§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
moved the Second Reading of the Voting Disqualification (Poor Law) Removal Bill. Everyone, he said, knew that the working classes attributed great value to the possession of a vote as had been shown at the late Parliamentary election; but if a man accepted poor law relief he lost his vote. The Bill before the House did not recommend any extreme measures. It seemed to him simply just and natural that the man who, being in distress through loss of health, or old age, got relief should not lose thereby his vote. The Bill was presented to the last Parliament and received support from all parts of the House. He 1110 hoped that it would not now receive any opposition from either side, and therefore he moved that it be read a second time.
§ Motion made and Question proposed—"That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he wished to ask whether the Bill applied to those over a certain age who received poor law relief or whether it applied to all cases. A Poor Law Commission was sitting at present on this question, and it appeared to him that it would hardly be fair to that Commission if this Bill were passed without full explanation. He himself had been quite unable to hear what the hon. Gentleman had said in explanation of the provisions of the Bill.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said that they had not heard from the hon. Member who brought this Bill forward any description of the different kinds of people who came on the poor law for relief. Undoubtedly from time to time a number of deserving people were obliged by necessity to seek relief from the poor law—men who had broken down through disease or who had been overtaken by old age. He could understand in cases of that kind that it would be unfair and unjust that these men should be deprived of their rights as citizens. But on the other hand, there were tramps, vagrants of all kinds, and objectionable characters who sought poor law relief, and fortunately the law at present deprived them of their right to the exercise of the franchise. He could understand that there would be an unanimous feeling in all parts of the House to grant a Second 1111 Reading to the Bill if it made a discrimination between these two classes who obtained poor law relief; but if there was no discrimination, and having regard to the fact that a Commission on the question was sitting, he thought it was inopportune to bring forward this Bill in such an incomplete and unsatisfactory condition. This was a subject which ought not to be dealt with by a private Member or in a piecemeal manner, and he trusted that the Bill would not be persevered with that night.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said it was a matter for extreme regret that the time was so limited in which they could discuss a measure, the substantial object of which the majority of the Members in the House were in favour of. It being now only a few minutes to twelve o'clock, it was impossible to give the Bill the consideration I which it deserved. There was much to be said for the argument of the hon. Member opposite who contended that such a measure should not be a private Member's Bill, but that it should be brought forward by the Government. It would have been better if they had had an opportunity of knowing to what classes of people this Bill would apply. For instance, in the memorandum attached to the Bill it was said that the Bill was intended to apply to workmen employed on relief works; but that class of person did not now labour under any disqualification. Under the Unemployed Workman's Act of last session a workman was entitled to exercise his vote in a proper and legitimate way. Again, a man in receipt of medical relief from the board of guardians did not in consequence thereof lose his vote either for a Parliamentary or municipal election.
And, it being Midnight, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday.
§ Adjourned at one minute after Twelve o'clock.