§ [SECOND RENDING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. SOAMES (Norfolk, S.)
said that everyone who had paid even a superficial attention to the present electoral system would agree that it was full of anomalies of the very gravest character. The | House had been informed that the Government proposed to deal with redistribution; but that was not one of the most serious or important of the anomalies of the system. Further, it could not be dealt with without meeting with great complexity, considerable disturbance throughout the country, a delay of two sessions, and very great expense. His aim was to accomplish a reform still more important, which could be carried out without any expense or disturbance and without any elaborate machinery.
§ MR. HERBERT ROBERTSON (Hackney, S.) moved a count.
§ House counted and Forty Members being found present,574
§ MR. SOAMES,
resuming, said that the principle of the Bill had not been discussed in Parliament for many years; and it was quite time that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of giving a decision on the subject. The object of the measure was to remove or largely modify the inequality in voting power which at present existed between different classes of the community. Probably not one artisan or labourer in the country possessed more than one vote; and, even if he did, he would not be able to cast more than one. On the other hand, there was probably not a wealthy man in the country who did not possess at least two votes—oftentimes many more. There was a gentleman in Oxford who used to boast that he had twenty seven votes. To his mind, that was not just or fair. It should be remembered that this additional voting power was not given to greater culture or intelligence. It was given to one form of wealth only. Even in the Universities many Bachelors of Arts who had passed with distinction might not find it convenient to put down £40, as in the case of Cambridge, I and he believed the amount was similar in Oxford. On the other hand, a man with more money and less brains, who had been pushed through a pass examination by experienced crammers, had only to write a cheque in order to become a voter at once. The system did not mean additional representation to superior culture; but merely additional voting power to wealth. Some people no doubt maintained that the possession of wealth should entitle the possessor to a larger share in political power than his less fortunate neighbours. Those who maintained that doctrine could not logically support the present system. Hon. Members opposite should introduce a sliding scale. For instance, a man with £25,000 should only have two votes, a man with £50,000 three votes, a man with £75,000 four votes, and so on up to the millionaire with forty votes or more. It was possible to conceive a case where a man with £25,000 might have twenty-five votes, whereas a millionaire would have only one.
The argument which would probably be adduced in favour of the present 575 system was what he might call "the stake in the country" argument—that the possessor of wealth had a greater stake in the country than the poor nun, and should, therefore, have more voting power. He entirely denied the premise. To his mind, the rich man had No greater stake in the country than the poor man. The test of a man's stake in the country was what he stood to lose by ill-considered legislation. It was impossible to conceive any legislation being passed which would ruin a man of wealth. He might be docked of one or two luxuries, such as not keeping up as large a racing stud as he had, or a certain number of motor-cars. In his opinion, the man who had most to lose by, for instance, a gamble in food was the poor man, whose very subsistence and that of his children might be endangered. Therefore, the working man should have an equal voting power to that possessed by the man of means. It might be contended that the wealthier classes were better educated; and, therefore, better able to form a judgment in political questions; but history showed that the political judgment of the masses was at least as sound as that of the classes. Every great reform had been suggested by the labouring classes, rather than by the wealthy classes. Therefore, there was no reason why one class should have a larger voting power than the other. Under the present system, it was possible that a representative might be returned who did not represent the views of the majority of the electorate in the constituency. In many constituencies the majority was very narrow. Taking an average in the county constituences in Great Britain with 10,000 votes or thereabouts, the property voters numbered 1,650, the majority of whom were non-resident.
§ SIR GEORGE BARTLEY
asked why the hon. Gentleman stated that a large 576 proportion of the voters were nonresident.
§ MR. SOAMES
said it was a matter of general knowledge. Even if only a third were non-resident, they could easily turn the scale in the case of a narrow majority. That was, in his opinion, indefensible.
The proposals he advanced were simple. It was not proposed to remove names from the register; that would be difficult, if not impossible. The Bill declared that it should be an offence to vote more than once at a general election, the penalty being seven years disfranchisement and a tine not exceeding £100. It was a very moderate measure. The Bill did not remove any legitimate influence which men of means and intelligence must and always would possess among the electors; it would only remove the artificial and illegitimate influence given to some person not necessarily the wisest. It contained no machinery for preventing plural voting, the result of which would be that if this Bill was passed a man would vote in more than one division at his own risk. No doubt the political agents on both sides would keep a sharp lookout for men Voting in more than one place, and he would therefore run A very great risk of detection. But if the Government thought that that was a defect in the Bill he would be very glad in Committee to accept a clause to provide machinery, and could himself frame such a clause which would have that object. His object to-day was to make the Bill as simple as possible, so as to get a discussion on the principle. He submitted that the Bill would, if passed, go far to do away with a great anomaly in our electoral system, and that it would do it without delay, disturbance, or expense. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
said the Bill itself was very simple, the proposal being to give effect to the cry of one man one vote. As he understood it, 577 that rather ancient Radical formula was based on the principle that every citizen had a natural or political right to a vote which was independent of property or residential qualification. This Bill, while it penalised the exercise of a plural vote resulting from a property or occupation qualification, did not disturb the two ancient franchises which were based on property and residential qualification. That was, he submitted, legislation of a very strange character which would tend to great anomalies. Take the case of a borough where a general election had recently been held, and where a by election took place, the constituency voting at the subsequent by-election would be entirely different to that which took part in the election of Members at the general election, because this Bill did not affect by-elections. Again, in the case of University representation, University constituencies might be good or bad, but they ought not to be altered, quite incidentally as it were, by a Bill of this kind. What would happen in the case of a general election? There could be no doubt that the great bulk of the non-resident electors would vote, in the constituencies in which they lived and not in the University constituencies, with the result that votes recorded in the University constituency would be almost wholly those of the resident electors. That might be a desirable change, but such a change ought not to be arrived at incidentally, and without proper consideration.
The hon. Gentleman argued as if there were two classes of electors in this country—the resident elector who spent his time in his constituency and the non-resident elector who had some spurious right to vote because he happened to hold property in the division, but who knew nothing about the division and merely came there to record his vote. But hon. Members knew perfectly well that there were many electors, not merely freeholders, but electors who had residences in more than one constituency. Let them take the case of a Yorkshire or Lancashire manufacturer who had his business, where he employed a large amount of labour, in one division and who was interested in all the good works of that division, but who had his home in 578 another division, where he again took great interest in the local life; or let them take the case of a barrister whose professional life was passed in London, in which he took great interest, but whose ancestral home was in the country, where he was also greatly interested in local affairs. Would it not be intolerable to say in those cases that those gentlemen should only exercise their franchise in one division. It would be most unjust; and to suppose that their exercise of their franchise in both places would in any sense cause a grievance to their neighbours was to suppose that which was not the fact. If they deprived a man of the right to give a vote in two places in which he had separate but real and substantial interests they would not only do him grave injustice, but they would also do an injustice to the divisions in which he had the plural interests. All the conditions and machinery of modern life had made that kind of dual life more easy and more useful than it was in other years, and therefore it might be said with regard to this, as with regard to many other ancient Radical shibboleths, that the repeaters of them were living in an ancient world and taking no account of the movement of the times.
To pass this Bill would be to inflict au individual wrong on many of the electors. What public good could be served? If he thought the continuance of plural voting was really detrimental to the interests of the poor, he should pause before he voted against this Bill. But nobody could suppose that it inflicted any damage on the claims of labour. He had no fear whatever that the interests of the working man could ever be prejudiced by a plural vote. Nor did he believe that in the long run the votes of such people as he had been alluding to were likely to be cast entirely on one side. He attached particular importance to plural voters as a class, because on the whole they give a certain amount of stability to our representative system. He did not believe that any great danger could came to the State from any violent wave of democratic feeling. Danger was more likely to spring from the keenness of Party feeling, and the power of the Party machinery. In 579 his judgment the continuance of a body of voters such as he had indicated was wholesome, because on the whole they were less liable to be swept away by waves of artificial Party feeling, and were more likely to give their votes according to fixed principles than mere temporary impulses of Party passion. He submitted that the Bill would inflict injustice on individual capable voters, that it would le inexpedient in the interests of the community that plural voting should be penalised, and that the method now proposed for effecting this result was illogical, capricious, and almost casual, and therefore he begged to move the Motion standing in his name.
MR. GRIFFITH BOSGAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
thought that, as this simple-looking Bill of eleven lines embodied nothing more or less than a radical alteration of the franchise, it was rather ridiculous that hon. Members should expect the House to pass it at that stage of the session, or to imagine that the matter could be dealt with in such a piecemeal fashion. He was surprised that hon. Members opposite should wish to tinker with the franchise at all, because twenty-one years ago they passed what they declared was a final measure dealing with the franchise. ["No."] Sir G. Trevelyan, speaking on the, Franchise Bill in 1885, said—It is neither a limiting nor a half-and-half measure. If it is passed I expect no man living will be troubled with the franchise again. It admits those who should be admitted, and it excludes all who should be excluded.It could not be said that that statement was made in inadvertence, because the I matter was fully discussed in the year 1884, when the then Prime Minister refused to include the question of one man one vote in the Act of that year. The question was soon raised again, however, doubtless because the Party opposite thought that when the franchise was lowered they were going to ride in prosperity on the votes of the electors and enjoy office almost continuously. But they had found out their mistake. In the twenty-one years that had elapsed they had been in office only three or four years. Having failed to secure the support of the electors under the scheme 580 of 1885, they now wished for another alteration of the system. But hon. Members who professed to desire a perfect system whereby the absolute voice of the democracy could be heard, merely picked out one little anomaly out of many anomalies, the redress of which they thought would be to the advantage of their Party, leaving all the other anomalies with their glaring absurdity. Why was this one point selected? Was it a great grievance than the fact that the country was so divided into constituencies that the true voice of the people could not be heard, or some of the grievances connected, with the registration laws, or the absurd system of making special provisions for illiterate Voters? Surely after thirty-five years of compulsory education it was high time to cease placing a premium on illiteracy.
What did this alleged grievance really consist of When the question was last discussed in Parliament it was shown that about 73,000 people could vote in more than one constituency at a general election. Would anyone pretend that so small a number made much difference either way? The question had been greatly exaggerated. A Return prepared in 1890 showed that the number of registered property owners was 586,000, but it was subsequently pointed out that owners who were also occupies were registered as owners and not as occupiers. In the great majority of cases owners held property only in one constituency, and although they were registered as owners they were not plural voters. Out of the 586,000 registered owners no less than 400,000 were resident occupiers, but not plural voters. It was proved conclusively that the grievance reduced itself to this—that some 73,000 people could vote in more than one constituency. Was that grievance at all comparable with the inequalities which followed from the want of redistribution. The principle which underlay the question of the franchise was that taxation and representation should go together. Mr. Disraeli emphatically laid down the principle that the franchise must be based on rating; in other words that anybody who contributed to local taxation in two places should be entitled to vote in both places. That right could 581 not be taken away without fundamentally altering the principle on which the franchise was based. There were very few people who were able to vote in a large number of places. He knew a man who might be described as a vote collector; just as other people collected pictures, or butterflies, this man collected votes in as many different parts of the country as he could, until he possessed about forty; but he was finally defeated by elections being held in Cornwall and Aberdeen on the same day. Why, on account of a few foolish people of that land, should there be taken away from able and successful men of business the right to vote in two places, in both of which they had large interests and contributed to the support of the country? Hon. Members opposite wished working men to have fair representation. That could not be secured without equal electoral districts. The idea of democracy might be very fine, but democracy tempered by a system which gave one; vote equally to places with 40,000 and 2,000 electors respectively was absurd and anomalous. [OPPOSITION cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered, but were they prepared to give London its fair representation as compared with Ireland?
§ MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
asked whether the hon. Member was in order in discussing the larger question of redistribution on this Bill.
said the subject was a very large one, but the questions of redistribution and one man one vote had always gone together in argument.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
reminded the hon. Member that the mover of the Bill distinctly went into the question of redistribution. London, although its population was greater, had sixty-two Members against Ireland's 103. Were hon. Members prepared to take from Ireland a sufficient number of representatives to make the respective representation equal?
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM (Glamor ganshire, Rhondda)
Is the hon. Member prepared to break the Act of Union?
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said it would be out of order to discuss the Act of Union, but it was distinctly broken by the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and if this House was free to break it then it was free to break it now to equalise the representation. For instance, Newry had 1,900 voters, and Dartford 19,000. Why should Newry have ten times the voting power of Dartford?
§ MR. HEMPHILL rose again to a point of order. In the absence of practically every Irish representative the hon. Member was proceeding to discuss on a Friday afternoon a most vital question which might involve a revolution in Ireland.
said that many revolutionary proposals had been made on Friday afternoons. He did not think the remarks of the hon. Member were irrelevant or that he was going farther than he was entitled to go. His arguments could be replied to. The two subjects had been generally treated together of late years.
MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWES
said that so far from wishing to bring about a revolution in Ireland in the absence of the Irish Members, he was trying to save them from hon. Members opposite, because if this Bill were carried it would follow, as a matter of logical necessity, that Irish representation must be reduced. Another instance showing the greater need for redistribution than the proposal of this Bill was afforded by Romford with 41,000 voters and Durham with 2,000, each having one representative. The real voice of the working classes was far more likely to be heard in this House if the working men of Romford were given an, equal voting power with the working men of Durham than by merely preventing 73,000 people who paid rates in more than one place from exercising the privilege they had always enjoyed of voting in each place in which they were registered. There was no need whatever for this 583 Bill. The whole question of the representation of the people must be dealt with, on a broad and comprehensive basis. The worst feature of the present Bill was that it deliberately picked out one anomaly, the removal of which hon. Members opposite thought would bring them Parliamentary advantage. He protested against such a piecemeal and partisan way of dealing with a great question, and had pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
To leave out the word 'now,'and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Whitmore.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)
said the promoters had not put forward this Bill as an indication of the whole of their view, but really as a compromise to enable the House to decide the great principle that all electors should be placed on an equal footing. The objections raised to the Bill resolved themselves into the old cry of "Property, property, property." Whenever hon. Members opposite were brought face to face with a question of this kind they referred to the necessity of property being represented. Liberals, on the other hand, believed in intelligence and individuals being represented. The poor man had a right to have an equal voice with the rich man in the affairs of the nation, and that was why they supported this Bill. The hon. Member for Tunbridge had referred to Sir George Trevelyan's statement that the Bill of 1885 was a final settlement. The Bill of 1885 was a Franchise Bill. It was not now proposed to alter the franchise; the present Bill was not a Franchise Bill.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE
said there was all the difference between a Franchise and a "Disfranchise" Bill. If a Franchise Bill proved to be unjust in a large number of cases, surely the House was not to be precluded by a statement made twenty years ago from remedying the injustice. The hon. Member had attributed motives 584 to them. He thought it was undesirable that such insinuations should be cast-across the floor of the House. Their motive in regard to this Bill was not one to gain a Party advantage. They desired to secure equal justice, for all classes in the country, and many of them were in favour of one vote one value just as hon. Gentlemen opposite were. They wanted a redistribution scheme dealing with the whole subject so that everyone should be made by the State as equal as possible. In the constituency of Tyneside, which he formerly represented, there were 18,OOO electors, and about 3,500 of them were resident in the city of Newcastle or the borough of Tynemouth. These 3,50O electors, because they happened to hold property in Newcastle or Tynemouth, having voted at election times in Newcastle, went into the? country districts and voted down the prevailing view there. Over and over again the question in Tyneside had been, whether the resident population in the division proper would be able to secure the return of the candidate of their choice. The present Member for Tyneside would be the first to acknowledge that he obtained his return to the House by securing a large proportion of the ownership vote in the city of Newcastle and borough of Tynemouth, although they had nothing to do with the Tyneside Division. It was a great hardship to the electors of the Tyneside constituency that they were deprived of the representative of their choice. In Newcastle also a large number of property owners happened to possess sites in Jesmond Cemetery, and that fact actually enabled, them to exercise a vote in the county division outside the city of Newcastle. He gave another case where a firm of brewers (which had not been, converted into a limited company)—he believed there were about eight in the firm-owned, a large number of tied houses, and they went all round the country and each exercised his vote in connection with the property qualifications for these public-houses, although they had residential and other qualifications in their private-capacity. The system which allowed an injustice of that kind was bad, and although they did not for a moment consider that this Bill dealt with all the-grievances, they thought this was a real 585 grievance and one which ought to be settled by Parliament.
§ MR. DUKE (Plymouth)
said he approached this Bill quite apart from any Party considerations. The hon. Member opposite no doubt had called attention to anomalies which it would be very desirable to remove. He stated that there were in this country a great number of spurious voters. Nobody doubted that statement and if this Bill were adopted it would abolish spurious voters, or at any rate prevent them from giving full effect to their spurious qualifications. At a general election the spurious voters' powers would be taken away: at a by-election the spurious voter would be in fall force. His vote would come into existence for that occasion only. But while the hon. Member had struck at an incidental defect in the present system, for the purpose of cutting out the defect he was ready to destroy one of the most vital elements of the system. Anybody who had considered the nature of the electoral qualifications of this country knew that from the time when the franchise began the property qualification had been recognised as an essential feature. They had at the earliest times the freehold vote in counties where property was the sole qualification, and in boroughs they had a franchise where occupation was the sole qualification. From the earliest times it did not seem to have been recognised as a proper restriction upon the property qualification that a man exercising it should be resident in the constituency in which he voted.
Hon. Members were no doubt familiar with the speech of Mr. Gladstone on the Franchise Bill of 1884. Mr. Gladstone considered this matter most closely on the matter of principle; with regard to the property qualification he accepted it as an essential and integral part of the constitutional system of the country, and in discussing the topic of the necessity of residence, Mr. Gladstone said it never bad been, as far as he could ascertain, a condition of the exercise of the property qualification that the voter should be resident, and he did not propose that that should be a condition of the exercise of that qualification. But the 586 hon. Member opposite took a more daring view of this subject than Mr. Gladstone, who at any rate recognised the nature of the constitutional system under which they lived, and the checks and counter checks which gave them something like security in Parliamentary representation. Although Mr. Gladstone was introducing a large democratic franchise, he was not ready to adopt the course, which the hon. Member had suggested, and he paid the tribute to the character of our representative system that it had embodied in it from the earliest times a recognition of the position that the possession of a certain amount of property gave the owner a right to vote for the Member representing the constituency in which the property was situated. That was not a modern opinion, and they had proved by the experience of centuries tint it was a principle in their representative system which had produced good effects. It no doubt had faults such as the hon. Member opposite had exposed, and such as any lover of a representative system would like to see removed; but in the effort to remove those blemishes the hon. Member and those who supported him were apparently ready to destroy one of the vital principles of the system. He hoped some other means would be found of removing the blemishes which existed. In the Bill of 1884 Mr. Gladstone cut away a good many abuses, and anyone who read the debates upon that measure would find that on both sides of the House there was a readiness to remove those abuses. It seemed to be, however, the deliberate intention of the proposer of this Bill to eliminate from the constitutional system the part which the ownership of property had played in it for centuries. And yet by the terms of the Bill the condemned voters were to exercise the franchise at by-elections. He thought this was an unsatisfactory method of dealing with a great question.
It had been said that at a general election there were people who would scour the country in their political enthusiasm to votes. The great difficulty he had experienced was that electors would not vote at all. The enthusiastic voter who was ready to vote twice if he 587 had the right had a refreshing degree of interest for him. There were many men with the dual qualification who, if deprived of a vote where they held property, would be greatly missed from the political life of that county. Many of them were among the foremost in public life. Why should any man who hold a conspicuous position, and who had particular qualifications for exercising political influence, be prohibited from using the franchise which came from property qualification? To forbid such men from voting would be to strike out from the influences of political life in the counties an influence which hon. Members opposite, or at least many of them, did not desire to see divorced from political life. Why was it proposed to be done? It was because some hon. Members seemed to think that the balance of politics was apt to be warped a little on one side or the other at a particular election. If they selected a jury of almost any twelve men, probably the same result would be got on a particular issue as from any other jury. He believed also that one body of voters, called to decide upon a given issue, were very likely to give the same result as another body of voters. He did not desire to defend the anomalies to which reference had been made. He wished they could be got rid of. But the people who owned freeholds were not immune from the influences which affected other classes of voters, and he did not think that either political Party had a proprietary interest in them. On one occasion there might be a majority one way, and on another occasion there might be a majority the other way. The hon. Member who had brought in the Bill arrived at a perfect representative system, but Mr. Gladstone said in discussing this very question in 1884 that those Members on his own side of the House who sought to induce the Government to invent a perfect system and embody such a system in a Bill were tempting them on the road to ruin.
§ MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W. R., Elland)
said it appeared to him that the arguments brought forward on the other side did not show that they had a very formidable case. None of the hon. Members who had yet spoken had dealt 588 in a directly hostile way with the principle advocated by the promoters of the Bill. The hon. Member for Tunbridge had chiefly criticised this Bill because it was piecemeal. Hon. Members on the Opposition side would be very glad to remember that opinion a few weeks hence, when the Government brought in their piecemeal Resolutions with regard to redistribution. The supporters of the Bill before the House did not think it covered the whole ground or that it would create the democratic system which they wished to see. The List Liberal Government showed its anxiety to deal with redistribution, and the bulk of the Opposition wished to have payment of Members. Ho thought also that most of them were probably willing to deal with the question of illiteracy. What they wished to assert that day was that plural voting was one of the worst anomalies, and that it was worth while to abolish a system which in many constituencies over-rode the views of the, local voters by absentee voters coming in who had nothing to do with the constituency. He was glad the hon. Member for Chelsea agreed with him in principle, at any rate, for he stated that those who had no interest in a constituency should not vote there.
It was very difficult to say how many such voters there were, for there were no exact figures obtainable. But in the county divisions of Middlesex there were between 3,000 and 6,000 voters in each of those divisions who never lived in those districts, and who never came near the districts. He instanced the cases of Hornsey, Harrow, and Ealing as districts where voters came down and swamped the resident voters. He, personally, had nothing to complain of in this matter, for in his constituency there were 1,300 voters from Halifax, and it was generally believed that a majority of them were his supporters. But these 1,300 men had nothing actively to do with his constituency, and almost all of them had votes in Halifax as well. It was impossible to say how many men had double votes, but the figure given by the hon. Member for Tunbridge seemed ridiculous. He did not think the hon. Member maintained that it was correct. It was ridiculous to say 589 that there were only 73,000 electors who had more than one vote.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said that on the last occasion when this question was debated a member of the Government stated that number categorically, and it was not denied then. Since then there had probably been an increase.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
replied that the figure appeared to be ridiculous. If the proportion of voters who came into other constituencies from the outside was about the same as in his own constituency, the total number in the country must be much greater than was stated. They ought to adopt the principle of of one man one vote. He did not believe in the doctrine of the dual life put forward by the hon. Member for Chelsea. It was a question between man and man, and not between wealth and wealth. On the Opposition side of the House they were not surprised that they had not ret got a complete democratic system, or that Mr. Gladstone would not adopt the principle which they were now advocating. It was due, however, to Mr. Gladstone that our democratic system had been created. Mr. Gladstone began in an aristocratic England, and he could not rush the country into a now democratic system. When the present franchise was established reasonable statesmen found that these reforms could not be carried at once. They found the property vote too much fortified by tradition to be abolished at once. They could not do everything at one blow, least of all in a country like this. He and his friends maintained, however, that, in order to arrive at the perfect democracy, which they had now a right to ask for, the only system upon which they could go in the long run was that one good citizen was as good as another. They all had grievances, whether ric or poor, and if extra votes were to be allowed at all—and they did not ask that—the poor should have the extra votes. This was only one of the steps in the direction in which they wished to go.
§ MR. BOND (Nottingham, E.)
said that a good deal had been said on both 590 sides of the House about the anomalies of the existing system. He denied that there was any anomaly at all. They must look at the matter from the point of view of constitutional theory and practice. The endeavour to secure absolute equality of value for every vote cast in this country must of necessity break down, unless they were to bring in some system of proportional representation. Although proportional representation had its advocates in the House, it had never yet succeeded in captivating the imagination of the country at large, nor had it ever been taken up by a responsible statesman. The little alterations in the law suggested by the other side did not go any appreciable distance towards bringing about a perfect system. It must be seen that in the system which had grown up in the course of our constitutional history, value had always been attached to places and districts rather than, to the establishment of an exact proportion between the number of voters in a given district and the representation to which those voters were entitled. While they might to some extent try and distribute representatives more or less in proportion to population, they still had to maintain as their most vital and most effective principle, the principle that a, given locality for one reason or the other had to be represented, even though the population of the place was very much less than Tie population of other places which had only a smaller number of representatives. The principle that a man should have one vote in London because his business was there and kept him there for a part of the year, and another vote in the country, where he resided during another part of the year, was entirely consistent with the present theory of our Constitution. As long as we had an anomalous Constitution—and our Constitution was an anomaly—he thought we should preserve the historic symmetry of that anomalous Constitution. If they began to pull out here and pull out there they might be quite sure that they would create anomalies worse than those they were endeavouring to abolish.
§ MR. RENWICK (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
said that the empty benches on each side of the House had shown that it was hardly 591 to be expected that the House should treat this Bill seriously. The Bill was introduced to alter our political Constitution. If the Opposition were serious in regard to this matter, the Bill ought to have been introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, with other responsible leaders on that side of the House as backers. But here, on a private Members' day, was a Bill presented and backed by a number of hon. Gentlemen whose Parliamentary record he had taken the trouble to look up. Of course, he recognised that every Member of the House had an equal right to bring in a Bill; yet they ought to have had on the back of this Bill the names of the leaders of the Opposition. Nine gentleman backed the Bill. Two of them came into the House in 1903, two in 1902, one in 1904, and the remainder of them a little earlier. Those hon. Gentlemen, with their limited experience, of the rules of the House and the Constitution of the country, instead of sitting, as they naturally ought to do, listening for two or three years to acquire a knowledge of Parliamentary procedure, were anxious to secure a perfect democracy. What was a perfect democracy? It was, according to the hon. Gentleman opposite, to give the poor man more power than the rich man.
§ MR. RENWICK
said that he did think that that was what they were led to expert from the remarks of the hon. Gentleman. He would point out to the House that they, on that side of the House, did not fear any lowering of the franchise. What had happened since the franchise was lowered? From 1832 to 1867—a period of thirty-five years—when the franchise was lowered in boroughs, the Liberals were in power for twenty-six years and the Tories only for nine years. It was almost hopeless during that period for a Tory to attempt to get into the House. Then in 1867, when the Ton Patty granted the household franchise in boroughs, a change came over the scene From 1867 to 1885—a period of eighteen years—the Liberals were in power for ten and a-half years, and the Tories for seven and a-half 592 years. In 1885, when the county franchise was lowered, the same tendency-was observed. From 1885 to 1905—a period of twenty years—the Liberals had been in power for only three and a-half years, while the Tories had been in office sixteen and a-half years. Therefore the Tory Party did not fear any further lowering of the franchise. They got their power in the great cities and boroughs of the country. This Bill did not affect the voting in these particular constituencies. Where did his friends opposite get their power? Not in such great cities as London, Birmingham, Liverpool, and New castle, where intelligent working men had done with the Radicals and invariably returned Unionists by very large majorities. Did hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to bring in this Bill to return a few more Radical Members from the county constituencies? They told the House that they were going to sweep the country. Why, then, seek more power-to do so? Even if hon. Gentlemen opposite thought they wore going to sweep the country at the next electron it would he necessary to have an Opposition, and therefore it would be well to keep the franchise as it was at the present time.
Was this a serious Bill? It was intended to prevent plural voting at Parliamentary elections, but it would do nothing of the sort. He would point out that the measure only proposed to prevent plural voting at general elections and did not apply to by-elections at all. The Bill was ill-considered and badly drafted, and he ventured to say that the House would not be so foolish as to pass it. At present there were great anomalies in our electoral system. In Newcastle, the great city he represented, there wore 36,000 voters, and yet for this huge commercial centre there were only two Members sent to Parliament, while Kilkenny in Ireland, with only 1,500 or 1,600 voters, returned a Member. That was one of the greatest anomalies possible, and yet they were told this Bill would remove anomalies.
This Bill simply tinkered with the constitution. The subject could not be dealt with by private Members, it must be dealt with as a whole 593 by the Government. Hon. Members opposite paid the Government had no mandate to pass certain measures. Certainly no mandate was given to Liberals at the last general election to pass such a measure as this. The foundation of this measure came from Newcastle, he believed. It was part of the Newcastle Programme in 1892. They all knew how lion. Members opposite had dropped that programme. Recently the Leader of the Opposition delivered a speech in Newcastle, and said how much he admired that programme, and how ho wished he could carry it—but how little of it had been carried out. The Leader of the Opposition did not, however, put forward that Newcastle Programme as the Liberal programme for the next general election, Hon. Members opposite wished to do something to keep alive that unfortunate programme against the wishes of the leaders of their Party, and they had their opportunity in this ill-adjusted measure. He wanted an emphatic answer as to why the Liberal Party did not deal with this question in 1895 when they had an opportunity. They were now saying that if they were returned to power they would do this thing and that—so many things indeed that to carry out half of them would require that the House should sit from January to December.
Hon. Members opposite had said that it was more important to give power to poor men than to rich men. It was well known how strong their feeling was against property. He would like to point out how many great undertakings in his own constituency, employing thousands of workmen, and paying many hundreds of pounds in rates and taxes, had no representation at Parliamentary and municipal elections. Owing to the circulation of newspapers and other causes of enlightenment, the artisans in the great cities we: e becoming Unionists. He ventured to say that without the campaign of calumny and misrepresentation which were carried on at by-elections, and at no place more so than in the Whitby Division—he had been at Whitby during the contest—
MR. DEPUTY - SPEAKER
Order, order! I think the hon. Member is getting rather far away from the subject.
§ MR. RENWICK
said that there was not the slightest necessity for the abolition of the qualification we had at present. If, however, this matter were brought in as a part of a great scheme and commended itself to Parliament as a whole, and not introduced by private Members without the support of a single responsible Opposition leader, they on the Government side of the House had no fear whatever of a farther reduction of the franchise.
§ MR. HERBERT ROBERTSON
said that his hon. friend who had previously spoken had quoted interesting figures to show that they as a Party were not afraid of the lowering or extension of the franchise. That was not the reason of their hostility to the Bill, He asked the House to take note of the fact that when the working classes of England obtained the franchise in anything like full numbers they gave their confidence entirely to the Party now in power. The Bill was introduced in a single speech; which, although in order, was unusual in the case of a Rill of such magnitude and importance. His objections wore directed to the whole principle of the Bill. the hon. Member for the Elland Division stated that many reforms were desirable, but that this was the most urgent. That proved that the hon. Member desired to fundamentally alter the principle on which elections were at present conducted. A freeholder in London might presumably hold property in Wimbledon or Hornsey, and why should he not exercise his influence there as well? That was the fundamental principle on which representation had been founded. Rightly or wrongly, representation was founded on the principle that ownership of land gave the right to a vole, and not by such a Bill as this could that principle be altered. That borough interests might not be swamped freehold votes were exercised in the counties, so that a dweller in a borough could have an immediate borough representative while having also a representative for the county in which his property was situated. It was manifest that the Bill did not secure the one man one vote principle, upon which much had been said, though in a certain sense it went in that direction. 595 What it really proposed was to disfranchise a certain number of people who hitherto had exercised voting power in certain districts. The fundamental principle that a freeholder should have a vote was one to be maintained, because it secured that local interest and influence should have representation. That was the reason why they objected to the measure. Of course, that a man who owned only a tomb in a district should thereby acquire a vote was a ridiculous anomaly.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said if such anomalies wore collected in a Bill for abolition there would be no objection to making the law consistent with common sense. That the poor men should have a voting interest with his richer neighbour be fully agreed, but lie denied that the poor man was jealous of the power other people exercised by reason of their local interests or their position in a University. Men who had more votes than one were not necessarily rich men. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill indicated that although every poor man might not have a vote, every rich man, although he might be a duffer who was pushed through a University examination, had a vote, and that was a travesty of the situation. The hon. Member also suggested a sliding scale; but that would introduce a number of complications. There was, however, one observation of the hon. Gentleman with which he thoroughly agreed. That was that while bad legislation might injure the rich man, it might mean ruin to the man who earned his bread from day to day. It was because he held that view strongly that he opposed this proposed legislation. The hon. Member also said that the system of plural voting might result in a division being represented by a man whose opinions were not in unison with those of the majority of the electors in the division, but that was, he submitted, an impossibility. A representative could not hold views differing from the majority of those who elected him. What the hon. Gentleman must have m ant was that the views held by the 596 representative were not generally those of the great body of the electorate, but the anxiety shown by hon. Gentlemen opposite to bring in all those voters did not show the likelihood of a constituency being overborne by the votes of the plural voters to be great. Although such a thing might occur, it must necessarily be so seldom that it need not be taken into consideration.
The right hon. Gentleman had shown by the framework of this Bill that it was a practical impossibility to register a man as being entitled to vote only in one constituency, and therefore he was confining his Bill to general elections only and leaving by-elections out. This Bill did not preclude a gentleman, who had voted in one district at a general election, from voting at a by-election in another constituency. The hon. Member apparently did not agree with his so doing, but he left that matter out of the Bill because he found it impossible to prevent his doing so. It might be suggested that any person entitled to a vote in two or more constituencies should elect in which constituency his vote should be recorded, but the principle involved in this "one man one vote" or "plural voting" as it was called, did not apply to our system of election. It did apply, and could easily lie made to apply, to manhood suffrage in a country where residential and property suffrage did not exist. But ours had never been a system of that kind. In this country men had a vote not because they were men, but because they had a particular interest in a particular locality. Under our system men were elected not in one but in two interests. One was a national and Imperial interest and the other a local interest, which, if not so important, was at all events of some importance. Most electors always considered that their representative should take as much interest in their local as in national and Imperial affairs, and generally elected a man who held those opinions which the majority of the inhabitants held. Why, then, should a man, merely because he lived in another place, be deprived of voting where he had an interest? Why should he himself be deprived of his right to vote in Ireland, where he had an interest, simply because 597 he also had an interest in England in which he might have to elect to vote if this Bill became law? There was no ground, and there could be no right, to interfere with a man's right to vote in two places. His right to vote in Ireland was of no particular importance to him and he seldom exercised it, but that was no reason why he should not have it. It appeared to him that the Bill was framed in such a way as merely to raise a debate on the principle and not for the purpose of becoming law. As he took exception to the principle laid down in the Bill that in no case whatever should a man who had interests in different places give more than one vote at a general election, he should support the Amendment.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire, Cleveland)
said the Bill had been condemned by hon. Members opposite on the ground that it was piecemeal legislation, that the anomaly involved was small, that the anomaly of the present distribution of seats was much greater and that the two questions ought not to be separated. That had always been the view of the Conservative Party. Whenever the Liberals had hitherto advocated the scheme of one man one vote they had been met by the cry of one vote one value. He wished to know whether that was the principle which Conservatives were proposing to adopt in their proposed Redistribution Bill, because so far the Government had given no indication that that was part of their plan. It appeared that whenever Liberals advocated "one man one vote" they were told that "one vote one value" was inseparable from it; but now that the Government proposed "one vote one value" the House was told the question of "one man one vote" was an entirely separate question and ought not to be considered at the same time. It had been said that these plural voters were only a small number of the electorate. The Member for Tunbridge estimated their number at 73,000, They did not accept that figure, but even if they were small in number they exercised an influence far in excess of their proper proportion. If he had had the command of 73,000 votes and could distribute them among the constituencies to influence 598 the majority he could win very nearly every election in the country. If it had not been for the plural voters he himself would have had a seat in this House many years before. Although it was asserted on the other side as a principle that wherever a man had an interest there he should have a vote, yet in the Local Government Act of 1888, which was passed by a Conservative Government, that principle was departed from and, for elections to the London County Council, plural voting was for-bidden and the principle of the present Bill was adopted. The method of carrying the principle into effect now proposed was also adopted in the Act of 1888.
The opponents of the Bill had to a large extent abandoned the old argument that property and education were entitled to special privileges, but they still argued that the man who had interests in different localities was entitled to special representation in respect of each of those interests. But if a man had interests in ten different counties let him vote for ten different county councils. The House of Commons was representative of national not local, interests. It was not a Federal Assembly representing separate boroughs and districts, each sovereign and each possessing different interests; it was the Parliament of a State one and indivisible. The opposition to the scheme seemed to be based on a sort of assumption that the House of Commons represented a group of constituencies with different views and different interests. That was not the case; it was the Parliament of one united nation, and it was only very rarely that specific local interests were brought forward in it. The average Englishmen, when he voted, voted first of all as an Englishman, not as a Londoner, say, or as a Devonian. It had been said that a man might lead a dual life—a somewhat ambiguous phrase—but he was but one person, after all, with one brain, one judgment, one patriotism, and he could scarcely vary that judgment at different places. As a matter of fact, he did not—he did not, as a sort of Dr. Jekyll, vote for the Liberals in London, and then, as Mr. Hyde, go down to Devonshire to vote for those on the opposite benches. It was the man, not the House, to whom the franchise 599 belonged; it was the nation, not the locality which it concerned. On these grounds he held the case for the Bill to be absolutely irrefutable.
§ SIR HENRY KIMBER (Wandsworth)
said that when he looked into the Bill and endeavoured to find a motive for it he could find none but the purely Party motive of abstracting votes from the opponents of the Party opposite. The Bill did not take away from property owners and others the qualification they possessed, bur merely said that if they were qualified to vote in two districts they should be deprived of the power of exercising the franchise in one of them. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had said that if it had not been for those votes he would have been in Parliament some years before he was successful in obtaining a seat. Many hon. Members had sneered at ownership of property. Owners of property were regarded as millionaires and treated with contempt, and were not to have am political rights under this Bill of expressing themselves in this House. But what was the principle on which the franchise ought to be given? In times gone by there was a maxim that taxation and representation should go together in order that those who bore the burden of taxation should have a voice in the expenditure for which the money was contributed. "A stake in the country" had been sneered at, but surely a man who had "a stake in the country" was entitled to be heard.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
Does the hon. Gentleman say that if one man pays ten times as much taxation as another he shall have ten times as many votes?
§ SIR HENRY KIMBER
said he did not say anything of the sort. All he said was that in respect of his property he should be heard, and that he could not be heard if he had not got a vote. Why should not a man who employed a large amount of labour in one constituency be allowed to have a voice in the affairs of that constituency where his property was situated? He happened to be freeholder of considerable property in Westminster and Middlesex for which he paid enormous rates but had no vote or 600 voice in their expenditure. Before they deprived owners of property of having a voice with respect to the taxation they had to bear, they must look at the other side of the question. He ventured to assert that every man who had an interest, no matter what that interest might be, in upholding the State and this House—anybody who contributed, to the burdens of the State—should have a vote in respect to that interest. At present we gave a vote to every man in this country who could show that he was a respectable man. In that sense we already had manhood suffrage. He did not begrudge that to any man. He dissented, however, from the view that one good citizen was as good as another—at any rate in the sense of his worth to the State. It could hardly be said that a gallant general who had rendered great services to his country was only of the same value to the State as the voter who thought so little of the franchise as not to care whether he exercised it or not or would sell it for a £5 note. In the relations of the private citizen to the State it could not be said that one man was as good as another. In regard to the second vote, his opinion was that if, in addition to filling his position as a respectable citizen, a man rendered special services or was of special value to the State it was worth the while of the State to get his voice in the councils of the nation, and to give him a vote for that purpose. It was on that principle the University vote had been given.
This Bill would destroy all second votes, but before any attempt was made to destroy that which had existed for so long, good reason must be shown, and it was necessary to prove that the second vote was wrong ab initio. The University vote had been given because it was considered that a man who bad passed through a University career was able to render to the State services superior to those of the ordinary citizen. The abolition of the second vote would have the effect practically of reducing the electorate of the City of London to the caretakers of ware-houses and offices. Was that the sense in which the nation would care to have its capital represented in Parliament? 601 The peculiar position of the Metropolis was that it was an aggregation of cities, and the effect of the present system was to enable the political voice of the City, as embodied in men famous and experienced in commercial and financial matters, to be centred in the representatives whom they elected, but to allow their election to rest simply with caretakers would be absurd. He did not mean to say that the principle had been applied all round as it ought to be. If the principle of the second vote was fair at all it ought to be reconsidered upon a wider basis. It might be that distinguished generals and so forth should be admitted to the councils of the State on some principle of special representation. It was admitted that owners ought to be heard in counties and boroughs in respect of local expenditure. Why, then, when things went wrong in the locality, and an appeal was made to this House by Bill, Provisional Order, or otherwise, should they not be entitled to a vote in the representation of the same locality in Parliament? Their claim, in his opinion, was irresistible. Reverting to the point as to one citizen being as good as another, was it not time that illiterates were removed from the electoral roll? For thirty-five years education had been open to the humblest in the land, and if people had not yet taken the trouble to make themselves literate they should be struck off the roll. It was monstrous that Members should get up and claim for an illiterate man who had neglected the opportunities of educating himself an equality of value to the State with Lord Roberts or any other distinguished general.
This Bill had been suggested as one to lower the franchise. It was not only that, but more. The iniquity it would perpetrate was that while admitting a right it destroyed the power of exercising it. A more monstrous thing could not be put into an Act of Parliament, and no sane man should consider it for a moment. It would introduce a new element of disparity in the representation of the people in this House, making existing disparities more involved and complicated than ever. He had never looked at this matter from a Party point of view; he did not know whether his schema of redistribution would tell in favour of his 602 own Party or otherwise. Party man would naturally consider how such proposals would affect their own prospects, but he submitted that it was the duty of anyone who promulgated such a scheme to look it the matter from the point of view of advantage to the State. Anomalies at present existed by the side of which the so-called anomaly which this Bill would remove sank into insignificance. The hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division had estimated the number of voters affected by the Bill as 73,000, and had rather minimised its effect by suggesting that there was nothing much in it after all. Personally, he thought there was much more in it than that, and he was not surer that the hon. Member for Elland was not nearer the mark in putting the number affected at something like 500,000. But even then the question sank into insignificance by the side of the glaring anomalies to which he might call attention. Under the present system there were in the House 120 Members who represented 2,162,000 out of the 7,000,000 electors, while fifty others represented altogether 186,000—millions of difference, and this Bill would introduce a new element of perplexity. In Romford there wore 44,000 electors against 1,500 in Kilkenny, a disparity of thirty to one. Supposing the freeholders of Romford did pour into another constituency as out-voters, could they be begrudged the right when there was the enormous balance of thirty to one to be set right? In his own constituency of Wandsworth there were 30,000 electors, and among them were many freeholders, and he would assume that these freeholders might obtain a Conservative majority in the county which would otherwise not be obtained. Was anybody prepared to resent that when it had only one Member to represent 30,000 electors against 1,500 in Kilkenny? The question dealt with in this Bill, compared with the magnitude of these differences, was a pettifogging matter, even supposing the principle was right, which he denied. Scotland had seventy-two Members to represent a larger population than Ireland, which was represented by 103 Members. Was not the rectification of such anomalies as these much nearer to the interests of the people than the matter they were discussing?
603 Reference had been made to the Act of Union. But the Act of Union did not give Ireland 103 Members. The Act of Union had frequently been broken in Irelard's favour. ["Question."] When this subject came to be discussed all these matters would have to be threshed out, and it was not the Unionist Party that need fear the logic of the case. This Parliament was undoubtedly supreme within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. Mr. Gladstone distinctly acknowledged—for it was on that principle that he founded the Home Rule Bill—that this Parliament had jurisdiction over the terms of the Act of Union.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
asked whether the hon. Member was in order in discussing on this Bill the validity of the Act of Union in Ireland.
thought the hon. Member was going somewhat wide of the question, but a passing reference to the Act of Union could not be prevented.
It was raised this morning in this way. The question of one vote one value was raised as a corollary to the single vote; thereupon it was pointed out that one vote one value required a general system of redistribution, and that would affect the distribution as between England and Ireland. However, it is not a matter which should be gone into at length, though a passing reference cannot be avoided.
§ SIR HENRY KIMBER (resuming)
said that possibly it was not known that 250 Members of the House represented one-half of the country, and that 370 Members, or more than a majority of the whole representation, represented only one-third of the electorate. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden bad said that the cry on the Unionist side was always "Property, property, property." It so happened, however, that the Bill was an attack on the rights of property, and 604 when property or anything else was attacked the threatened interests had a right to defend themselves. We gave the vote to hundreds of thousands of men who were supported by the funds of municipalities, and the question was becoming one of very grave importance. In the old Republic of Rome—
The hon. Member is now going into a matter which clearly has no bearing on this Bill.
§ SIR HENRY KIMBER
thought that at any rate he had said enough to show that the grievance with which the Bill proposed to deal, if it was a grievance, could not be dealt with apart from the larger question of redistribution, and that the Bill was a pure Party movement by one political Party started for the purpose of destroying votes which they knew belonged to the other political Party.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
thought that the observations of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken with regard to redistribution were not necessarily relevant to the Bill. It would be more satisfactory to the House to know whether the hon. Gentleman did not consider that some measure like this, which simplified the franchise by putting an end to plural voting, would be a necessary part of any measure of redistribution. They had been accustomed to hear that any measure for the abolition of plural voting should be accompanied by redistribution, but he thought they might claim on his side of the House, with equal potency, that any measure of redistribution should be accompanied by the abolition of plural voting. The Bill did not profess to deal with all the difficulties of the question; it was simply intended to lay down a general principle, and it was not meant to be discussed as though it could be carried out in its present form. It was a declaration of principle which could quite legitimately be brought before the House, and as such he intended to say only a few words upon it. Therefore it was worth while to consider what were the grounds on which the Bill was objected to.
Of three arguments advanced in favour of the present system that day, 605 one was that of the Member for Nottingham, who said the British Constitution was full of anomalies, that this was an anomaly: that the British Constitution was a good thing, and, therefore, this was a good thing. Apparently, according to his hon. friend, the more anomalies the better. He, on the other hand, would have thought that, if there were so many anomalies, such, for instance, as a Parliament lasting for seven years whatever the opinion of the people might be, this was a reason not for continuing anomalies but rather for reducing their number. The second reason given was that wherever a man had property he ought to have a vote. He could understand such a contention in regard to taxation or rating for local purposes by different authorities in the places for which he was rated. But Parliamentary taxation was for the whole country, and Parliamentary representation was not a representation of special interests. This argument he regarded as of no greater value than the other. The third argument, although not so frankly avowed that day as it would have been fifty years ago, was really at the bottom of the opposition to this Bill, and it was that property qua property ought to be represented.
§ SIR HENRY KIMBER
said not property qua property, but so far as it bore its portion of the burdens of the State.
§ MR. BRYCE
admitted that our system of taxation was far from putting burdens where they ought to be put, and agreed that the very rich ought to pay more, but that was not secured by the present system. The real ground alleged for maintaining plural voting was that it gave more votes to property, bat when it did that, it did it in the most irregular and uncertain way possible. In Belgium, where a plan of representation in proportion to property had been tried, the benefit was very small. In this country the plural voting enjoyed by property did not depend on the property but on the accident of the particular place where the property happened to be situated. It depended on no system, but merely on the question whether the man who resided in one place happened to have some property in another. He 606 remembered when he was at Oxford there was an old clergyman, a Fellow of his college, a strong partisan of the political Party to which he belonged, who had devoted the latter half of a long lie to acquiring a great number of voting qualifications in different places. He had twenty-three of them at that time. He would not have answered the description of the hon. Member for Wandsworth. He had not rendered any special service to the community. When the general election came he spent the whole period of the election in travelling up and down the country by railway with the object of giving these votes, and was often able to give eighteen or twenty of them. The system encouraged the creation of bogus qualifications.
§ MR. BRYCE
But the present system, so to speak, suggested it and advised it. In that way it was a perversion, distortion, and depravation of a true proper democratic system of representation. That was the long and short of the matter, and those who so believed were bound to vote against it. Reference had been made to a remark of Sir George Trevelyan's that he regarded the last Reform Bill as a final measure. But the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had placed in his hands the reference to what Mr. Gladstone had said at that time showing that, so far from its having been proposed as a measure which in its then shape was final, it was a measure the entire principle of which was its absolute simplicity, and was not burdened with other detail because it would then be more difficult to carry. In 1891 Mr. Gladstone committed himself at Newcastle and elsewhere to the principle of the abolition of plural voting, and he was Prime Minister in the Government of 1893–4, which repeatedly announced that this was part of the electoral reforms they desired to introduce.
They had heard from the Government that they intended this year introducing a measure dealing with redistribution. He saw the Secretary to the Local Government Board in his place, 607 and he was no doubt thoroughly familiar with the scheme of the Government which was now in preparation. He hoped when he replied to the debate that he would tell them what the view of the Government was in regard to the question of plural voting. In 1884 it was held that any measure dealing with the franchise must be accompanied by a measure of redistribution. They had always been told that they could not deal with plural voting until they dealt with redistribution. Therefore, if the Government dealt with redistribution they ought at the same time to deal with this grotesque anomaly of plural voting. He hoped that the Secretary to the Local Government Hoard would tell them what the view of the Government was in regard to this question of plural voting, and he might inform the House whether they intended dealing with this anomaly in any scheme which they intended bringing before the House. It would be interesting to know what was the view of the Government on the question of plural voting in relation to redistribution.
THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. GRANT LAWSON, Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk)
said that the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that there was necessarily any connection between the two questions. He had been invited to deal with the question of redistribution, but he did not think it would come within the bounds of order if he attempted to deal with that subject. He desired at the outset to explain his position in regard to this measure. The Local Government Board had no official connection with the franchise question, and hon. Members would realise at once that this was not a Departmental question which came under the duties carried out by the Local Government Board. The subject of the Bill was hardly one to be dealt with in a private Member's measure. Private Members dealt with many things, but they might leave the Constitution alone. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Tyrone was perfectly shocked at the large discussion which this Bill had opened out, and early in the debate he rose to declare that it was almost a revelation.
§ MR. HEMPHILL
said his objection was in regard to going into the question of redistribution upon this Bill. He thought that was not relevant or within the scope of the present discussion, but the Deputy-Speaker afterwards decided that it was.
MR. GRANT LAWSON
said he thought it would have been a great advantage if this Bill had been introduced from a more responsible quarter. If the Government had introduced this Bill no doubt the House would have objected to proceed with it until a Return had been issued showing whether there were many of these plural voters. According to a useful manual, "Buxton's Handbook of Political Questions," out of 6,000,000 voters in the United Kingdom only 190,000 had a plural vote. They were not the most undeserving section of the community, and there was nothing in their character to suggest that they should be deprived of their plural votes: and it could not be suggested that they were a danger to the State. Earlier in the debate it was suggested that the plural voters were not always the wisest amongst the electors. He did not say that they were, and he did not know that they always got the wisest amongst their fellow-men even in the House of Commons. He thought hon. Members would agree with him that the plural voters were not the most reckless of their constituents. The man who had a small shop in a town and got on well very often went to live outside the borough, and that man under this Bill would lose a vote. Another man living in a town might purchase some freehold property outside the town and he would also lose, a vote. Plural voters were certainly not the worst class of citizens, and nothing had been put forward in this debate to justify the House reducing their voting power. This class of voters certainly did not lack interest in political questions. Many town voters would not vote unless they were driven to the poll, but the plural voter often came a long distance to vote, and generally came at his own expense. Plural voting could not defeat a popular demand or prevent the working classes from getting what they wanted, even if all the out-voters 609 were united. The provision in the Bill would enable a man with a plural qualification to choose which he would exercise, would play into the hands of the managers of the electoral machines, and give victory to the Party whose forces were best organised. Then the Bill was to apply only at a general election. Every one knew that there was nothing so uncertain as the result of a by-election. Politicians had often been deceived by the results of by-elections, and under this Bill the uncertainty would be increased, because the constituencies would be very different at the general elections and the by-elections. If the Bill had been directed against the creation of fagot votes, or against any of the other manifest evils of the electoral system, he should have looked on it with more favour. But as it was he could not vote for the Bill.
§ He was not afraid of fagot voting; it was one of those industries which had practically died out, for the reason that there had been so enormous an increase of the electorate that it was not worth while to manufacture such votes. If the Bill had been directed against any of the manifest evils of the present franchise system he would have received it more kindly. This, however, was a measure simply to take away some of their voting power from those whom he had shown had no excessive voting power at the present time, and for that reason he asked the House to reject it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 120; Noes, 191. (Division List No. 193.)611
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Grant, Corrie||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Price, Robert John|
|Allen, Charles P.||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Priestley, Arthur|
|Asher, Alexander||Harcourt, Lewis||Rea, Russell|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Harwood, George||Reddy, M.|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Hayden, John Patrick||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Barlow, John Emmot||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Bell, Richard||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Boland, John||Higham, John Sharp||Roche, John|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Holland, Sir William Henry||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Horniman, Frederick John||Runciman, Walter|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.||Russell, T. W.|
|Burt, Thomas||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Caldwell, James||Jacoby, James Alfred||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Cameron, Robert||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Kilbride, Denis||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Lambert, George||Slack, John Bamford|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lamont, Norman||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Cremer, William Randal||Leng, Sir John||Stanhope, Hon. Philip James|
|Crombie, John William||Lewis, John Herbert||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Lloyd-George, David||Sullivan, Donal|
|Delany, William||Lundon, W.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Lyell, Charles Henry||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Dilke, Rt. Hn. Sir Charles||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wallace, Robert|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Elibank, Master of||Mooney, John J.||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Ellice, Capt E C (S. Andrw's Bghs||Moulton, John Fletcher||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Emmott, Alfred||Murphy, John||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Wills, Arthur Walters (N. Dorset|
|Eve, Harry Trelawney||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Woodhouse, Sir J T (Huddersf'd|
|Fenwick, Charles||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Findlay, Alexander (Lanark, N. E||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Herbert Gladstone and Mr.|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||O'Dowd, John||William M'Arthur|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Parrott, William|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Gorst Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Green Walford D. (Wednesbury||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt Hn. Hugh O.||Grenfell, William Henry||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Percy, Earl|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitzroy||Gunter, Sir Robert||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Guthrie, Walter Murray||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Hall, Edward Marshall||Purvis, Robert|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nderry||Randles, John S.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th)||Rankin, Sir James|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley||Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Heath, Sir James (Staffords N W||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds||Heaton, John Henniker||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Helder, Augustus||Renwick, George|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Ritchie, Rt Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor||Hoare, Sir Samuel||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Hoult, Joseph||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Bill, Charles||Houston, Robert Paterson||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Bingham, Lord||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Bond, Edward||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Hunt, Rowland||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton||Samuel, Sir Harry S (Limehouse|
|Brymer, William Ernest||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ.||Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh||Saunderson, Rt. Hn Col. Edw. J.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W||Sharps, William Edward T.|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Keswick, William||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hn J. A. (Worc.||Kimber, Sir Henry||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Chamberlayne, T. (S'thampton)||Knowles, Sir Lees||Smith, Rt. Hn J Parker (Lanarks|
|Chapman, Edward||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Spear, John Ward|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)|
|Coddington, Sir William||Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th||Stanley, Edward Jas (Somerset)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Lawson, Hn. H L. W. (Mile End)||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks. N. R||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants., Fareham||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lees, Sir Elliot (Birkenhead)||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Lowe, Francis William||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Joseph C.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Macdona, John Cumming||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E H (Sheffield|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||M'Calmont, Colonel James||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton|
|Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Faber, George Denison (York)||Majendie, James A. H.||Whiteley, H. (Ashton und Lyne|
|Fellowes, Rt Hn Ailwyn Edward||Manners, Lord Cecil||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J (Manc'r||Marks, Harry Hananel||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H. E. (Wigt'n||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Maxwell, W. J H (Dumfriesshire||Wilson-Todd, Sir W H. (Yorks.)|
|Finlay, Sir R B (Iriv'rn'ssB'ghs)||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Milvain, Thomas||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Fison, Frederick William||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Flower, Sir Ernest||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Forster, Henry William||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Gardner, Ernest||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Viscount Valentia.|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.612
§ Second Reading put off for six months.