part of England instead of being a separate country united to us the case would be unarguable. What are the facts? The representation of Ireland was based upon the Act of Union, and dated from that time. That Act was as solemn a bargain and compact as it was possible for two Kingdoms to enter into with one another. No one doubts that Parliament, in the plentitude of its power, and representing the whole sovereign authority of the people, is legally competent to overrule any legislation. I think the hon. Member for South Donegal is too good a lawyer to dispute that. But there is something more than the legal power which we ought to consider in this matter. When Ireland entered into that bargain, nothing was said about any changes that might arise in respect of population, and no reservation was made of that kind by England and Scotland. The bargain was made, so far as the terms go, for all time, and Ireland is entitled to claim the adherence of Great Britain to the bargain.
Of course the Act of Union upon some points has been departed from. I will take the most obvious one, which is familiar to our minds, I mean the case of the Irish Protestant Episcopalian Established Church, the permanence of which was guaranteed by the Act of Union. In that respect Parliament overruled the Act of Union, but under what circumstances? It was done with the consent of a majority of the Irish Members and the consent of a large majority of the Irish people. Therefore, morally—and it is from the moral side that I am arguing the question—Ireland gave her consent to the change. No one can say that the change was made in violation of the wishes and feelings of the people of Ireland. No one would deny that the enormous majority of the people of Ireland are opposed to any reduction in their Parliamentary representation, and that leads me to ask whether it is worth while for any English Party to diminish the representation of Ireland, and strike this blow at this part of the Act of Union, in order to obtain a Party advantage. I venture to say that the injury which would be done to the politics of this country by de- 1241 parting from the Act of Union, in this respect, against the will of the people of Ireland, and without giving Ireland any advantage, would be a great blow, and would give Ireland a stronger constitutional grievance than she has ever yet had. I do not think that any English politican ought to look with indifference on any policy which would add fuel to the flame of Irish discontent. I admit that if such a diminution were to be accompanied by a large concession of local automony to Ireland, that country would have a quid pro quo, and they would regard it in a different light; but that is not included in the motion before us, and it does not appear to be contemplated by those who advocate the change. Ireland is governed in violation of, and against the wishes of, a large majority of the Irish people. It has been said that Ireland is a species of Crown Colony, that it is governed independently of the Members from Ireland, and carries on its own government irrespective of the wishes of the majority of the Irish representatives. Do you want to increase that grievance? I submit that that is a change which, whatever the figures may be, ought not to be contemplated except in connection with some scheme which would bring the Irish people into better harmony with this country, and give her some power of controlling her own local affairs beyond that which she at present enjoys.
The other aspect of the matter is the general one of having a complete Redistribution Bill, and I understand that that view commends itself to His Majesty's Government; at any rate the observation of the First Lord of the Treasury appears to point in that direction. Of course, there are what are called anomalies in our representative system, which is not perfect. Our system is not strictly based on population, and some constituencies are larger than others, and every vote is not of equal value. But this question of a general Redistribution Bill is a little more serious than some hon. Members who have handled this topic appear to think. It would involve a great many more changes than they have fully realised. As was well observed by the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, one of the first things would be the disappearance of the University 1242 seats. As was well pointed out by my right hon. friend the Member for East Fife it would involve the abolition of plural voting, and I would not oppose such a desirable change. In the third place, it would probably involve the destruction of the representation of the historic boroughs which now exist in this country. When you come to redistribute, you will probably be driven to a system based upon large areas of population, which would take little account of the historic continuity of the boroughs. Instead of having the present system, we should have Members for the fifth or the seventh district of Lancashire or Yorkshire. I think such a change would be in many respects unfortunate, for it would not preserve the historic continuity of our institutions. Fourthly it would be necessary to have a new Boundary Bill; and a Boundary Bill—as is well known by those who have had experience, like the right hon. baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean—is an extremely serious and difficult matter, and it is one which can only be properly carried out by agreement between both sides of the House, as was done in 1885.
Here let me remark that the system of redistribution would have to be based upon some sort of agreement or compromise between the two sides of the House if it was to be carried within any reasonable time, because you have such a large number of questions to consider that it would take an almost incalculable amount of Parliamentary time to settle any general Redistribution Bill except by an agreement between the parties concerned. The right hon. Gentleman, who was associated with the Prime Minister in 1885, will bear me out in what I say. Under these circumstances, surely this is a very large undertaking. Do not let me be misunderstood. I do not say that in principle we can depart from what we have said regarding Ireland. I do not object to the principle that representation should be in proportion to the population, but I do wish to point out to the House that a very large number of questions are involved, and that these are questions of the greatest difficulty and complexity, and would require one full session of Parliament to deal with them. I do not argue that, but unless there was some 1243 sort of arrangement between the two sides of the House, I think the session would find itself pretty well overloaded supposing the scheme should be fought at almost every stage. Considering how little our crop of social legislation has been during the last few years, and how much we want those domestic reforms on which I hope our minds, without distinction of Party, are for the most part bent— social legislation for the benefit of the mass of the people of the country—I do ask the House to pause before it encourages the Government to undertake an enormous task, which would necessarily involve the suspension of social legislation, and would raise a host of difficulties the mere naming of which is enough to show how serious and how far reaching they would be.
§ *(2.35.) MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)
said that the hon. Member for South Donegal was hardly fair to his hon. friend the Member for Wands worth in the concluding portion of his speech, when he described the interesting speech of his hon. friend as contributing nothing new to the controversy in which they were engaged. He thought the House and the country owed a great debt of gratitude to his hon. friend for the persistency and industry with which he had followed up the subject, not only in the House but in his valuable contributions to the Press. It was therefore the more remarkable that the name of the hon. Member for Wandsworth did not appear as the mover of the Amendment instead of the hon. Member for Romford. That. he thought, pointed to the fact that the present occasion was not the most suitable for raising this question. It led to no definite issue, and hon. Members like himself who were keenly interested in the question would, if the Amendment were carried to a division, be obliged to vote against it, although they were substantially in agreement with it. The hon. Member for Romford in his speech said that the Amendment was divided into two parts, but his speech only dealt with one.
§ MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR (Essex, Romford)
said he dealt with both parts, 1244 though only briefly with the second part.
§ * MR. COCHRANE
said he did not hear any allusion to the second part of the Amendment, and that had led to the misapprehension. At any rate the main part of the debate had been directed to the first and most urgent part of the Amendment, viz., the question of the redistribution of seats. There were undoubtedly defects and anomalies in the present system of distribution. They were patent, and were admitted by the First Lord of the Treasury in his speech to-day. His right hon. friend said that those anomalies and defects were great and growing, and likely to grow. That was a sufficient argument to show that the subject was, at any rate, ripe for discussion, although an Amendment to the Address was not the proper form in which to discuss it. It was obvious, therefore that the discussion was somewhat of an academic character, and that as the First Lord of the Treasury had said they were forcing an open door. His right hon. friend said that they should not make it too much of a national question. He ventured to say it was impossible to keep the national element out of the discussion. It obtruded itself at every turn, and every speaker who had spoken up to the present had alluded to it, and no one more than the hon. member for S. Donegal. Therefore they could not altogether ignore the national element, and that brought him to the point which affected his constituents more than anything else. They could not avoid a comparison between the representation of Scotland and that of Ireland, when they saw that Scotland with a population not less wealthy, and not less intelligent had only 72 representatives, whereas Ireland had 103. That was a great inequality which really deserved and demanded a remedy. His right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury said that the question of numbers was probably the most important question to be considered in fairly apportioning representation to the different parts of the country. His right hon. friend said it was not vital, but that it was most important. Undoubtedly it was most 1245 important. Where a numerous population was attracted there would be found energy, industry, and opportunity for earning money, but where the popultion was declining those qualifications would be found wanting. Again, in Ireland the contribution to the Imperial Exchequer was only 2.43, whereas that of Scotland was something like 4½ times as much. That was an element which Scottish members were bound to bring before the House as worthy of consideration in fixing the proper proportion of Scotland's representation. Their population was increasing very rapidly—it was equal to that of Ireland—whereas if they took the arguments of hon. members opposite as serious, the population of Ireland was not only decreasing, but was rapidly approaching the vanishing point. If that were so, there was no reason why Ireland should be largely over-represented.
§ * MR. COCHRANE
said he did not know how far he would be entitled to discuss the Act of Union and its bearing in the Amendment, but he might perhaps be allowed to refer to one point which had been already alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen. The right hon. Gentleman, in the most lucid style laid down the proposition that nothing in the Act of Union took away from the supreme power of the Imperial Parliament to alter that Act. That coming from such an authority was most important. But if they looked at the Articles of the Act of Union, the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman would be still further strengthened. Article 4 provided that there should be a hundred members representing Irish constituencies, and Article 5 referred to the Established Church in Ireland. The latter Article contained the phrase that the maintenance and the continuance of the Established Church should be deemed and taken to be a fundamental part of the Union, although there was no such provision in reference to the representation of Ireland. If the Imperial Parliament were able to upset 1246 an essential and fundamental part of the Act of Union, surely it had also the right to interfere in an Article which was not regarded as either essential or fundamental. He thought his argument showed that no special sanctity could possibly attach to Article 4. The conditions of the representation early in the last century had been alluded to, but he would point out that at the time of the Union the population in Ireland was much larger, and that of Great Britain much smaller than at present, and the proportions had been considerably altered. The population of Ireland was one-third of that of Great Britian then, now it was one-eighth, and no one could possibly urge that the number of Members suitable for Ireland when the population of Ireland was one-third that of England was the proper representation now that it was only one eighth.
§ * MR. COCHRANE
said he did not catch the observation of the hon. Member, but he would like to point out that there was now a considerable Irish representation in large industrial centres of Great Britain. Irishmen had had the sense to recognise that where industrial enterprise and good order prevailed, that was the place for Irishmen to go to. And they had increased representation in that way. He did not think it was the proper time to go as fully into this question as he would have liked to do, but he felt compelled to draw attention to the fact that while the representation of Scotland was fixed at 45 by the Act of 1707 it had now been increased to 72%, hence, if it was open to Parliament to redress inequality by increasing the representation of one part of the United Kingdom without at the same time increasing the other part. Hon. Members would agree that it was perfectly open to Great Britain to deal with the matter in that way, but it would be an extremely cumbrous method, and in his opinion the better way would be to reduce to its proper proportion the representation that came from Ireland. He had every confidence 1247 friends on the Government Bench, but he in the statements made by his right hon. thought everyone would be glad if the matter were taken in hand at an early date, and some progress made. It was admittedly a difficult matter to deal with, having regard to such questions as population, wealth and historic associations, and the great differences with regard to boundaries, but he believed any action taken by the Government in this matter would receive the support of the country, as it certainly would the almost unanimous support of the Unionist party.
§ *(2.50) MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
I did not intend to intervene in this debate until I heard the able speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, but he put forward a certain proposition which I could not silently acquiesce in without the risk of appearing to assent to it. It is a very remarkable thing that an Amendment of this grave moment should be brought forward by two Members sitting on opposite sides of the House and that it should be discussed in a House when less than forty Conservative Members, and a smaller number of Liberals were present during the greater part of the discussion, when an attempt is made to reconstruct the great and glorious British Constitution. If any question was calculated to excite the attention, and to call for the attendance of all the Members of this House, one would have imagined it would have been such a question as this. I recollect in the vacation reading the speeches of two leading members of the Cabinet. One of those, a most experienced person in every sense of the word, talked of this scheme of redistribution, and described it as a "tinkering of the Constitution;" the other, also a very eminent and important member of the Cabinet, delivered a long and eloquent speech, cautioning his own supporters and followers, and warning them that they could not possibly foresee or anticipate the result of embarking on this scheme of redistribution.
What is suggested here is to pull down the whole of the old structure of representation and to build it up anew. We know what a dangerous task it is to pull down an old house that has stood 1248 "the battle and the breeze" for many a long year, and when we pull down the house and commence to build another in its place, we at once apply, and put into requisition, all the scientific improvements, and all the modern ideas applicable to architecture, which were never dreamt of when the old mansion was erected. And if we once now admit that the basis of representation is to be mere numbers, where are we to stop? We must first consider the question, who shall be the constituents. The hon. Member who seconded this Amendment talked of numbers, but he must recollect this, that if we are to form a new constitution—to set up a constitution upon lines strictly logical and strictly conformable to the various ideas of the present generation, the first question to arise would be, "Who are to be the constituents?" And that would at once land us in the question of whether those having the power to make laws and dispose of the life and liberty of every subject of the realm should consist of not merely 6,800,000 out of 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 of population, but whether manhood suffrage should not constitute the electorate. I am not advocating manhood suffrage. I merely refer to it to show the sea of trouble into which you are likely to launch the good old ship "The British Constitution" if you open up this question of redistribution. My hon. friend also referred to the question of plurality of votes. I have always been in favour of one man one vote; but then, again, the question as to woman suffrage arises, and we know what a storm that has raised, and does still, even under the existing state of things. All these matters will have to be considered. It is not such a simple matter to say that every 10,000 voters should have one Member. The question at once arises, "Who shall be the voters, and how are the unrepresented class to be fully represented?" I regret that this question has been brought forward at all in this shape, because it should be brought foward only on the responsibility of the Minister of the day, after full discussion with his colleagues, and with a forecast as to the consequences it might entail on the country. Here we have an Amendment which actually suggests not only a redistribution of seats in the three kingdoms, but also that the 1249 colonies should be represented in the Imperial Parliament. What a vista that opens! That means that we are to have the power of taxing the colonies.
§ MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR
explained that, as he had before stated, his suggestion was only that an Imperial Defence Council should be instituted in this country, and not that colonial Members should be introduced into the House.
§ * MR. HEMPHILL
Of course, I accept the hon. Member's statement. I had not the advantage of hearing his speech, but I have the Amendment before me, and that says—And which will also provide for the permanent representation of the British Dominions beyond the seas in the Imperial Parliament.and one of my ideas is that representation and taxation should always go together. If we admitted in proportion to population—for that would be the thesis of the argument—representatives of Australia, Canada, South Africa, and all the other colonies, not only would this House have to be pulled down and rebuilt on a much larger scale, but we who have sat under the old régime would hardly know where to find ourselves. The whole matter is a mere academic suggestion, and we are really to-night playing with a thunderbolt. The last speaker referred to the Act of Union. That Act was a treaty between two independent Parliaments. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are doubtless quite aware—for they are all men of culture and education—that the Irish Parliament up to the time of the Act of Union was absolutely independent of the English Parliament, and that Ireland was a separate kingdom from Great Britain. The Crown was the only link between the two kingdoms. The two countries entered into a solemn compact, which, for the purposes of my observations, only I take to have been a fair compact. Ireland had a Parliament of 300 Members representing the boroughs, counties, and different elements of the Irish nation. They gave up their Parliament and united with England. They gave the United Parliament of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, power to tax and make laws for them, and the fundamental condition of that agreement was that they were to have 100 Members in the United Parliament.
§ * MR. COCHRANE
Does the right hon. Gentleman contend that anything in this Act of Union took away from the Imperial Parliament the power to deal with any portion of that Act of Union as they chose?
§ * MR. HEMPHILL
I gave way to the hon. Member; but I deprecate interruption until I have concluded my argument. I say that that was a treaty, which must be dealt with on the same principles of law as a treaty between England and Germany, or England and France, or England and any other State. I am not going at length into the question of how far the United Parliament could legally rescind or alter the fundamental article except with the consent of the contracting parties. That is the whole point. In the speech of the hon. and learned Member for South Donegal there was an interruption referring to the disestablishment of the Irish Church. The distinction is that the majority of the Irish Members, obeying the mandate of the great majority of the Irish people, were for years urging this United Parliament to repeal that particular article of the Act of Union. In like manner if the time should ever arrive when the Irish people, speaking through the mouths of their representatives, demand from this House that the original fundamental number of 100 Members should be either diminished or increased, it will, of course, be competent for this House to yield to that demand. There is a principle at the bottom of all contracts which it requires no lawyer to understand, and that is, that when a bargain is struck—whether between two men or two nations makes no difference—that bargain must be held to be binding unless both consent to its alteration or modification. According to the argument of the other side, the whole Act of Union might be treated as so much waste paper; it might cease to be a compact, with the terrible result that it would involve what in other countries has been called a coup ďétat, and actually absolve the Irish people from that allegiance which they are bound to pay, and have always readily paid, to the sovereignty of the British Crown. It is, therefore, most dan- 1251 gerous for hon. Members to advance the argument that because with the consent of the majority of the Irish people the Irish Church was disestablished, you can, without that consent, alter, the article of the Act of Union under which they are entitled to 100 Members. I firmly and unhesitatingly contend that, without risking a revolution, you must maintain, as long as they insist on it, at least 100 Members in this Imperial Parliament. There is one way and one way only out of it—by granting Home Rule; but as long as you maintain the Union in its integrity, you cannot violate against the will of one of the consenting parties, a compact introduced for the benefit of that party. I know the number has been increased. But that also was by consent of the Irish Members. One is always ready to make an alteration for one's own benefit. It is no answer at all to say that, because originally there were 100, and afterwards 105 Members, there has beer a rescession of the orginal compact.
However, I feel that I am beating the air. I am sorry the debate has assumed so grave and serious an aspect. The occasion is altogether unworthy of the seriousness with which it has been treated, and I regret that any fresh ground should have been given upon which to found an apprehension of a desire—which I do not believe to exist—on the part of the English people knowingly am deliberately to create a new grievance, and to be guilty of the greatest of all the acts of injustice of which they have ever been guilty, towards the Irish people.
§ *(3.10.) MR. PLUMMER (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
said that from the speeches they had heard, it might have been thought they were listening to speeches delivered fifty years ago from the old crusted Tory Benches, but for the face that all the fears and the warnings as to the dangers of the franchise being extended in this or that direction, had come from the Liberal Benches, while those who were willing to trust the people sat upon the modern Conservative Benches. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had raised another point, namely that the Act of Union was a bargain which could not be interfered with 1252 without the consent of the two parties. Surely the necessary complement to that was that Home Rule could not be granted without the consent of this country and Scotland, as well as of Ireland. As one of the representatives of the largest undivided urban constituency in the country, he knew that Newcastle was keenly interested in the subject under discussion. He ventured to think, as it was a patent fact that there was no intention to legislate in the direction suggested by this Amendment this session, it was unnecessary for him to occupy the attention of the House at any length, but he confessed that he for one was glad of the opportunity presented by the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Romford Division for discussing what was regarded by many Conservative members as a most important question, and one which was growing in importance every day.
He desired to speak more upon the first part of the Amendment than upon the portion which had reference to colonial representation. He did not disagree with the idea underlying the latter part of the motion, but he felt that it was not ripe for legislation—certainly not so ripe as the first part, which, probably, all parties would admit was well within the range of practical politics. Undoubtedly there were many reasons which might be advanced in favour of this legislation, but he preferred to advance one only, namely that for a country such as this, with its constantly increasing population, its continuous migration from country to town, sooner or later a redistribution Bill became a measure of actual necessity, if that House was to retain that of which it had always proudly boasted, namely, its representative character.
In supporting the Amendment he desired to avoid as far as possible quoting statistics. That part of the question had been well and ably dealt with by the hon. Member for the Wandsworth Division, and he would not quote any more figures, because he was well aware that the House had no appetite for statistics. He preferred to advocate the Amendment from a broader point of view, as a measure of justice to large and important places, and large sections of the population of this country, who, he was satisfied and convinced in his own mind, were at present 1253 being most unjustly dealt with. In his constituency they had endeavoured as far as possible to keep this matter free from party politics, and he was glad to say that both party associations, the Liberal and the Conservative Associations, had united in Newcastle with the City Council with the object of furthering this important question. And he might bring ample evidence from both sides of the House to show that hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen of both parties had from time to time expressed their views that this was a question calling for legislation sooner or later. He was glad to call into the witness box two right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth, who, if he might say so, was to him a new Member—the most interesting historical figure in that assembly. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, only in December last, declared that redistribution was necessary, while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth, as far back as 1893, said the subject must be dealt with very soon. Now, time and circumstances no doubt, alter cases; but in this instance time and circumstances had done nothing except to strengthen the claim which they had ventured to put forward, and for which they demanded consideration at the hands of His Majesty's Government. Hon. Members were impressed with a state of affairs under which over 15,000 votes recorded for one hon. Member at the last General Election in one part of the United Kingdom, counted in the division lobby for no more than the 1,000 votes or less, recorded for another hon. Member in another part of the kingdom. The relative representation of the different parts of the United Kingdom had been referred to, showing that Scotland had three too many members, and Ireland thirty-one too many, while England and Wales had thirty-four members too few. He asserted that, upon those figures alone, there was a basis for legislation. The fact that some 35,000 or 40,000 electors in one portion of Essex had only the same voting power as 2,000 or 3,000 electors in Waterford or Newry, fully justified the claim they were putting forward. There was one fact alone which ought to be sufficient. Since the last Reform Bill and redistribution measure, 1254 the population of England and Wales had increased by 5,300,000,and that of Scotland by 615,000, while the population of Ireland, unfortunately, had greatly decreased by 480,000, and yet, in spite of that fact, the representation remained the same to-day as it was years ago. Nor was the migration of the population from the country to towns confined to one portion of the United Kingdom. They found the same thing going on in Ireland itself; and he stated it as a fact, significant or otherwise, that where the population had increased, there Unionism had prevailed. That fact had an important bearing upon a point which he had always thought had not received full consideration. What was it which caused the Liberal party and the distinguished man by whom at that time it was led, to lend a willing ear to Home Rule, except the apparent fact that three-quarters of the Irish people were in favour of that demand? That never really represented the true facts of the case, because if the Irish representation had been redistributed then, as it ought to be now, they would have found that a very different result might have been brought forward on the floor of that House.
Unfortunately time would not permit him to deal with the arguments with regard to the Act of Union. It was somewhat curious, however, that those who had never hitherto seen anything but vice in the Act of Union should now find in it some virtue after all, though they failed to make the discovery at the time of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. The right hon. Gentleman who was his predecessor in the representation of Newcastle, the Member for Montrose, whose impartiality would be admitted by all sections of the House, had himself declared that he did not regard the argument with respect to the Act of Union as a decisive one. They welcomed the assurance of His Majesty's Government that the important question of the redistribution of seats would have due consideration at the proper time. It must, of course, involve the other question which had been described as "the scandal of the over representation of Ireland," and which he did not hesitate to say constituted a grievance. In conclusion, he asserted that they had some right to claim for this Amendment the support of the Members of the 1255 Liberal party one of whose watch-words used to be "Trust the people," and this surely could not be one of those "fly-blown phylacteries" to which Lord Rosebery had referred in his speech at Chesterfield. A measure redistributing the representation of the country should command the support of members of the Liberal party equally as much as the support of members of the Conservative and Unionist parties. It was demanded not from a party point of view, but as a measure of justice which had been too long delayed and which, he did not hesitate to say, in conclusion, ought to receive adequate and immediate attention at the hands of His Majesty's Government.
§ *(3.22) Sir CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
It was not my intention to have taken any part in the debate this afternoon, but I have been led to do so by the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman the Member of Newcastle who has just sat down. He began his speech by making a direct challenge to some hon. Members on this side of the House who hold strong opinions on this subject, and he said that the debate had shown that those who were willing to trust the people sat on the modern Conservative Benches whilst the obstructive arguments against necessary reform had come from the Opposition side of the House. I deny that there is any foundation for that statement unless it is to be found in the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Tyrone.
§ * MR. HEMPHILL
My argument was that if we went into a scheme of redistribution we should have to consider the necessity for manhood suffrage, one man can vote, and female suffrage, which I am in favour of.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
We cannot debate the question which my right hon. friend has opened, because it is obviously impossible to discuss it under such a motion as that which is before the House to-day. Home Rule is involved, and Home Rule cannot be debated. As for the hon. Member for Newcastle, it seems to me that the obstructive arguments have come from the Leader of the House, and the revolutionary and advanced 1256 arguments have come not from one side of the House only but from several speakers on both sides in this debate. There is no difference in principle between many hon. Gentlemen who sit on the other side and many hon. Members who sit on this side. All our lives we have been in favour of an extremely advanced and almost revolutionary treatment of this subject, and it is a very open secret that some of us who were concerned in the settlement of 1884 would like to have gone much further than the Act of 1885 provided. What is our position? What is the position of my right hon. friend the Member of Aberdeen who spoke so well upon the matter this afternoon? We say that it is impossible to deal with this subject upon the population basis without giving up the University seats, which are entirely inconsistent with the population system. If you are to deal with this question upon the basis put forward by the Member for Wandsworth, then you cannot leave out the question of plural votes. What is the strongest case for redistribution presented by the great constituences which surround London? What is their position? Have hon. Members investigated those registers? Most hon. Members of this House are electors for some county division in London, for which, in the ordinary sense of the word, they possess no qualification, but because they have a London freehold qualification they are additional voters in the suburban constituencies. You cannot take the weight of the vote of the electorate as a test in this matter, without dealing with the question of the freehold vote. In the case of Wimbledon, for example, there are over 7,000 of these Metropolitan freeholders, who have no connection except a purely artificial and technical one with the Wimbledon Division. They never see it. As long as that state of things exists you cannot treat this subject on a large scale without introducing the question of the double vote; and if the hon. Member for Newcastle really holds the democratic opinions which he professes in this House, he will find many of us on this side prepared to go with him in favour of getting rid of the University vote.
1257 The Leader of the House has expressed the most conservative opinions upon this subject—the opinions held by the old Conservative and Whig Members of this House. He professed himself ready to deal with the subject, but in a very tender fashion indeed, without raising any of those matters which the Tory democratic Members of the House desire to see raised. That was the way it was dealt with in 1885. It was supposed that different treatment was meted out to Ireland. That is a delusion. It was dealt with in a piecemeal fashion by enfranchisement in all three Kingdoms at a certain point and disfranchisement at a certain point As far as I understood the First Lord of the Treasury this afternoon, he desires again to deal with the subject in a piecemeal way. He would only take certain lines of enfranchisement and disenfranchisement, and not attempt anything like equality between elector and elector, and population and population. It is no doubt very difficult to get a complete scheme of redistribution. No doubt the boroughs of this country like their identity and history, and do not desire to be cut up and merged in the districts around them. The hon. Member for Newcastle will find many of us on this side his supporters in going as far as the sense of the House and the country will allow us to go. It is not a Party question. There are great differences on this side and on the other side on the question. Speaking for myself, I am prepared to go certainly as far as the hon. Member for Newcastle in dealing with this matter, even in a revolutionary way. There is one reason why, if this Amendment is pressed to a division, personally I should be unable to vote for it. I understand the hon. Member to have shrunk a little himself from the second part of his Amendment. All the Members of this House may not have followed closely colonial opinion on this subject. I should like to say one word on that matter. There is a grave danger that if we go before the colonies in making suggestions of this kind we may bring about a state of things in which there may be a great difference of opinion between one colony and another among the self-governing colonies. That is a very serious matter. We all must be 1258 aware that it would be very easy to make proposals here with which say, for example, New Zealand would express concurrence but which would meet with resistance in Australia,. No one who knows Australian opinion as represented either in the Federal Legislature or the State Legislatures can doubt that there is great hostility among the democratic forces of Australia against representation in this House. It is the preponderating feeling there that for us to invite adhesion to the principle laid down in the second part of the Amendment would be to incur the danger that would arise from colonial differences of opinion. That is a danger which I am sure this House would not desire too hastily to run, and it is a strong reason against voting for this Amendment at this stage.
§ (3.35.) MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
The hon. Member for Wandsworth has suggested a plan of redistribution. He calls the plan a simple one, and no doubt it has the merit of simplicity. I should not attach very much importance to it, were it not understood that that was the plan which was favoured by the Government during the closing session of last Parliament, and which was not carried into execution owing to the national difficulties to which the First Lord of the Treasury referred. All I have to say is that that plan would enfranchise above a certain line and disfranchise below a certain line, and that that might cause substantial injustice to the constituencies which fall between the two lines. Take the county to which I belong; I can only test the hon. Gentleman's scheme by what I know. The hon. Gentleman takes a constituency which contains no less less than 11,000 voters, and proposes to add to that another constituency. I venture to say that a proposal of that kind would impose very great injustice on that county, which would not be warranted by the justice which would be effected elsewhere. I know there are anomalies which require to be remedied, but I trust that when the time comes for the Government to consider the question of dealing with them they will consider the question as a whole and bear in mind certain factors besides the mere factor of population. The different constituencies vary enormously. Besides those historical considerations to which reference has 1259 been made, there are certain practical considerations also which ought to be borne in mind. I venture to say that there are certain constituences which take a very much deeper interest in politics, and where you will find probably the number of electors who record their votes is very much larger than in other constituencies. I think it will be impossible to settle this question by an iron hard and fast rule. A certain amount of latitude and give and take must be adopted. It will be impossible to adopt a scheme which would do justice to what I may call the great unenfranchised constituencies on the one hand, and still do no injustice to the other counties, which, if you were to draw an arbitrary line, would be most unjustly treated. I hope that in any scheme which may be proposed, we shall have regard to the various interests involved, and that everything shall be done which the care and consideration which the varying needs and circumstances of constituencies in different parts require.
§ *(3.40.) MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
said that however ripe the questions referred to in the first part of the Amendment might be for discussion, they did not stand, as the Amendment put them, upon the same low level of practicability and urgency with the question of the representation of the colonies in the Imperial Parliament. His own opinion was strong that the longer that discussion remained in its present vague and unformed condition the greater the difficulties would be found of propounding a plan which would be practicable for the participation of the colonies in the Imperial Parliament. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment had indicated that it was rather in the other Chamber that the colonies were to be represented. For what were they in real truth to be represented? In order that they might be taxed. And they were to be taxed by the House of Peers. A fundamental principle of the British Constitution was thus to be subverted, and for the consent of the people was to be substituted that of a few peers, life or hereditary.
§ MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR
said his Amendment simply directed attention to the fact that it might be well to form an Imperial Defence Council. He had no idea of introducing representatives in the House of Commons or the House of Peers.
§ * MR. BLAKE
said he could only know what the hon. Member intended by the words of his Amendment, which proposed that a measure should be introduced which would "provide for the permanent representation of the British Dominions beyond the seas in the Imperial Parliament. "That was the proposition to which MR. Blake addressed himself. It was for that they were asked to vote. The fact was that there were some who wanted provision for contributions from the colonies for the war expenses of the Empire in one way or another. The hon. Member now suggested, forsooth, an Imperial Defence Council. If that were consultative only it could not do much good, and might do some harm. But it would be no practical realization of the underlying sentiment of those who wanted war contributions. Did they really expect that the Colonies would agree to a Council with power to arrange for Colonial subsidies? If so they greatly mistook. The Colonies would not submit to be burdened save by the vote of their own free and popularly elected assemblies. That was the only road. And even if it were suggested that the colonies should have some insignificant fragment of popular control in connection with these subsidies, by means of the return of a few members here, that would not and ought not to satisfy the colonies. No solution appeared. But there was no immediate urgency. His own view was that the affection, the loyalty, contentment and satisfaction which prevailed in the great self-governing colonies was due to that degree and measure of absolute control over their own affairs and taxation, and their own tariffs, which they at present enjoyed; and that the moment the attempt was made to utilize that affection loyalty and contentment to forward any of these schemes, the very root of those feelings, which rendered the colonies more or less helpful to the Empire, would be wounded or cut away. Therefore those who were proposing them in the interests of the Empire were extremely short-sighted Imperialists.
In regard to the Irish view, he had heard some observations from the other side which surprised him. Some hon. Members had expressed astonishment that the Irish members should refer to the Act of Union, and should found themselves upon it. They objected to that Act as bad in origin, ill-framed, 1261 and evilly carried out; but if it contained some few provisions to protect their interests, why in the world should they not make use of them? Then, it was said that this Parliament could legally change the Act of Union in any way, and had changed it in one way which the Irish people wished, and that was in reference to the Church. But the moral view of the question remained—that the Act of Union was a bargain. And the moral view of bargain was observed in reference to the Irish Church, because the enormous preponderance of the constituencies, not only in Great Britain, but in Ireland also, favoured the procuring and the making of that change. It was not of so great consequence to claim regard for the feeling of the preponderating partner, who would be quite sure to exercise his power of preponderance. What was important was that the weaker partner—the partner in minority, who had thus to depend on the sense of justice and equity and good faith of his more powerful partner—should not find changes made in the Act of Union to his detriment and against his will. If a provision was made in that Act of Union for the representation of Ireland, not based on the population of that country at the time, and which no reformer had ever suggested should be changed, even when, according to a population basis, Ireland had become entitled to a very much larger number of Members; if a provision of that kind had substantially remained intact for a hundred years, was it to be altered now because the policy and management of this Parliament under the Union had, unhappily, been against the protests of Ireland, such as to impair the prosperity and the strength, and reduce the population of the weaker partner? The Irish party insisted on these considerations being taken into account in regard to the representation of Ireland, and also to the financial relations between the two countries. He thought it would be found, when they came to engage in practical discussions on the general question, that the difficulties of dealing rigorously on any general and just principle with the representation of the whole country, were very great, and that it would be impossible altogether to discard, as the First Lord of the Treasury acknowledged, historical and traditional considerations—consider- 1262 ations of the rights and privileges enjoyed by ancient constituences in the past. But if all those were to be tenderly considered, must they not also and more inevitably consider—he would not say tenderly but justly—the precise treaty, stipulations, and conditions under which Ireland had been brought into the Union?
Another observation had been made to which he felt bound to give a moments' attention. It had been suggested that a change which would reduce the number of Irish members should, if the change were justly made, also change the proportion of the representation of Irish parties in the House. But practical experience of our rough and ready system of representation (and they could not devise any system which was not rather rough and ready) showed that the actual relation, whatever it happened to be, between the two parties in the State as shown by the polls was accentuated in the returns to that House. There was an exception in the case of the Home Rule Parliament of 1892, the representation in which, by a series of accidents, had attained a closer approximation to the opinion of the people than in any modern previous Parliament. In Scotland during many elections the return to Parliament of Liberals had been wholly disproportionate to the strength of Liberal voters. Similarly, in Wales, there had been an excess of Liberals returned, while in England there was a gross and altogether inordinate excess of Unionists returned. In Ireland, however, he believed when they came to look at the election Returns, as in 1892, when the Unionists ventured to go to the poll and their ragged regiments were paraded and defeated all over the country, it would be found that there was a much nearer approximation than was ordinarily the case between the popular sentiment of the electorate and the absolute return of members to Parliament. He did not deny that they might be able, by a calculated system of re-distribution to produce a disproportion between the polls and the relative strength of parties in the House. But he did deny that upon any fair application or system of re-distribution there would be any substantial difference between the views of the people in 1263 Ireland, as at present expressed in Parliament by its representatives, and their views upon a reduced return. Over three-fourths of the population were Nationalists, and the return of Nationalists Members would and ought to continue over three-fourths, unless the constituencies were gerrymandered. The voice of Ireland would on any fair distribution be found the same note; and when such a proportion had been established in favour of a constitutional change in any free country in the world, it had ever been as it ought ever to be regarded as absolutely decisive of the issue
§ *(3.55.) MR. CORRIE GRANT (Warwickshire, Rugby)
I think that the mover of this Amendment has some reason to complain of the attitude of certain Members who have spoken in the debate. They have assumed that he had no real intention to ascertain the feeling of the House on this matter; that his Motion is merely academic, with no reality in it whatever. Anyone who has listened to the debate throughout, as I have done, will agree that we have had really a very instructive and vigorous discussion. For one thing, it has elicited from the First Lord of the Treasury, not an actual repudiation, but a practical withdrawal, of what he said in the speech he made at Blenheim on the 10th August last. On that occasion he said, referring to the Irish Members—We do not deny their power of annoyance. though I think we have diminished that, and I trust we shall diminish it yet more in the future." He was followed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who showed the meaning of the First Lord more clearly, and brought home the point more vigorously. The right hon. Gentleman referred to—The attacks by men who, by our liberality, come to as in numbers altogether disproportionate to the wealth, to the intelligence, and to the population which they represent.Then again he was followed by the hon. Member for Oldham, who said that—No one witnessing the behaviour of the Irish Nationalists could possibly fail to regard altogether in a new light the question of the reduction of the over-representation of Ireland, to bring it into conformity with that of England and of Scotland.1264 I think a weaker argument never was addressed to any assembly. Is the behaviour of certain representatives, or even of a whole class of representatives, in the House of Commons, perhaps on a single occasion, or even during a whole session, to justify the breach of one of the most solemn compacts ever entered into between two countries, and is it to throw an "entirely new light" on the question of the relations between Ireland and England?
I do not read this Amendment exactly as some hon. Members have read it. It condemns in general terms the present state of the electoral representation of this country, and that, I understand everyone condemns. It supports, secondly, the proposition that, at some time or other, representation ought to be given to the colonies. Of course I understand it to mean that that representation would be by agreement with the colonies, and would not be forced upon the colonies, but that if they wished for it they ought to have it. In that, again, I entirely concur with the hon. Member. I only want to say in closing that the hon. Member for Newcastle has made a vigorous appeal to the House to support this Amendment. I hope when the Question is put we shall find the hon. Member for Newcastle, and those who agree with him, going into the lobby with us who equally support it.
§ *(3.59.) Dr. AMBROSE (Mayo, W.)
said it seemed to him that it was rather a farce and a pity that an important resolution like this should have been put into the hands of a gentleman who was only 20 minutesa naturalised British subject before he entered this House. England had had the management of the affairs of Ireland for the last hundred years, and England caused the depopulation of Ireland, according to their own financial experts, their own witnesses, 15 of whom were paid servants of the Crown (e.g., see the Report of the Financial Relation Commission), it was admitted that the population of Ireland had diminished under English Government, and that pauperism and taxation had doubled. The only remedy for this, it seemed to him, was Home Rule. Lord Clare who moved heaven and earth 1265 to get the Union passed said that no country on the habitable globe made such strides as Ireland did during the eighteen years of Grattan's Parliament.
§ * Dr. AMBROSE
said that he was simply showing that the depopulation of Ireland was not the fault of the Irish Members, but of their rulers. The hon. Member for Newcastle said that if there were redistribution more Unionist Members would be returned in Ireland, and he quite agreed, especially if the scheme were hatched by hon. Members opposite.
§ MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR
said that in asking leave to withdraw the Amendment he wished to repel the allegation made against him that he had acted in any disloyal way to his Party.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member having already spoken is not entitled to reply to anything that has been said in the course of the debate.
§ (4 4.) MR. CAINE (Cornwall, Camborne)
Said he wished to protest as strongly as he could against the habit of hon. Members on the other side of the House, which was rapidly becoming a vice, of bringing Members down to the House to discuss deliberately and seriously important proposals which they had no intention of putting to the vote, and from which they scuttled. There were a good many Amendments remaining on the Paper which, however, had now no chance of coming forward, because they were blocked by Amendments moved by hon. Members opposite. He could assure hon. Members who were adopting that habit that they would always be forced to a division when they wished to withdraw.
§ MR. HARRY SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
said that on behalf of his Party—on behalf of the independent Members on his 1266 side of the House—he strongly resented the statement made by the hon. Member opposite. His hon. friendrose to impress on the Govornment the necessity of attending to the matter dealt with in the Amendment during the present Parliament. His hon. friend had got what he wanted. Hon. Members opposite who had some difficulty in knowing who their Leaders were, might not be content with the assurance his hon, friend had received, but they on his side were satisfied that the Government intended to deal with the growing evil complained of. Having got what he wanted his hon. friend wished to withdraw his Amendment, but if hon. Members desired a division his hon. friends were perfectly prepared to meet them whenever they liked.
§ (4.8.) MR. FLYNN
said he certainly thought it was a great scandal that what amounted to an obstruction of Parliamentary business should be indulged in by hon. Members on the other side of the House. They had been brought down to the House to listen to what had been described as an academic discussion in which the Leader of the House spoke for only a quarter of an hour and then strolled out. Hon. Members who had certain fads took up the time of Parliament in ventilating them, and that was a proceeding which was to be deprecated. If Amendments were placed on the paper they certainly ought to be pressed to a division. Either the hon. Member believed in his Amendment or he did not. The hon. Member said that he had obtained some kind of pledge from the First Lord of the Treasury, but he had got nothing of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman indulged in a few vague generalities, and then strolled out of the House. He trusted that hon. Members, if only as a protest against the growing obstruction which was being practised by the supporters of the Government, would insist on a division.
§ (4.10.) Question put.
§ The House divided. Ayes 23; Noes 302. (Division List No. 8.)1269
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Fenwick, Charles||Soares, Ernest J,|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Fuller, J. M. F.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Allen, C. P. (Glouc., Stroud)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Thomas, F. Freeman (Hastings)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Harmsworth, R. (Leicester)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Caine, William Sproston||Helme, Norval Watson||Whiteley, Geo. (York, W.R.)|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth||Tellers for the Ayes—Mr. Corrie Grant and Mr. D. B. Thomas|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Leigh, Sir Joseph|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Price, Robert John|
|Dunn, Sir William||Rea, Russell|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Crombie, John William||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Harris, Frederick Leverton|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Harwood, George|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Cullinan, J.||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hay, Hon. Claude George|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Dalziel, James Henry||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Heath, Arthur Howard (H'nl'y)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Delaney, William||Heath, James (Staffs., N. W.)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Denny, Colonel||Heaton, John Henniker|
|Atkinson, Right Hon. John||Dewar,T. R. (T 'r H'lets,S. Geo.)||Helder, Augustus|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Dickson, Charles Scott||Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Higginbottom, S. W.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Dillon, John||Hoare, Sir Samuel|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon||Horner, Frederick William|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Donelan, Captain A.||Horniman, Frederick John|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Doogan, P. C.||Hoult, Joseph|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Howard John (Kent, F'v'rsh'm)|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenh'm)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. SirMichl. Hicks||Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Hozier, Hon. James Hy. Cecil|
|Bell, Richard||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart||Hudson, George Bickersteth|
|Bignold, Arthur||Edwards, Frank||Jacoby, James Alfred|
|Blake, Edward||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton|
|Boland, John||Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Fardell, Sir T. George||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex)||Farrell, James Patrick||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn)||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Jordan, Jeremiah|
|Boyle, James||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man'r)||Joyce, Michael|
|Brassey, Albert||Ffrench, Peter||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.|
|Brigg, John||Field, William||Kennedy, Patrick James|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh)|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montagu||Finch, George H.||Kenyon, James (Lancs., Bury)|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Fisher, William Hayes||King, Sir Henry Seymour|
|Burns, John||Fitzgerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Knowles, Lees|
|Burt, Thomas||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Law, Andrew Bonar|
|Caldwell, James||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glsgw)||Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lawson, John Grant|
|Carew, James Laurence||Flower, Ernest||Layland-Barratt, Francis|
|Carlile, William Walter||Flynn, James Christopher||Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Forster, Henry William||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Foster, Sir M'ch'l (Lond. Univ.)||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Galloway, William Johnson||Levy, Maurice|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Garfit, William||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St.Albans)||Lloyd-George, David|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Gilhooly, James||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wrc'r)||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Logan, John William|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham)|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Gordon, Maj. Evans- (T'rH'mlts||Lough, Thomas|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Lowe, Francis William|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Green, Walford D (W'dn'b'ry)||Lloyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Greene, SirE. W. (B'ySEdm'nds)||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsm'th)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Lundon, W.|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Groves, James Grimble||Macartney, Rt. Hn. W. G Ellis'n|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Guthrie, Walter Murray||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Hambro, Charles Eric||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Crean, Eugene||Hammond, John||M'Calmont, Col. H. L. B. (Cambs|
|Cremer, Willfam Randal||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||M'Cann, James|
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Percy, Earl||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Str'nd)|
|M'Kenna, Reginald||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Stanley, Hn. Arth'r (Ormskirk)|
|M'Killop, James (Stirlingsh.)||Plummer, Walter R.||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfries.)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Pretyman, Ernest George||Stock, James Henry|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Purvis, Robert||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Milton, Viscount||Pym, C. Guy||Stroyan, John|
|Milvain, Thomas||Rankin, Sir James||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Mitchell, William||Ratcliff, R. F.||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Reddy, M.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Mooney, John J.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|More, Robt. Jasper (Shropsh.)||Reid, James (Greenock)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Morgan, DavidJ. (Walth'mst'w||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Remnant, James Farquharson||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Morrison, James Archibald||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptf'rd)||Rickett, J. Compton||Valentia, Viscount|
|Murnaghan, George||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge)||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Murphy, John||Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Gr'n)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Th'ms'n||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Tauntn|
|Myers, William Henry||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts.)|
|Nannetti, Joseph P.||Robinson, Brooke||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Nicol, Donald Ninian||Roche, John||Whiteley, H. (Asht'n und. Lyne|
|Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.)||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Nussey, Thomas Willans||Rothschild, Hn. Lionel Walter||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|O'Brien, Kendal (TipperaryMid||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|O'Dowd, John||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|O'Kelly, James(Roscommon,N.||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.|
|O'Mara, James||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Wylie, Alexander|
|O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Yoxall, James Henry|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|O'Shee, James John||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Simeon, Sir Barrington||Tellers for the NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Smith, H. C. (N'rth'mbTyneside|
|Paulton, James Mellor||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.)|
Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.