§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. W. PEARCE
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
The Bill has one merit, that at any rate it is a very short one, the point is not obscure, and therefore it will not need lengthy words of mine to explain it. The Bill itself contains only two Clauses. One is the definition Clause, and the important Clause follows the words of the Hours of Poll Act, 1885, which now regulates the time in Parliamentary and many municipal elections. In that Act the hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is difficult to discover the previous history of the hours of polling, because the various Acts of Parliament I have searched make no mention of the subject. It is extremely difficult to ascertain exactly how and when the hours were altered. There is no mention of the hours in the Ballot Act of 1872, the Representation of People Act, 1867, or the great Reform Act of 1832. I was talking to an hon. Member yesterday who told me that his father took part in an election at Ipswich in the 'thirties, and the poll was open for the best part of a week. In the 25th year of George III. an Act was passed limiting the duration of the poll to fifteen days. In those spacious times hours did not count. What was important in those days was that proper time should be given to the nomination, so that every party should have an opportunity of taking a show of hands, and if that did not settle the election a poll was taken on a large number of days. Even now, in these days, Parliament can easily control certain minor elections. Under the Local Government Board Act of 1894 they were required to institute Provisional Orders and by this means, as we all know, in London the election of guardians lasts until 10 o'clock at night. I was not aware, until I began to go into this subject a few weeks ago, that in other elections in London, besides the election of guardians, the poll is kept open until 8 o'clock or 9 o'clock at night. The election of the Finchley Urban District Council took place on the 7th of this month, and the poll, it was stated, was to be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. I thought, first of all, that it was a printer's error. I wrote to the clerk of the Finchley Urban District Council, and I received a letter 698 from him this morning, in which he says:—In reply to yours of the 14th instant, the poll was kept open until 9 p.m. in accordance with an Order which was made some years ago by the county council. The county council's authority to make such an Order of the Local Government Board, dated 1st January, 1899.Therefore, this urban district council recognised that it was for the general convenience and to meet the necessities of the district that the poll should be open until nine o'clock at night. I feel that this Bill does not cut across parties, because both sides of the House desire to give every facility for votes to be cast conveniently and comfortably; and the Absent Voters Bill has been introduced several times, in 1910 by the Member for North-East Lanark, and in 1911 by the Member for Elgin and Nairn. It was backed by Members on both sides of the House. It dealt not only with fishermen and sailors but with engine-drivers and commercial travellers. I think I can claim that this, in many respects, is not a party question. There have been certain investigations made in London, and, as a London Member, I feel particularly interested with regard to the hours of polling. Numbers were taken of the guardians elections in 1910, and the figures were published in the "Westminster Gazette" two or three weeks ago. In the particular districts where the poll was watched from hour to hour, between eight and nine o'clock in the evening was the most popular time of the day, and seven and eight o'clock was the next. Of the evening hours the last three were the most popular, and the striking fact came out in the figures that between eight and nine o'clock four times as many votes were cast as in the hours that obtained before six o'clock.
§ Mr. W. PEARCE
The district was not given, but it was an investigation by the London County Council and published in the "Westminster Gazette." I have the extract, which I will be pleased to give to the hon. Baronet. I did not know when I gave notice of the Bill that the London County Council had been making a complete investigation into the last London County Council elections. The figures for Chelsea are not available as, through a mistake, the numbers were not taken there, but there is a record of 412,277 votes, which shows clearly that the hours at night and early in the morning are the 699 hours that fit the convenience of the population of London. Of those 412,277 electors, 109,000, or 26.7 per cent., polled between seven and eight o'clock and 58,000 voted between six and seven o'clock; and the next most popular hour was from eight to nine o'clock in the morning. The hour that was least used was between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, when only 16,000 electors polled. This was true right through the whole of the county of London. The only constituences I have to make exceptions for are the City, the Strand, and South Kensington. In all the others, whether they were places where the men worked or in which they slept, the largest number of votes were cast late at night, and the next most popular time was early in the morning. In the last two hours over 50 per cent. of the total votes were cast in Bow and Bromley, Walworth, Woolwich, and North Camberwell, and in over fourteen constituencies 30 per cent. of the votes were polled in the last hour, and in Walworth, 36.4, Bow and Bromley, 35.5, North Camberwell, 35.3, Poplar, 34, West Newington, 33.6; Peckham, 33. Therefore, whether working or sleeping in the district, the last hour was the hour convenient for the people to cast their votes. Every Member who represents an industrial district must know as I do on this point, in London, particularly where you have a large population of carmen and lightermen, and clerks who go from the city to the suburbs, and men working overtime, of voters shut out of the polling stations. In my district in the East-End, I am told by an hon. Member that in 1900 in a polling station at East Ham that serves the Beckton gas works at eight o'clock nearly 500 men were struggling to get into the polling station. They forced the doors and some 150 of them got in and one poor unfortunate man lost his life in the fight. I do not pretend that that is usual and probably is an exaggerated case, but we have all of us seen many a time voters shut out from polling stations in the London district. If I introduced this Bill dealing with London alone—with which I am chiefly concerned—I should be told it was piecemeal legislation, and so I decided to ask for a Bill for the whole country, and I am glad to say that many country Members are as keen as I am in getting the Bill passed, and my hon. Friend the Member for the Middleton Division (Sir R. Adkins) is going to 700 second. I hope I have made my case, and I beg to Move.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I beg to second the Motion. I think all of us who have to spend a considerable portion of our time in dealing with public affairs which lend themselves to controversy will not be sorry for a few minutes this afternoon to deal with a matter of some public importance, which has nothing controversial about it. We are all agreed, I am sure, that it is desirable that as many persons who are on the register, either for Parliamentary or local purposes, should be able to vote with a minimum of trouble.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
The hon. Baronet is the best possible illustration of the unanimity of opinion against him. When he makes a point of that kind, if the hon. Baronet has any serious following in this House or in the country for the proposition that it is right to make the exercise of the franchise as difficult as possible—
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Then he should devote his undoubted talents to platform propaganda rather than to enlightening this House on the subject. I hope Members of the House may be all agreed, and in this I trust that I will have the unwonted support, of the hon. Baronet, and it ought not to be made more difficult for any class of the community than any other class to cast their votes. The object of this Bill is to make it as little difficult for those whose work takes them away early in the morning and brings them back late in the evening as it is for persons of more leisure or persons whose work is nearer to the place where they vote, and during hours which make it convenient for them to vote during the greater part of the day My hon. Friend the Member for Lime-house (Mr. W. Pearce) indicated very briefly the origins of this question, and I think those of us who look back to the time when the Ballot Act first became law have no ground whatever for blaming the statesmen of that time for making the hours from eight o'clock in the morning to eight o'clock at night. In all parts of England, at any rate, there has been a steady change in the habits and conditions of work. So lately as 1885 a very large proportion of the people worked in their own homes and therefore near to the places where they could go to the poll, or if they worked, as many many thousands did, in mills and factories, they yet lived 701 near the place where their work was done. Since 1885 the coming into common use of the bicycle and the enormous development of trams and other means of transit have brought it about that large and ever-growing masses of the population live at constantly increasing distances from the places where their work is done. That is a feature of modern life which has had the support of all kinds of persons in this House and elsewhere. I have never known the House to be more unanimous and more sympathetic than in the development of garden cities and in facilities of transport and in doing all that we can to enable people who have to work, not under the best conditions, being able to live in better hygienic conditions of living at a considerable distance from where they work. One of the consequences of that movement which has had the sanction and support of this House is that it is more difficult for people so situated to get back to the place in which they are registered and have to vote within the hours of polling now fixed by Act of Parliament. Although there is, as we hope, a steady shortening of the hours of labour, I do not think that it is sufficiently extensive or adequate to weaken the argument I am presenting to the House as to the need for this reform in consequence of that change of habit amongst great masses of the people.
My hon. Friend has given illustrations from London. May I give one or two other instances? I live in Northamptonshire, not many miles from the corner of Buckinghamshire. In the North of Buckinghamshire are the great carriage works of the London and North-Western Railway Company at Wolverton. Twenty-five years ago nine-tenths of the people employed there were living within half a mile of the works. You have now more and more of the operatives at these great works going out to live in the villages spreading in all directions in North Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. The result is that it is exceedingly difficult for hundreds of these people to give their votes at Parliamentary elections within the hours now legal. Incidentally, I am one of those who believe that the opinion of Wolverton has more than once been decisive at Parliamentary elections, sometimes on one side, and sometimes on the other. Therefore, whatever side people may take they would wish the opinion of these persons to be expressed without 702 undue inconvenience and in a way that was consistent with their doing a full day's work. Similarly in the villages throughout Northamptonshire and round about many towns with which I am acquainted, you have to-day what you never had twenty-five years ago, a very considerable proportion of the voters in the villages within 5 miles of large towns working in the towns, going and returning morning and evening on bicycles. I believe that the division between urban and rural ought not to be as sharp as it used to be, and that this mingling of town employment and country living is a good thing. But it is very difficult for these people to get back to the villages in which they are registered as voters before 8 o'clock in the evening, and it is still more difficult for them to vote in the morning before going to their work. In the South-East of Lancashire, a division of which I have the honour to present, you have to a very large extent this feature of people working at a considerable distance from where they live, and you have means of communication such as tramways developed even more than they are in the Metropolitan area. The same question arises there.
Therefore, I hope that the House may be of opinion that this is a measure of general application in all, or at any rate, in many parts of the country, that a moderate and judicious extension of the hours of polling, both at the beginning and at the end of the day, would be a real public convenience, and that there are not any valid objections to it of sufficient weight and significance to out-balance the advantages. The cost would be a mere trifle. The persons who preside at the polling booths, however short or long the hours, would find some of the time comparatively quiet. They are not engaged in strenuous and exhausting work the whole time. The proposal is fair to all classes and all shades of opinion, because, although it benefits to a greatest degree the most numerous class, the artisans, it benefits in scarcely less proportion commercial travellers and those whose undertakings, professional or commercial, make it difficult for them to reach the place where they are registered, except in the later hours of the evening. Moreover, it would avoid those controversies which are not too helpful as to the particular day of the week for which the poll should be fixed. You have some people very properly saying that you cannot have the poll on Saturday because of the shop- 703 keepers, and you have others saying that you cannot have it on Thursday because of its unfairness to working men who get their short day on Saturday. The point of these controversies, which are genuine, will be to a large extent taken away by an extension of the hours of polling. It appears to me that the only persons who will suffer are a number of can-dates for Parliamentary honours who have hitherto known their doom the same evening, but who, if the poll does not close for another hour, may have to undergo the agony of another wakeful night before they know their destiny. But they are not fit to be candidates for Parliament if they are not prepared to incur that sacrifice of peace and rest for the benefit of their fellow citizens generally. Accordingly, thanking the House for the courtesy with which they have listened to me on a subject which is not exhilarating in itself, I beg to second this Motion in the interests of that adequate government which we all desire, and because I believe that this reform will strengthen the position of those who are elected by their fellow citizens to positions of responsibility.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and to add at the end of the Question the words "upon this day six months." The hon. Member opposite has just informed us that this is not an exhilarating Debate.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I said that it was not an exhilarating subject. The Debate will be exhilarating now.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I thank the hon. Member for the compliment. I have often found that the fact that a subject is not exhilarating is a proof that it is very important, and I think that this particular Bill is not an exception to that rule. The hon. Member opposite thought that everyone would agree with him in the opinion that a greater number of the people on the register should go to the poll. With that I agree. The greater the number of people qualified and registered who exercise the franchise the better. He then said that it should be made as easy as possible for them to do this. That is where I disagree. I did not say that I wished it to be made difficult for them. That was a meaning which the hon. Member read into my words when it was not there, and I think that he withdrew it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
What I mean is that the franchise is a duty. A person who has a vote does not have it to play with or to enjoy; he has it in order that he may exercise the duty of citizenship, and he is bound to take trouble to exercise that duty. I have had some considerable experience in reference to this question. I have been twenty-one years a Member of this House; I think it is twenty-two years since I first became a candidate. I have been a Member for a working-class constituency, and I am Member for another kind of constituency now. Therefore I may fairly claim to have had experience of both kinds of constituency. I find to a certain extent in both—to a much less extent in the City of London—that the difficulty—certainly to a great extent in Peckham—is to get people to vote at all. In 1891 I made a personal canvass of Peckham and managed to call at 6,000 houses. It took me nine months. I had to go between six and eight o'clock in the evening, because that was the time the people were at home. Over and over again my experience was that the wife or the daughter of the house would meet me at the door—civilly enough—ask me who I was, and what I wanted, and on being told that I was the Conservative candidate, replied that the husband or father, as the case might be, "Doesn't bother about politics; what good did they ever do to him; we have many other things to trouble about." That is what we want to get rid of—the idea that the vote is a small thing to exercise it or not as a person likes, and that it is not a duty which a man should feel obliged to exercise even at some slight inconvenience to himself. Both the Proposer and the Seconder have stated that this is not a party question. I, of course, agree with that. It is not, and ought not to be, a party question. I have a faint suspicion—I hope it is not more—that possibly there may be in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite some idea that the extension of the hours of polling will act more favourably to them than to this side. Whether, however, that feeling exists or not, I think we may say that anything to do with the exercise of the franchise ought not to be a party question. I hope that hon. Members will remember that when we come to discuss the Plural Voting Bill.
If any alteration in the hours of voting is necessary, how ought it to be done? Ought it to be done by a private Member 705 on a Friday afternoon, with possibly about forty Members in the House, or ought it to be done by the Government of the day after due consideration of all the intricate problems which are mixed up with this question? My opinion is that it ought to be done by the Government of the day. This is much too serious a subject to be considered in a small House on a Friday afternoon, and I hope whoever replies for the Government will take up that attitude. This Bill, if it is read a second time—which I hope it will not be—will be sent to Grand Committee, where there may be thirty or forty Members present, and thus it will pass through Committee, after having been considered now by a very small number of Members—because even if later we have a larger attendance of Members—as I trust we shall have—no one will deny that the majority of Members who come in will not have listened to the arguments for or against this Bill. What good or harm is likely to result from this extension of hours? Both hon. Members who have spoken have referred to the guardians elections. The first gave some interesting figures of certain elections in London. He dealt only with London: this Bill applies to the whole of the country. I was interested in a guardians election in London the other day in a certain ward where there are, I think, 1,640 members of my own party. Of these 340 voted, whilst the number of Radicals voting was seventy or eighty. So that I do not think that figures of guardians elections in London are any criterion of what might or might not happen in a London Parliamentary election. We all know—and no one deplores it more than I do—that there is considerable apathy amongst all classes of the community in London in respect to voting, not only for guardians, but also to a very great extent for the London County Council. Therefore, I do not think that those particular examples from London are a very fair criticism as to what is taking place at the present time. The hon. Members went on to say that the most popular hour for voting was between 7 and 8 p.m., and that where the hours had been extended the most popular was from 8 to 9 p.m. Has it ever struck the hon. Member that if he extended the hour till 11 p.m. that between 10 and 11 would be the most popular hour? Has it ever struck him that nearly everyone puts off till the last moment what he has to do. It is one of the frailties of human nature that people do not like to do things at the 706 proper time. I remember as a child being told:—Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.That injunction of my mother or nurse impressed itself upon me, and I have endeavoured to act up to it. But I am afraid that everyone was not so well brought up, and that a great number of people do put off till the morrow that which they ought to do to-day. The same thing occurs in elections. I am not at all sure that sometimes I myself, especially in regard to guardian elections in London, have not been tempted to say, "Oh, bother the election. I wish it was somewhere else, but I suppose I had better vote before I go down to the House of Commons, or I may forget it!" I believe on one occasion I did put it off, and actually forgot it. That is what everybody will do. Therefore the arguments for extension as being a greater convenience for many people are wrong. That the last hour is always most prolific in votes is bad argument, because whatever the last hour it will be prolific in votes.
§ Mr. W. PEARCE
May I point out to the hon. Baronet that at the last guardians election the most popular hour was the last hour but one. Afterwards the voting decreased.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I have already said that you cannot take the election of guardians in London as any criterion, because there you have people voting not influenced by that sort of feeling which generally applies to a Parliamentary election. I think the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment said the sufferer apparently would be the candidate for whom he would have very little consideration. The candidate would have his agony prolonged for another day. I think that is quite correct. Where you have a large constituency, if the polling was not finished until 9 o'clock, and then that the ballot-boxes had to be collected and a large number of votes had to be counted, it would be impossible to announce the result of the election that night. I am afraid in the day, when my election was uncertain, I came within the category of those contemptible people who suffer a good deal of anxiety until they know whether they are at the top of the poll or not. The hon. Gentleman opposite has no sympathy with them.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am sorry if I misjudged the hon. Member, but I thought he said those were the only people who would suffer, and if you had a Parliamentary candidate who did not mind waiting a little he was not worth being a Parliamentary candidate at all. I am not concerned with the Parliamentary candidate. There are other people besides Parliamentary candidates to be considered. There are polling clerks. I do not know what view hon. Members on the Labour Benches take on this matter. They think eight hours is sufficient for anyone to work, or, better still, six hours, but a very simple calculation will show that clerks in the booths at election time are working for fourteen hours, which is a very considerable extension of eight hours. This Bill would put a very great extension upon the labours of those clerks. They have to keep their attention concentrated, and they have to answer all sorts of questions. When I was a candidate for Peckham it was partly my duty at election time to be continually going round the booths—the candidate has a right to go into the polling booth, and I have some experience of what goes on, and Peckham being a peculiarly intelligent constituency I presume that in other constituencies not quite so enlightened the same thing goes on to a greater degree. For instance, if a man says his name is "J. Smith," and there are any number of J. Smiths, as we know, it takes a very considerable time to impress upon him the necessity for giving his full Christian name. Then he may not know his number, and there is considerable loss of time in trying to arrive at his exact name. All that would be very much intensified under this Bill, and the polling clerks would have a very considerable addition made to their duties. In addition, there are people whose duty it is to be there in order to prevent personation. Everyone will agree that that should be prevented as far as possible, and if you are to keep people an hour or two longer than fourteen hours to see that others do not vote twice, I think it would be putting a very great strain on those people in the performance of what is already a very difficult duty.
There is another point. I am sorry the hon. Member (Mr. Leif Jones), and the hon. Member (Mr. Charles Roberts), are not in their places, because I am sure if they were I would have their support in what I am about to say. The longer you 708 keep the polling booths open in the Metropolitan and urban constituencies the larger the crowds you will have and the more incitement to drink and riot and to those turbulent scenes which sometimes will take place even in the best constituency. If these hon. Members were here they would agree with me that this is a matter which should be carefully considered. I think I have shown that there are considerable objections at any rate to this measure. One matter was mentioned by an hon. Member in support of this measure. He contended that a larger number of people would exercise the franchise if this Bill were carried. I do not think any strong argument was advanced in favour of this. There were certain arguments advanced by the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Bill. He pointed out that a very large number of people lived a considerable distance from their work, and, therefore, it took a longer time than usual for those people to reach the polling booths. That is not a new feature. It has been going on for the last thirty years. I know it has largely increased in recent years, but I never heard it said in a constituency like Peckham, where any number of people work a distance from where they live that there was any difficulty in those people polling in the present hours. The hon. Gentleman said there was considerable discussion as to whether or not Saturday was a good day to poll. There are some people who think that Saturday would disfranchise the small shopkeeping class, and that there was no very great increase in the votes of the working classes recorded on a Saturday. No doubt it does mean a decrease in the votes of the small shopkeepers, and I never could find that that was accompanied by any great increase in the vote of the working classes. As far as I know, the ordinary working man terminates his day at six o'clock, if not at five o'clock. I see an hon. Member opposite shakes his head, no doubt later on he will show if I am wrong, but I must persist in believing that for the vast majority of the working men work is over at six o'clock, if not at five o'clock.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I wonder what would be said of a railway company which discharged men because they refused to work overtime on the election day. I am sure hon. Members on both sides would oppose any Bill brought forward by that particular railway company when they came forward asking for additional powers. We all know the great powers trade unions have, and we know what an outcry there would be if such a thing was to happen. A large number of people at the present time will not take the trouble to exercise their vote, and they will not go at all on a wet day. When I was a candidate at Peckham we used to discuss whether we were likely to have a heavy poll, and we knew if it was a wet day we should not get a large number of people recording their votes. Anything that tends to encourage that feeling of slackness, and the idea that the exercising of the vote is not a duty which ought to be exercised, even at some small pecuniary inconvenience, is wrong, and that is a very strong reason why this Bill should be rejected. A working man can, if he chooses, go and vote with the greatest possible ease under the law as it is at the present moment. Possibly some of the clerk class may find it difficult to vote before eight o'clock after they get home at night if they live at some distance from their work, but they are able to vote in the morning before leaving their homes. There is no difficulty under the present hours if people will only take the trouble. I have now dealt with those classes who are supposed to be benefited by the extension of the hours of polling from eight to nine at night, and now I will deal with those who are supposed to be benefited by the earlier opening of the poll in the morning at seven o'clock instead of at eight. This is certainly not in the interests of the working man unless it is in the winter, because in the spring and the summer the opening of the poll at seven o'clock would not have much effect upon him. The clerk is able to vote after eight o'clock in the morning without much difficulty. Neither the Mover nor the Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading explained why the earlier hour was necessary. I suppose the real reason was that they had not any arguments which they thought were convincing.
§ Mr. W. PEARCE
I remarked that at the county council elections the earliest hour was the third best hour of the day.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
In the small villages far away from the towns they would have a far better opportunity of voting in the early morning.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY
The workmen's trains leave before eight o'clock, and consequently they cannot vote before they go to their work.
§ Sir P. BANBURY
Working men have two hours during which they can vote after they leave off work. I do not think you ought to take municipal elections as an illustration.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
There are hard cases in every Bill. I agree there may be something to be said for the shop assistants. As for railway carmen they leave off work, except when they are working overtime, long before eight o'clock. They could easily leave off earlier if necessary, and no company would object on polling day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] No railway company would ever get a Bill through this House if they prevented their men voting on polling day by keeping them at work up to eight o'clock. I am prepared to admit that there are one or two cases which are hard ones which might be met by this Bill. With regard to absent voters it has been stated that the Bills dealing with them received the general assent of both sides of the House, and to a certain extent that is quite true. There were, however, a large number of hon. Members against them who were very influential, and that was proved by the fact that those Bills never became law. Those Bills go directly against the principle that people should take a little trouble to exercise the vote when they have got it. I think I have proved that with the possible exception of shop assistants there is really no class whatever that would be benefited by this Bill. I do not believe that it would extend facilities for voting, but I do believe that it would put a very greatly increased burden upon polling booth clerks and the people who have to attend to the voting, that it 711 would increase the expenses of the candidate, that it would increase the possibility of drunkenness in the late hours of the evening, that it would increase the tendency to riot and create disturbances which do take place in the late hours of a polling day, and that it would, so far as I can see, do no good to anybody. This Bill, if it was to have been brought in at all, should have been brought in by the Government of the day. It is far too important a subject to be dealt with by a private Member, and far too important to be adequately discussed on a Friday afternoon.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I beg to second the Amendment.
The right hon. Gentlemen on the other side and those who support them appear at this juncture to be taking a most peculiar interest in the conduct of elections and matters appertaining thereto. Only a few days ago we were interested to hear from the President of the Board of Education (Mr. J. A. Pease) the new scheme—a scheme of a very minor character compared with that he laid before the House some months previously—for creating a new penal offence with regard to elections. Now, two hon. Members come before us with proposals for regulating the hours of polling at elections, and I understand, if time allows, we are to go on in the course of the afternoon with the consideration of another Bill to regulate the employment of motor cars for the purposes of conveying electors to the poll. These proposals appear to me to be signs of the times. Hon. Members opposite know that before long, whether they like it or not, they will be obliged to make their deferred appeal to the people, and consequently they are anxious to adjust matters in order that the answer to that appeal when it is made may, if possible, be given in their favour. I venture to think that their hope will not be realised.
This is a very interesting and a very important proposal. I have always given some attention to the question of the hours of polling, and I came down to the House this morning with more or less of an open mind on the subject, but, after listening to the very inconclusive speeches of the Mover and Seconder, I am bound to say that I have come to the conclusion that there are no just or real arguments which can be brought forward in favour of making this very far-reaching and important change. I was very disappointed with the trivial way in which the two 712 hon. Members introduced this important subject to the House. They seemed to regard it as a matter of very minor importance indeed. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill rather congratulated himself upon the fact that he was going to detain the House for a very short time. That is a very unsatisfactory way of approaching a question of such great importance. I could remind him that the Bill concerns millions of electors throughout the length and breadth of the country, and surely it is worthy of a little longer speech and some more conclusive arguments than those which he gave in the course of his otherwise interesting speech. This is one of those electoral reforms of which we have heard so much recently and which we are told have been so long desired by the democracy of the country, and to which the Liberal party attach so very great importance, perhaps because incidentally they hope it may be of some political advantage to them at the poll. I venture to think no suggestion of that kind should weigh with Members of this House.
We must approach these questions from a completely impartial point of view. I was surprised at the admission of the President of the Board of Education that his proposals were going to be for the advantage of one political party, and I was glad that neither the Mover nor Seconder of this Bill made any suggestion of that kind, though I have no doubt they have some idea of that sort at the back of their heads. There is, as the hon. Member who moved pointed out, a certain amount of obscurity in connection with this question. I was reading the other day with some interest the Ballot Act of 1872, and he is quite correct that there is no reference in that Act to the hours which the poll should be open. All these questions of electoral reform were very carefully gone into and considered in a somewhat different spirit in 1832, when important changes were made, after great deliberation and consideration, by the representatives of the people, but, so far as I know, nothing was settled with regard to the actual hours the poll should be open, even in that very important measure. Of course, we know that in earlier periods the poll was open for days; in fact, I think the hon. Member said it was sometimes open for a whole week, but there has been nothing definite laid down so far as the hours of polling are concerned. We may say that the hours at present in operation are 713 the result of immemorial custom. I am sorry the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) is not here, because he has written a very interesting booklet in connection with the Franchise and Registration Bill. It has lost some of its importance owing to the premature decease of that Bill, but, if he had been here, he would with his peculiar knowledge have been able to give us some more definite information than the Mover or Seconder were able to do with regard to the exact period the hours of polling were originally fixed.
The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. W. Pearce) gave us some interesting examples of the benefit which, in his opinion, the electors in various parts of London have derived in connection with the election of guardians, and I think he told us that the Finchley Urban District Council election had been conducted on somewhat similar lines to those which he proposed. But I would say this, Are we "the Mother of Parliaments," the fount and origin of these great Parliamentary institutions which have grown up in the British Dominions, and in all parts of the globe, to mould ourselves upon the Finchley Urban District Council? I could not say I was very much impressed by that argument, to which he appeared to attach so much weight. I am interested, as I have been always interested, to hear how those local bodies conduct their affairs and manage their elections, but I think we are on a somewhat different plane to that of the Finchley Urban District Council and that an argument which might well be applied to the conduct of affairs in connection with the election of members for that important body is not an argument which can really be used in order to influence Members of this House in coming to a decision with reference to the election of representatives of the people. It is being constantly urged by hon. Members on the other side that it is their one desire and object that "the will of the people" should prevail. So far as I am concerned I should like "the will of the people" to prevail, but "the will of the people," as expressed, as early in the day as possible. We are frequently told at election times that it is the duty of every elector to poll early. That is very sound advice from every point of view, and I think we should look with some suspicion or at any rate with hesitation upon any proposal which is going to extend to a later hour of the evening all the unhealthy and unwholesome excitement, which, if I 714 may say so, is often associated with a Parliamentary election. Every one of us has been through the perils and excitements of elections, and how often we have had experience of those who might have been enthusiastic supporters of ours early in the morning, but who, later in the day, influenced by the excitement and heat of the polling day, or possibly influenced by the results of other elections which were published in the course of the day, have seen reason to change their view as the evening grew on.
I think it is most unsatisfactory that there should be any extension of the polling hour until later in the evening. I think it is more satisfactory to have the vote which is given early in the morning. The electors have had an opportunity on the night before of attending the final meetings which are held by the leaders and representatives of their parties. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is finally told to them at the concluding meeting before the poll takes place. How very desirable it is that when they have been placed in that satisfactory situation they should record their votes early in the day and not late in the evening. Who knows what most undesirable influences may be brought to bear upon thorn. I can imagine a most enthusiastic supporter of the other side, who has all the qualifications of a Member of the Liberal party, who is, shall we say, a passive resister, a conscientious objector, who has married his deceased wife's sister, and none of whose children has ever been vaccinated, being influenced in the course of the day by election results which have been declared during the day, and who has wandered from the path of progress to the broad way which leads to Protection. I am inclined to think it is in the interests of all parties that the electors should be encouraged to register their votes as early as possible, and that there should be no inducements held out, such as are held out by the terms of this Bill, to the voters to postpone registering their votes until the last hour in the evening, when I think, in many cases a most undesirable result is obtained. I was very much surprised that the hon. Members who moved and seconded this Bill did not give any of the figures, which seemed to me to be very necessary and pertinent to their argument, with regard to the percentage of voters who actually registered their votes at the last election. I am inclined to think they did not use those figures because they 715 considered that they would be rather against than in favour of their case. I have not got the figures available at the moment, but my general impression is that a very large percentage indeed of the total number of electors in the constituencies did, as a matter of fact, register their votes at the last General Election. Consequently, I think that the hon. Members were right in not bringing forward that argument, because it is a very strong argument against the suggestion which they have made, that this far-reaching change is necessary.
Personally, my view with regard to this Bill is that in parts it is not so bad. I have no objection myself to the proposal that the poll should open at seven o'clock in the morning. I think there is a great deal in that, and so far as that is concerned I should be inclined to give the measure my support. Unfortunately, in their speeches hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Bill appeared to attach very little importance to that part of the proposal, and they pinned their faith to the extension of the polling hours to a later hour in the evening. That is the position which they take up, and that is the part of the Bill to which they attach most importance, and I cannot support them on that ground, and I shall be obliged to follow my hon. Friend, the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) into the Lobby. I am interested in the way in which the Bill is drafted and particularly with regard to this expression "any knight of the shire." I do not know why it has been found necessary in the Bill to describe a county Member as "a knight of the shire." I conclude that is a technical description.
§ Mr. SANDYS
It is very interesting that these old expressions should be kept up. I think I am a knight of the shire myself and therefore I may take some interest in the question. I am very glad that the hon. Member has retained this very interesting and honourable expression. One argument was used by the hon. Member who seconded the Bill who referred to 1885. I do not know why he selected that year for the purpose of making a comparison. He said that since that time there has been an increase of facilities in the matter of locomotion for enabling people to get about from one place to another. 716 He said very justly that the bicycle had come into general use since 1885, and he also told us about tramcars, and he might, if he had though fit to do so, have referred to the introduction of the motor omnibus, but so far from this being an argument in favour of the hon. Member's suggestion it leads to an argument the other way. If it is so extraordinarily easy and inexpensive for people to get about with great rapidity over a long distance from one part of a big city to another, surely that is an argument which shows how easy it is, if people will take the trouble, to get to the poll in time to register their votes. So far as that argument is concerned I thought the hon. Member was really taking a rather dangerous and unsubstantial ground when he advanced that as a suggestion for the necessity of altering the hours of polling. Then, as has been pointed out, it is for many reasons undesirable that in the case of the borough elections people should not have the opportunity on the same day on which the poll has taken place of knowing who has been elected as Member for that constituency.
It has always been the custom in these great boroughs for the people to have the opportunity of knowing at the earliest possible moment who is their honoured representative in this House. There is a great deal in the argument that it would encourage that disorder which, unfortunately, on so many occasions attends a Parliamentary election, if there were undue and unnecessary delay in announcing the result. In these big cities you would have people patrolling the streets until the early hours of the morning, in fact until the poll was actually declared. What would be the result to employment? Instead of one day being lost to the employers of labour in great industrial centres, two days would be lost, because they could not get the people to go back and engage in their regular work and ordinary avocations, while the decision as to who was elected as their Member was hanging over their heads. We should find the people taking an extra day's holiday in order to be present at the declaration of the poll, which in these circumstances, as now in the case of the county elections, would not be made until the following day at noon.
Then we should have to deal not only with the disorder at a General Election, which is usually more marked in these industrial centers—it is very unfortunate that it should be so—but also with the 717 sum, which would, in the aggregate, be a very large one indeed, involved in the loss of another day's work. I suppose hon. Members have gone into this question and calculated what the loss to the country would be, and have come to the conclusion that it would be a very large sum, and that is the reason why they did not allude to it when introducing the Bill. Taking all these matters into consideration, we must come to the conclusion that the hon. Members have not advanced arguments of sufficient weight to influence the House to change this custom, which is admitted might be described as immemorial. They gave us none of the figures to which we were entitled as to the number of persons who at the last General Election, for some reason or another, were unable to register their votes. The principal argument brought forward in favour of the proposal is that voting should be made easy. I am of opinion that that is by no means the right spirit in which we ought to approach this great constitutional question. It should not be the object of the electors of this country to see that their voting is carried out under the easiest, pleasantest, and most agreeable conditions possible. We ought to see that every man has a proper opportunity of voting if he cares to take the trouble to do so. The more we emphasise that to the electors the more we shall be able to impress them with the responsibility which attaches to a vote. If we say that our object is to make it as easy as possible, that they can drop in and register their vote whenever they think they would like to, if we put every possible facility in their way, we shall not impress the industrial classes of the country with the importance which attaches to the registration of their vote. We should approach this matter in a greatly different spirit; we should make it possible for every elector who wishes to do so to record his vote, and only in that way will the will of the people prevail. It is not necessary for us to make this far-reaching alteration in an immemorial custom of our Constitution unless it is supported by far stronger arguments than those brought forward by the Mover and Seconder of the Bill.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
The House would desire to congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down upon the very able speech he has made, considering that an hour and a half ago he had an entirely open mind upon the subject. Possibly it is the somewhat rapid closing of his mind 718 which has led him to put before the House some arguments which seem to be quite inconsistent. One was that to extend the hours of polling at night would cause a great deal more excitement at night, because people would be waiting later for the poll to be declared. His next argument was that the poll would not be declared the same night at all, but the next day, and that the same people would lose a day's work. Those arguments are conflicting. One is rather surprised at the hon. Baronet who proposed the rejection of the Bill. He often on a Friday afternoon takes the point that private Members ought not to be allowed to take so prominent a part in the legislation of the country as they desire to do, but whenever the Government of the day attempt to take a Friday afternoon for Government business private Members have no more able champion in the House than the hon. Baronet, who gets up and says that it is wrong in the interests of the country to deprive private Members of their opportunity, which he now says ought not to be exercised.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
What I said was that Bills dealing with the franchise should be dealt with by the Government of the day. I did not say all Bills.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
It is astonishing how the hon. Baronet combats the taking away of the Fridays and how important he thinks the Bills of private Members, yet on a Friday afternoon, when private Members do bring in Bills, how unsuitable nearly all of them are in the opinion of the hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
There is another argument the hon. Baronet is very fond of using, namely, that the present is never the opportune time for dealing with matters of this sort. That is rather curious coming from him, because he told us that in his early life he was very much impressed by the maxim that one should not put off till to-morrow what he can do to-day. Apparently, from his attitude in this House, that maxim is more observed in the breach than in the observance.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
But I suggest that we have here a very serious grievance, which affects many hundreds of thousands of electors of all parties, and that it can 719 be dealt with in an extremely simple way, and that we have no right to deprive these people of this opportunity of having that grievance removed because it ought to be done at some later stage by the Government. If it is a grievance, and if it can be removed in this way, it is our duty to do so, and I can assure the House from my own personal experience that throughout the East-End of London there are thousands of workers who are never at home between eight o'clock in the morning and eight o'clock at night. They cannot be seen between those hours. The hon. Baronet seemed to be impressed by the case of the shop assistants, but it is not only shops. Take the great warehouses, which employ ten or twenty times as many servants as the ordinary retail shop.
Attention called to fact that forty Members were not present: House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
As the law at present stands it is absolutely impossible—it is not a question of putting themselves to some amount of trouble—for many people to vote between the present hours, and the hon. Member who proposed the Bill gave figures showing the very large proportion of people who poll during the last hour. That is some evidence, but what is still stronger evidence is the number of people who are always found to be closed out and unable to get into the polling booth, and for every one of those who has made an attempt to get there at the last minute there are a large number who knew it was useless to make the attempt because they could not possibly get there in time. The Bill provides that the polling booth should be open an hour earlier in the morning. I wish hon. Members who are opposing this had been with me at the last election in the East-End and had seen the streams of thousands going along the main roads between half-past seven and eight o'clock in order to get to their work in the City. It seems to me quite ridiculous to suggest that these people are to be deprived of their opportunity of voting unless they lose a certain amount of their weekly income. That is a proposition which I think ought not to be put forward, and the only argument that impressed me at all against it was that the officials employed during the day, the presiding officer 720 and the polling clerks, would have another couple of hours added to their work. They do not work as presiding officer and polling clerks every day of the year. They are comparatively well paid for that particular day's work and I am not at all sure that the day's work, having added to it, as this Bill would, a couple of hours, would be any greater hardship than the present twelve hours, because it would certainly relieve the pressure, and everyone who knows anything about elections knows that the great time of pressure between six and eight creates a hardship upon the officials and the personation agents. It is at the time of the rush when personation wants most watching. It is when the people come in in crowds that personation is practised, and anything you can do which will spread the polling more equally during the day is of advantage. I suggest that the arguments showing that there is at present a grievance on the part of a very large number of people are overwhelming, and that the arguments which have been put against the proposition are the kind of arguments which we are accustomed to hear on a Friday afternoon, when either there may be some small objection to a Bill or when it may perhaps not be convenient that other matters should be discussed. It is very much too serious to treat in that way, and there is no reason at all why this grievance should not be removed by this Bill.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
As one who has a great many constituents to look after, I read the Bill with considerable interest when it was introduced, and I have listened to the speeches of its supporters. The introducer of the Bill spoke with almost affection of elections which lasted fifteen days. I think it is quite possible that there may be certain conditions in London which may render special legislation for London necessary, but a Bill of this sort affects the whole country, and I should like to state a few reasons why I think the extension of the hours of polling contains elements of hardship without any compensating benefits. It is admitted that there will be extra work thrown upon the polling clerks, the personating agents, the canvassers, and those engaged in transport, and I expect the Under-Secretary for the Home Department will say it will add considerably to the duties of the police. I notice on the back of the Bill that most of those who support it come from the Metropolitan area. They have a little window-dressing 721 with the name of a county Member from Scotland, who, however, does not appear to be in the House at present. The conditions in other parts of the country have to be considered in a case of this sort, and the fact that there is no Labour Member's name on the Bill and no Irish Member's name on it—and I do not think any sections of this House know as much about electioneering and take as great an interest in it as the Labour Members and the Irish—shows a certain weakness in the way the Bill has been put forward. It is claimed for it that it is a non-party measure. If so, why is there not a single Member on this side who has got his name on it? I am sure, if it had been put forward entirely in the interest of the electors in a non-party spirit, there are many open-minded men on this side of the House who would have been quite willing to support it. I think the attitude of the Labour party is quite reasonable. They are always asking an eight hours' day, and I quite believe they would have considerable doubts in their minds as to their action if they were now to vote for a fourteen hours' day for people engaged in elections.
The action of hon. Members opposite in this particular instance may be contrasted with their action in another matter. I notice that in this House they continually vote for the suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule and sitting up all night, but when that Motion is adopted they come to hon. Members on this side of the House asking "pairs," so that they may go home to bed. I do not think their action in this matter is logical, so far as London Members are concerned. They refuse to recognise that in huge, rambling constituencies, with a great many voters on whom the candidates wish to call, the work to be done by candidates at elections held in winter will be something tremendous. A candidate has to visit the polling booths every hour of the day. He may have to travel 200 miles. There are many county Members who at elections do travel that distance in order to whip up their followers. You choose to have elections in winter—the last two have been in winter—and if the hon. Member opposite, who represents a borough constituency, will put himself in the position of a candidate who is contesting a county constituency, and remember that he has to go through a snowy country in the worst of weather, that he is to be up an hour before the polling booths open, and that at eleven o'clock at night he may be 20 miles from 722 home, I think the hon. Member or anyone, whether Liberal or Conservative, will see that you are proposing by this Bill to put on the candidate a considerable additional strain. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has pointed out that it would mean more drinking, discomfort, and labour for everyone connected with an election. I think we have plenty of trouble already, and I would suggest to the House that in view of the enormous changes which are in the air at the present moment in regard to the Constitution, such as the questions of Adult Suffrage and Women Suffrage, we might more usefully employ our Friday afternoon than in dealing with the question of polling hours.
The whole Constitution at present may almost be said to be in the melting pot. I noticed the other day, in connection with the Franchise Bill which the Government withdrew last Session, the Liberal newspaper circulating in my district, and which is fairly reliable when it says disagreeable things, said that if that Bill had been passed with the Amendment as to Women Suffrage introduced, my own Constituency would have been increased from 25,000 to 70,000 electors. I suppose the hon. Member for Romford (Sir John Bethell) represents a constituency which would probably have been brought up to 150,000 electors. When you have great changes proposed, and also the redistribution scheme which must be brought forward, I submit that it would be of no use to pass a Bill of this sort, and put it on the Statute Book, as it is only a tentative measure. Speaking as a county Member, I would point out that this proposal, if carried, would interfere with people's business, because they would have practically in connection with an election two days instead of one. I think that under the present state of the law people should take a little more trouble to record their votes. The great political philosopher, John Stuart Mill, said that a vote is not a right. If it is a right, you could sell it, or do as you like with it. Mill said that it is a trust, and if, for insufficient reasons, people who have that trust committed to them do not vote, I believe the House would probably be well advised in its action, when there were repetitions of neglect, to record their vote, if it relieved those people of the responsibility of having one, for they are not fulfilling their position as good citizens of the country. It seems to me that the proposal now before the House is an effort to 723 minister to the slack people at the expense of the public spirited and energetic.
I maintain that there are very few men in the country who, during the twelve hours the polling booths are open, cannot record their votes. The very high percentage of the electorate voting at Parliamentary elections proves that. At the recent General Election there were often 80 or 90 per cent. of the votes recorded, although the elections took place on a dying register. You cannot so adjust the hours of polling on any one day so as to meet every single case. The case of shop assistants has been mentioned. I was rather interested to hear what was said by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London with respect to his late Constituency. Two or three years ago, when I returned from abroad and was considering the possibility of engaging in Parliamentary activities in this country, I saw an advertisement saying that those who believed in Conservative principles would be welcome at Peckham to assist the candidate. I went as a volunteer in order to see what elections were like nowadays as compared with what they were in earlier days when I used to take an interest in them. I was told to go and canvass a certain street. I met a man's wife and asked about her husband. She told me he was a tram conductor who worked at Hampstead. He arrived home at ten o'clock at night and had to leave for his work before six in the morning. You cannot adjust the hours of polling to meet a case of that sort. I represent a constituency in which there are a great many maritime voters—sailors and fishermen—who have sometimes to leave their homes at two or three o'clock in the morning because of the state of the tide. I would support a Bill for enabling voters so situated to record their votes, because the callings in which they are engaged effectually take them away from where they live during polling hours. I would support a scheme by which they would be enabled to vote in absence, but you cannot make a scheme to meet every exceptional case. The arguments used in support of extending the polling hours are, I think, quite insufficient, so far as county districts are concerned. There may be some local conditions in the London areas which render it possible to lengthen the hours, but I hope this House will not put the burden which this Bill would carry with it on the whole country, because I believe 724 the lengthening of the hours at elections would make a toil of a pleasure, if electioneering can be called a pleasure. It would add very much to the toil of election work, and would add nothing to the doubtful pleasure which any man fighting an election has to experience.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Gershom Stewart) tried to make a point against the Bill on the ground that no Member of the Labour party has his name associated with it. If it will be any comfort to the hon. Member, I would just like to say that no Member of the Labour party who is able to be here to-day will do other than go into the Lobby in support of the Bill if a Division is taken. The hon. Baronet who moved the rejection of the Bill suggested that our voting in favour of the extension of the hours of polling would be inconsistent with our advocacy of the shortening of the hours of work. If he had no stronger argument than that, we, who are supporting the Bill, need not be alarmed. He pointed out that at present the presiding officer, the polling clerks, and the other officials connected with an election have to be engaged twelve hours, and under the Bill he reminded us that they would be engaged fourteen hours. If our principles were put into operation and we had a general eight hours day they would work seven and not twelve, because the day would have to be divided between two sets of officials, and I think that the polling clerks and others concerned need not be apprehensive over such a position as that.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I am quite prepared to admit that reforms of all kinds do involve extra expense. The hon. Baronet used one or two other arguments against this Bill which were rather interesting. One was the fact that it has been introduced on a Friday. It is strange that he should have an objection to a reform of this character being introduced from this side of the House on a Friday, when only two weeks ago the whole of the Friday was taken up with a Bill which would involve one of the most far-reaching changes I have ever known attempted, either by a Government or a private Member. I refer to the Bill that attempted to introduce into this country national military service. Surely, if we compare the introduction of a Bill so important, so comprehensive, and 725 revolutionary, I might almost say, as was introduced from the other side two Fridays ago, with this Bill, this complaint falls to the ground. I am reminded that that Bill was introduced by the hon. Member (Mr. Sandys), who seconded the rejection of this Bill. The hon. Baronet also raised another point, which was referred to by two other speakers, as to the effect which the Bill is going to have on the conduct of the people at elections if you extend the polling day by one hour in the evening. Many Members on all sides of the House agree with me that the cure for disorder is order. If there is disorder at elections, if there is too much drinking, the cure is not to deprive a large number of voters of their legitimate opportunity to record their votes. The cure is to close the whole of the houses and to withdraw the facilities, not for voting, but for getting the electors into that condition that is calculated to lead to disorder. I rise on behalf of a few of my Friends on these benches to associate ourselves very fully with the principle of this measure. I have had probably as extensive an experience of elections in this country as most Members of this House. I do not speak now merely as a Member of Parliament, although in a very short time I have fought four elections in a county division, which I think is wider in its character than the constituency represented by the hon. Member who spoke last. My Constituency is something like thirty-six miles long by twenty-five broad. I have to drive to forty polling districts on the election day, and have had to do this four times during the nine years that I have been a Member of this House of Commons. But I have had to watch elections as one who was taking part in local life, having been a member of a county council and two borough councils, and before that I had a fairly lengthy experience as an election agent of elections and registration.
I know some of the difficulties associated with electioneering. Most of my electioneering experience was in the North of England. There, every now and again, I came up against the very difficulty that this Bill seeks to avoid. I found that in elections in districts like the Tyneside, where it is no uncommon thing for men to travel ten or twelve miles night and morning to and from their employment, that so far as the morning was concerned it was absolutely impossible for them to 726 record their votes, even if they wanted, as we commonly say, to lose a quarter. They could not record their vote in the morning because their day's work began at eight o'clock and they could not start after eight o'clock. Therefore they were prohibited entirely at that end of the day. In the evening the case was not so bad with the workmen who terminated their day's work, as a very large number of them do, at five o'clock. Even if they had the 10 or 12 miles to travel, though they would not have much time to spare, it was possible in many cases for them to get their workmen's train and to get, say, from one end of the Tyne up to Newcastle or Gateshead, or some similar place, and probably by making a bit of a push, get their cup of tea and get off to record their vote. But even in those districts when the man finishes his work at six o'clock, as he does in many instances, it is almost impossible for him to get his vote recorded if he has got 10 or 12 miles to travel. But my experience of the North of England is nothing to a couple of experiences I had of elections in London. I remember some years ago taking part in an election in the Walthamstow Division. In that election I found that this evil prevailed to a greater extent, I think, than in any of the other elections that I had taken part in. Any Member of this House wanting to satisfy himself that this is a real grievance has only to go into such places as Walthamstow, Romford, Croydon, or Wimbledon, and there he will find that there are thousands of men who, if the election is held on any other day but Saturday, are denied the opportunity of recording their vote.
If you go to places like Bow, Leytonstone and other districts of that character, you will find between 6 a.m. and 7.30 a.m. in the morning, not merely thousands but tens of thousands of people who are compelled to be in London to begin their day's work at a given hour. In many cases they work until 6 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. Even the hon. Baronet when the fact was called to his attention had to admit that there was a grievance so far as shop assistants are concerned; but shop assistants are only a small part of the community affected by this difficulty. There is a great army of warehousemen, engaged under warehousing firms, who work within the boundary of London, and a very small percentage of whom live within miles of their employment. Remembering that they have to 727 begin work at eight o'clock or half-past in the morning, or even nine o'clock, and have to travel a considerable distance in order to get into London, and remembering that they have to work in many cases until seven o'clock in the evening and have to travel home, it may be, 10 or 15 miles, I submit that the cases of that kind are so numerous as really to constitute a very great grievance, which can only be remedied by some such measure as that which has been introduced to the House to-day. I would have liked if those who moved, seconded, and supported the rejection of the Bill had really faced the difficulty. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the rejection of the measure did go with us half way, for he admitted that there might be something to be said for beginning the polling at an earlier hour in the morning.
It is a marvellous thing, seeing that he was prepared to accept that position, which could have been dealt with by an Amendment in Committee to begin the polling at seven o'clock instead of eight o'clock in the morning that he should be found seconding the rejection of the entire Bill. No attempt has been made to meet this real and legitimate grievance felt by tens of thousands of work people. And may I say that this question does not merely affect borough constituencies? I can give instances in my own county Constituency where it would have been a great advantage if the electors in certain boroughs could have gone to the poll an hour later. Take the men who have to go to the poll in harvest time. My first election took place at harvest time, and I have heard it stated—though I am not quite sure about it—that if all the voters could have got away from the fields on that occasion I would never have been Member for the constituency which I now represent. It is said that if they could have all got away from their work in the fields on that occasion, then, for the first time in the history of the constituency, it would have been represented by an hon. Member sitting with Members on the other side of the House. At harvest time it is almost an impossibility to get some of the labourers and also some of the farmers to the poll. Hon. Members know as well as I do that the farmer is so keen at harvest time that it is almost an impossibility, in many instances, to drag him away from the harvest to go two or three miles, as 728 the case may be, to record his vote. I make a special appeal to hon. Members opposite.
Have we not heard repeatedly from hon. Members on the benches opposite, not only last Session, but during the present Session, that one of the things they are extremely anxious to have is an appeal to the people. Is this one way of showing your willingness to appeal to the people, by objecting to make it possible for them to record their votes at the poll by giving them a couple of hours longer in which to do it? I cannot see myself that that is the right way to appeal to the people. I should have thought that the right way to appeal to the people was to give every reasonable and every legitimate facility in order that the elector might exercise that sacred trust which we have heard about from the other side to-day. My impression is that—in London especially—the small percentage of the electors got to the poll, not only in Parliamentary but in local elections, is due to the fact that we have almost destroyed any desire to exercise this sacred trust by denying to so many the reasonable facilities which they ought to enjoy. I hope, therefore, that this Bill will get a Second Reading, and, if it requires amendment, hon. Members can get it sent to the Standing Committee and do their best to amend it and put in any safeguard that may be necessary. This is a matter in which the working classes are much more interested than is imagined, for many of them realise and begin to feel that, whilst you are making it easy for others to vote, you are denying to them the opportunity to vote—a course which will bring very strong disapproval upon the party which denies reasonable facilities to exercise the franchise.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I have a longer experience of Parliamentary elections than the hon. Member has had, because I have gone through seven elections in a county where there is a group of boroughs, and I can honestly say that I have not had put before me any objection to the existing hours of polling except as to the morning hour. I have heard it said by certain people in my Constituency that it would be more convenient for them if the poll were opened a little earlier in the morning, say half-past seven o'clock, in order to enable them to record their votes before catching their early train for business. With that exception—which enables me to say quite frankly that there is something to be said 729 for the measure in that respect—I agree with my hon. Friends who, disagreeing with the hon. Gentleman, say ample opportunity is given for most people to record their votes during the present hours of polling. Previous experience of changing the hours of polling goes to show that however late you may make the hour for closing the poll, you will always find a large number of people whom it is extremely difficult to bring along to record their votes. We all know the congestion which takes place at elections when the poll is about to close at eight o'clock, and I do not think you will get over that difficulty by extending the time to nine o'clock.
I do not think that you will increase the facilities for voting, or make it any easier for organising secretaries to get their men to the poll than at the present moment. We have seen that the party opposite are particularly anxious to change the jury, and now they want by one method and another to change the system also. I object to that on the ground that all these questions of franchise, voting and so on, ought to be dealt with by a responsible Government in a comprehensive way. There are any number of objections to the existing system and anomalies that want to be dealt with, but that should be done by a responsible Government, not in piecemeal fashion, but in a general measure, in which we could thrash out the whole thing. I notice that in the Act of 1885, that of 48 Victoria, which extended the hours from eight o'clock to eight o'clock, Section 3 repealed the Acts of 1878 and 1884, which formerly ruled this point of the hours. It occurs to me to ask whether it is not rather a curious thing that this Bill does not contain any Section repealing the Act of 1885, and if it was necessary in that Act of 1885 to repeal the Acts of 1878 and 1884, then surely it is necessary specifically to repeal the Act of 1885, because, in fact, this Bill proposes to do so. Whether there is anything in that point or not, it strikes me as one which requires some explanation from some hon. Member who has put his name on the back of this Bill.
I am bound to say that there may be a very good case, though I do not know anything about it, to be made out for dealing in some different way from the general rule with a place like London. What the hon. Member for Tower Hamlets and the hon. Member for Barnard Castle have said on this particular point may be perfectly true, but to apply this proposal generally to country elections, whether municipal or 730 Parliamentary, and to keep a miserable sheriff sitting in a polling booth under the circumstances under which he has got to exist, with perhaps one or two voters coming in every hour and none appearing at all after six o'clock, seems to me a most ludicrous proposal, and one which would inflict unnecessary hardship, and would, I think, necessarily involve the appointment of two sheriffs to halve the clay's work. It would also put a tremendous burden on the candidates, election agents, and everybody concerned. I agree with what my hon. Friends here said, that it is not desirable to make voting too easy. There is great apathy sometimes even at Parliamentary elections, and I do not think people regard their votes as highly as they used to do. All kinds of inducements have to be offered to them to vote, and you have to have motor cars and traps to get them to the poll on both sides. Although personally I should not be a bit sorry to see the whole thing done away with, at the same time we do know that those inducements are offered. I have known a case of a man saying that he would not go to the poll in a carriage and pair, and not unless there was a motor sent. That is the fashionable conveyance, and they want to be in the fashion. I think all that sort of thing is unfortunate, and I think the longer you make the hours the greater the facilities you give in that way and the less likely are people to avail of the privilege of voting, and to use it in a well thought out manner. If, as the hon. Member for Barnard Castle said, there are difficulties in some places, then I agree there may be exceptional legislation necessary for those particular places, and there might be some limits within which the hours might be arranged, but to do what is now proposed and make it general that every polling station in the country, whether Parliamentary or municipal, is to have these hours applied, is to my mind going very much too far, and I shall be obliged to vote against the proposal, although, if I were on the Committee considering the matter, I should be perfectly pleased to make some extension in the morning. I think there are very few who cannot vote before eight o'clock in the evening if they take the trouble.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY
The hon. Baronet who has just spoken is so fair-minded a Parliamentarian that I think he himself will admit when he comes to examine his speech that all the arguments 731 he has used are arguments which can be met on the Committee stage of the Bill. His first point was that the Bill did not apply to his own personal experiences in several Parliamentary elections. If he can prove that to the satisfaction of the Committee, I submit that would be met by inserting a Clause that the Bill shall not apply to Scotland. I doubt whether the workmen of Glasgow would thank him for that.
Mr. E. HARVEY
If the point about the repeal of the Act of 1885 is a good point, then it can be met by a new Clause in Committee, and all the points he raised can be met in a similar way. I think it is very noteworthy that, with his usual fairness, he admitted there was a strong case for the alteration of the morning hour of polling, and I think every hon. Member opposite who spoke, except the hon. Baronet who moved the rejection, has admitted the need for having an earlier polling hour in the morning. If we look at the position of other speakers who have opposed this Bill, I think we shall find that they can be met as fairly as the hon. Baronet. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) was taking a characteristic part in moving the rejection. He has told the House more than once that he does not approve of any private Member's legislation, and, indeed, that he would welcome the cessation of all kinds of legislation for some years. Taking that view, we cannot be surprised that he should move the rejection of this or any other Bill, but when one gets from his general attitude to the actual arguments he used, I think the House will feel that he did not show himself familiar, in spite of his prolonged canvassing in Peckham, with the actual daily needs of the poorer Londoner. Anyone who has lived in a poor part of London, as I have done for years, and who has taken part in canvassing, not merely for Parliamentary but for county council elections—and this Bill applies to them also—knows of exceptionally hard cases, particularly of carmen, who work very often for more than twelve hours per day, and who in the districts of London especially concerned in the carrying trade are prevented from using, not only their Parliamentary vote but county council vote, because of the late 732 hour at which they return from work. This Bill would practically enfranchise a large number of citizens who at present have only a paper franchise, and I think that every fair-minded Member opposite would feel that, quite apart from any political considerations, such a proposal is just and right. Reference was made to the hard case of the over-worked polling clerk. That is at once met by a consideration of the fact that already at guardians' elections he has to work just the same number of hours. The poll is open not from seven in the morning till nine at night, but from eight in the morning till ten at night. If for the election which we must admit, taking it all round, is the least important, we allow the polling hours to be so long, surely we ought to allow an equal number of hours for municipal and Parliamentary elections!
Several speakers on the other side have appealed to the House not to make voting too easy. They have spoken to us in noble language of the importance of regarding the vote as a duty and a privilege, and not treating it merely as a right. I think that those Members, if they consider the actual conditions of the daily life of our fellow citizens who have to work these very long hours—warehousemen, carmen, and sometimes clerks—will feel that that is not a worthy way in which to meet the difficulties of these people. We have to face the actual economic conditions of to-day, and not look at the ideal state as we would like it to be. The moment we do that we see that such an extension of the polling hours as is proposed in this Bill is absolutely necessary if we are to have a really democratic state. For that reason I think that everyone who looks into the argument will vote for the Bill. We do not ask hon. Members to treat it as a party Bill. One hon. Member objected to the Bill because it was backed on only one side of the House. Recently a number of us on this side were prepared to vote for a Housing Bill which was backed only on the other side of the House, because we honestly believed that in part at least it was an attempt to meet a real difficulty. Therefore we wanted it to be considered in Committee, and, it may be, improved, and we were prepared to vote for it even though we did not get the credit. I think we can appeal to hon. Members opposite to do the same by this Bill. They must recognise the real difficulty of the case in regard to the poorer working citizens. Whatever they may think about the later hours of the poll, they 733 admit the desirability of opening the polling booths earlier in the morning. They admit that part of the case when they consider the thousands of working men and clerks who come into London and all the big towns from the suburbs, sometimes at considerable distances, and if they admit that one-half of the Bill is good, I think we are only asking them to do what is just and right when we ask them to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, in order that at least that half, and I hope the whole, may be placed on the Statute Book.
§ Colonel YATE
I am entirely in favour of the earlier opening of the poll. I think the poll ought to be opened earlier in the morning for the benefit of shop assistants and working people generally. I would have it open at seven o'clock, or even at half-past six if necessary. Anything that would be a convenience to the working man and encourage him to give his vote ought to be supported, and if only the promoters of the Bill would give an assurance that they would be content with that, I would vote for the Bill. But we have had no such assurance, and I am absolutely and entirely opposed to the later opening of the poll. That, I believe, would lead to trouble in many ways. Doubtless many Members will remember, in the course of the elections which they have fought, seeing large crowds of men standing about after six o'clock in the evening. These men will never vote earlier. They wait about until after seven o'clock, and then all rush in to vote at the very last. I have even heard of cases where the crowd was so great that many could not get in. Whatever hour is fixed for the closing of the poll you will always have a crush at the last. I would rather see the poll open from seven in the morning until seven in the evening, but to prolong the hours from eight until nine o'clock would only lead to more drinking, roughness, and disturbance. One hon. Member has stated that many working men leave off work at five o'clock. There is no reason why they should not be able to record their votes by eight o'clock. The great thing to do is to encourage men to vote in the morning before they go to work, and anything that would tend in that direction we ought to help in every possible way. I cannot agree with the argument that because at the guardians elections the poll may be open until ten o'clock a similar hour ought to be fixed in regard to Parliamentary elections. There is the greatest difference between the two. At the 734 guardians elections very few people vote, and there is no excitement or drinking. In the absence of any assurance that the proposal with regard to the later hour will be dropped I shall be obliged to vote against the Bill, much to my regret, because I should like to see the suggestion with regard to the earlier hour in the morning agreed to.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Ellis Griffith)
Those who have heard this Debate from the beginning will have noticed that, with the sole exception of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury), there has been general agreement with that, part of the Bill which proposes an earlier opening of the poll. With the sole exception of the hon. Baronet, every Member who has spoken has given favourable consideration to the idea of allowing the poll to open at an earlier hour than eight o'clock.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I did not oppose that particular proposition. It was not the Bill, and it was not advanced by the Mover or Seconder of the Second Reading.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
If the hon. Baronet had had as much time for reading the Bill as he has for speaking on it, he would have found that that is provided for in the Bill.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am perfectly well aware that the Bill provides for opening the poll at seven o'clock; but it goes on and does something else. If the Bill had dealt only with the earlier opening of the poll, I do not know that I should have had very much objection to it.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I am sure it will be very pleasing to the House that the hon. Baronet had even gone as far as that. Now we know that the House is unanimous, including the hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
All the hon. Members who have spoken are, I think, without dispute, in favour of the earlier opening of the poll. Only to have arrived at that conclusion would have been worth the sitting. The Mover and Seconder of the Second Reading of this Bill have, I think, made out a good case. It is quite true that one hon. Member, the hon. and gallant Member for the Wells Division of Somerset, complained that the first speech was too short. That is a very small fault 735 to find in respect of speeches in this House. Speeches must be judged not by their length, but by the substance of their arguments. [An HON. MEMBER: "And their brevity."] I think that is an additional test of value. Several points have been urged against this Bill. The hon. Baronet's first point was that it was a private Member's Bill. Then we understand that the hon. Baronet's point of view is that Friday is a bad day for legislation; that private Members' day is a day which you ought to put a very careful watch upon, because, once private Members interfere in legislation, things are likely to be in a very bad way. We have really in this House to judge Bills, not in respect to the source from which they spring, but on account of what they contain. The hon. Baronet would have thought the Bill a worse Bill if the Government had introduced it. Let us first look at the Bill altogether apart from whether it is introduced by a private Member or by the Government. The hon. Baronet's arguments, I think, were these: His first point was against this as a private Bill on such a subject. I dismiss that point because it does not deal with the merits of the Bill. The next point was that between the hours of eight and nine on voting day the public-houses would be doing much more business than between the hours of seven and eight. [An HON. MEMBER: "Close them."] The hon. Baronet takes that ground which I think is new from that side of the House. I do not know how that argument stood in relation to Peckham. At any rate it is something for us to know that, the hon. Baronet agrees that the public-house is a danger to the proper recording of votes.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
Well, between eight and nine o'clock. The hon. Baronet referred to two hon. Members on this side of the House, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Charles Roberts) and the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) who are considerably identified with the temperance question. He said he thought he would have their sympathies on this point. I am not entitled to speak on behalf of these hon. Members, but I think if the hon. Baronet had asked them to join forces with him they would have suggested that all elections should be held on one day, that that day should be a 736 national holiday, that the public-houses should be shut during the whole of the time.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
The hon. Baronet's objection applies to after eight o'clock in the evening. Up to eight o'clock the public-houses fulfil a very good function? After eight o'clock somehow or another, in a way I do not appreciate fully, that good function ceases. The hon. Baronet urges that the vote is not a mere right; it is a duty. He argues that we must not make it too easy for people to fulfil their duty. He has told us that for nine months he careered over Peckham, canvassing, and that he called at 6,000 houses in order to ingratiate himself with the electors—a matter I imagine he would find very little difficulty in. So far as we know, at all those houses he never met the voter. He always met the voter's wife or daughter.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
The hon. Baronet used the illustration as an illustration against the Bill, for although he called at 6,000 houses he never told us that he met the elector, but by a coincidence it was invariably the wife or daughter. It is a curious thing, for I dare say there was an elector inside, that the hon. Baronet never met him.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
No doubt the hon. Baronet used that mode of canvassing which he thought most conducive to his success at the poll, but may I remind him that after this had been going on for some time he was found out, and unexpected defeat followed the devices of previous years. The hon. Baronet, we under stand, only canvassed between the hours of six and eight in the evening, because he never expected to see the voter in before six, and then I suppose he knew that after eight the public-houses would begin to have their attraction at Peckham. Under all these circumstances the hon. Baronet really failed to find the elector. I think that this all throws some light upon the matter: in view of the prospective visits of the hon. Baronet the electors for some reason or another were not able to get back to their homes until after eight o'clock.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
The hon. Baronet says voting is a duty; do not make it too easy; make it difficult. But it has been pointed out that it is really not a question of making it easy. Many of the men concerned are working up till eight o'clock in the evening—carmen, lightermen, warehousemen—and we who have been among the agricultural labourers know perfectly well that sometimes, too, they are working very late. Where all these men are not working in due course, they may be working overtime. The hon. Baronet no doubt will say, "Let these men give up their overtime; let them make sacrifices for principle." Sacrifices are very easy to commend to others, but they are less easy to practice for ourselves. I take it that this Bill really rests upon this foundation, that every facility should be placed in the way of every man to record his vote. That the same facilities should be given to every class of the electorate; that the leisured gentleman and the workman should be put on exactly the same footing in this matter. If put that way I think the House will thoroughly agree. Let us give equal facilities to every class of the community. It is argued that no doubt something must be done in order to give the same facilities to the working classes as to the idle class—I do not use the word offensively; the leisured classes, that is all this means. I would point this out: What harm can this Bill do to anyone? The man that can vote between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. will no doubt do so in the future as in the past. What harm can it do to anyone if the poll opened at 7 a.m.? Many hon. Members are fairly agreed that the poll should open at seven in the morning. In 1884, a Bill was introduced to open the poll at five o'clock, but that I suppose was the views of the pioneers of early rising. Now the question is, what harm could this Bill do The only point is it is contended it would do harm to the polling clerks. I am very glad to know that the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London feels for people who have to work overtime, and now that he shows so sensitive a conscience for those men who may have to work a couple of hours' overtime every three, or four, or five years, I hope others may have his consideration also. I am sure those who work twelve hours a day all the year round will have a still greater claim upon his consideration when 738 their case comes before the House of Commons. This Bill represents a principle. We have, first of all, great doubt as to who should have the vote. That is a topic upon which I will not enter now, but we are all agreed that everyone who has the vote should be placed exactly in the same position. That is the principle upon which I, on behalf of the Government, support this Bill. I do not argue in advance anything apart from that principle, but I think that principle shows the necessity for this Bill I think we are all agreed that some grievance has to be pointed out in order to justify a Bill, because if there is to be a change the necessity for that change must be proved, and unless we can prove that there is a substantial grievance to be met I do not think we should give our approval to the Bill.
I should have thought upon the commonly known facts of the case it is quite clear that at the present time a great number of people are disfranchised because the poll is only open between eight and eight. No doubt it is a matter of controversy. The hon. Member for the Wells Division of Somerset said that as a matter of fact every one voted who wanted to vote, but let us take the case of the county council elections. In 1907, 55 per cent. of the electorate voted; in 1910, 51 per cent., and in 1913, 52 per cent. I say, quite frankly, it is exceedingly difficult to prove why people do not vote, but we know that there are a certain number of people who cannot vote without considerable sacrifice, and the greater the number the more true it is that we should cut away every genuine obstacle from people who are anxious to vote. As a matter of fact, the last hours are the hours when most people vote. I know everybody puts off until the last moment what they ought to do earlier, except the hon. Baronet opposite, who has been brought up in a most favourable atmosphere. As a matter of fact, if we exclude Chelsea, for which the figures are not forthcoming, we find that in the last two hours of the poll 40 per cent. voted, and in the last hour 26 per cent., so that more than a quarter per cent. of the electorate voted in the last hour. No doubt it is true people ought not to wait until the last hour to vote, but the fact that they do is an indication that the later the hour the more convenient for those people. If I may remind the hon. Baronet of what occurred in Peckham, in which he takes a reminiscent interest, and which he represented before he went to 739 richer pastures, I would point out to him that 33 per cent. of the electorate voted in the last hour in Peckham. In fourteen divisions in London the percentage of votes recorded in the last hour was thirty.
Something has been said about the election of guardians in one of the unions of London. The Report I have does not give the name of the union, but the figures are recorded officially, and here are the numbers. Up to six o'clock in the evening not more than 100 votes were recorded in one hour. From six to seven, 180 were recorded; from seven to eight, 350 voted; from eight to nine, 400 voted; and from nine to ten, 300 voted. These figures are significant, and show that the hour when most people voted was between eight and nine in the evening, the very hour to which we want to extend the polling in this Bill. It is pointed out that this is only an instalment of electoral reform. Quite true, but I do not think the House will judge it upon that ground alone, but rather upon its merits as to whether it is good or bad. As I understand it, there is fair unanimity of opinion that the poll should open at an earlier hour, and the only contention between us is whether the poll should be closed at eight or whether the hour should be extended to nine. We have heard something said about public-houses and about the poll not being declared overnight and extended to another. The hon. Member for Wells drew a picture of two days being wasted instead of one. I think that is an exaggeration; the poll would be declared at an early hour the next day, and I think, taking all these things into account, the Government are very clearly of opinion that this Bill represents the principle and a practice that it would be well to adopt in this country and they commend the Bill to the favourable consideration of the House.
§ Mr. SANDERS
The hon. Member has made a most amusing speech of the tune of which I do not complain, but he really adduced very little argument to show the necessity for this Bill. It is quite true that when you are going to make a change in the law the burden of proof does lie upon those who introduced the Bill. The hon. Gentleman said, first of all, that he thought there was general agreement on the proposals that the poll ought to open earlier in the morning.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I think I said that every speaker except the hon. 740 Baronet the Member for the City, and when he came into line every speaker spoke in favour of it up to now.
§ Mr. SANDERS
Then I am very sorry to strike a discordant note. There has been considerable argument adduced for keeping the poll open later, but I have not heard a single argument adduced in favour of opening the poll earlier. I have been in polling booths at the early hours of the morning and I never found there was any considerable amount of polling going on between eight and nine. The very figures the hon. Gentleman gave shows that the tendency is more and more to have a large poll in the late hours, but it seems to me that not a single argument was put before us for opening the poll earlier in the morning. After all, opening the poll at an earlier hour in the morning will give rise to a considerable hardship upon those officers who have to attend the poll, because in country districts as a rule presiding officers do not live on the spot. At the last two or three elections it has proved a great trial for these officers in the early hours of the morning, under the present system, to travel considerable distances in order to get to out-of-the-way country polling stations. What the whole of this Bill merely rests upon is whether a case can be made out that there are a considerable number of voters who ought to poll who do not poll. If that can be established then a case is made out for the Bill. It has not, however, been proved that there is any considerable number of voters in a Parliamentary election anxious to poll who could not poll. The proportion of those who poll to the electorate varies enormously in different constituencies. I have been looking into the figures, and in this matter you must make certain broad exceptions. In the first place, you would except Ireland, because there they have their own methods of electioneering, and I am told that they poll in Ireland very nearly 100 per cent.
If you take a broad general line throughout the country, I think you will find that the places where you get the largest percentage of the electorate polled, it is not determined by the class of the constituency, but by the likelihood of the contest being a close thing. I have been looking into the figures, and I find that the two biggest percentages of the electorate polled throughout the United Kingdom, leaving Ireland out of the question, were recorded at Burnley and St. Andrews 741 where they polled 94.1 per cent. of the electorate. Burnley has 17,000 electors and St. Andrews 3,500, but in both cases the majority was a small one, being 173 at Burnley and 49 at St. Andrews. If you take the polls in other places the same principle applies. At Grantham, 93.9 per cent. of the electorate polled, and the majority was 33. At Salisbury the percentage was 93.4 and the majority 337. At Cheltenham where the majority was four and afterwards nine, the percentage was 92.8. Where you get anything over 90 per cent. of the electors polling, you cannot complain, and that means practically that you poll nearly all your live voters. In London a different matter comes into consideration, because the number of removals is so enormous that that really accounts for the smallness of the percentage. I see that the percentage polled in the constituency of the hon. Member who moved this Bill was only 73, and he has a fairly large majority. I will take another constituency in London where I may fairly presume that every possible voter was polled—I mean St. Pancras West. At the election in January, 1910, the hon. Member opposite got in by a majority of eight, but at the second election, in the following December, my hon. Friend the present Member got in by a majority of nine. In St. Pancras they only polled 78.7 per cent. If you take London throughout you will find the polls are universally a small percentage. I do not think the reason is that there are a number of voters who would poll if they could in London, but the real reason is that there are so many removals which you are unable to trace. No proof whatever has been given that early polling before eight o'clock is required, and I do not think there is any real demand for it. As to later polling. I must say that there is a better case for that. We have had evidence adduced that there has been a great deal of voting between seven and eight o'clock, but not that there have been voters left out who would have polled if they had had a chance of polling after eight o'clock. I do not think the fact that at a certain election of guardians a large number polled between eight and nine, and nine and ten, really meets the point, because there is a tendency in human nature, and more especially in electioneering human nature, to leave voting to the very last moment. I do not think that the fact that more people vote in the last avail- 742 able hour is any real reason for making the hour later.
What I may call the public-house matter has been laughingly referred to by the hon. Gentleman opposite, but he has not met the difficulty. What I wish to ask seriously is whether hon. Gentlemen opposite do not think that there would be a certain danger of the conditions of polling during a later hour not being all that they should be. I do not want to put it too strongly, because what I mean is familiar to every hon. Member of this House. We all know the danger of the abuse of the later hours of polling. Do hon. Members opposite think that those dangers are real, and do they think they have suggested any means of meeting them? Do they think that the gain of a later hour of polling is so great that it will counterbalance these admitted evils? Then there is the question of the hardship to those who would, under these circumstances, at the election have to work a fourteen hours' day. That point has not been met at all. The hon. Member opposite laughingly alluded to this point, and he said it would only happen once in three or five years, but really that does not answer my argument. These long hours are a considerable hardship. The men who are employed in the polling booths, as well as the agents taking an active part in the election, are affected, and it also applies to the candidates, although they seem to be the last people who are to be considered in this matter. There are a great many people to whom the election day means a very hard day's work now, and whether you take those employed in the polling booths or others employed in an electioneering capacity during the election, I think you will find that they would be unanimously against any extension of the polling hours. They would say, if anything, that twelve hours are more than enough, that twelve hours gives them as much work as they can possibly do, and they would certainly be almost unanimous against an extension of from twelve to fourteen hours. I think there are other inconveniences which especially apply to country districts, such as the moving of the boxes at a late hour of the night to a place of safety or getting them in to the central town of the constituency. It is not an easy or a pleasant job driving along country lanes at a late hour, and to put it off till nearly ten o'clock, when all the work of the polling booth is finished, is another hardship on those who have to manage the election. I do not think that 743 a case for this Bill has been made out. I do not think any case at all has been made out for opening the polling booths earlier, and only a very slight case has been made out for keeping them open later, but that case is more than balanced by evils which such a change would involve. I shall therefore support the Amendment of my hon. Friend, that this Bill be read upon, this day six months.
§ Mr. W. H. DICKINSON
I am sure this Debate, and especially the speeches to which we have listened from the other side of the House, has been useful to the promoters of the Bill. We have had two important announcements. First of all, we had the speech of the hon. Member who laid great stress upon the advisability of extending the polling powers by opening the booth at seven o'clock in the morning or earlier, and now we have had a speech from the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Sanders), who although he sees no necessity for extending the hours in the early part of the morning, attaches great importance to the extension of the hours later in the evening. These questions can be thoroughly well discussed in Committee, and I hope hon. Members on the other side of the House will vote for the Second Reading and allow the Bill to go forward in the ordinary course. Although the counties of Devonshire and Somersetshire may be of somewhat different opinion with regard to the question of whether the hours should be extended or not, we have no doubt about it in London. This is rather especially a London question. It is a matter of some historical interest to know that the first measure which was passed for extending the polling hours later than four o'clock was passed for London alone, and, although in later years it was extended first to the larger towns and then to the rest of the country, it was the London complaint which first gave rise to that legislation.
London stands in a rather peculiar position, as everybody who knows London must realise. You have only to go to Liverpool Street in the early hours of the morning, between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., or in the later hours of the evening, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., to realise what an enormous incursion and excursion there is of Londoners between those particular hours. Some figures were prepared for the purposes of the Royal Commission on London traffic in 1904, and, although those figures are not quite up to date, I think we 744 are perfectly justified in saying that at least 250,000 persons come into the central portion of London between seven and nine in the morning, and that at least an equal number go out from the central portion of London between the hours of seven and nine in the evening. Of course, all those persons are not voters, but that shows what is the position of London and gives some ground for our contention that a very considerable number of persons are disfranchised by reason of the fact that they cannot get home during the twelve hours the poll is at present open. Some years ago the London County Council proposed a Bill for this purpose. There was a good deal of discussion about it, and information was sought from the Metropolitan boroughs. Questions were addressed to them as to whether they thought an extension of polling hours was desirable, and nineteen replied in the affirmative and only three in the negative.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
I cannot say what the politics of those Metropolitan councils were, but I should assume they more represented the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite than our own. They, knowing the conditions of their population, were of opinion even at that time that some extension of the polling hours was necessary. What is the common experience of Members who are canvassing or fighting elections in London? You go round, and you do not find anybody in. If you go again about six or seven, you are generally told that you will be certain to find the person in about nine o'clock. That is the hour at which you find most men home, at any rate, in the suburban parts of London. My agent got me out, haphazard, nearly 100 cards from the canvass of my last election. We asked: "Are you going to vote for—?" I suppose myself. "Yes." "When will you be at home?" "Not until about nine or half-past nine." I dare say my opponent could probably have found another 100. There were at any rate sufficient to have affected not I am glad to say my election, but many elections in which the chances were more close. My Constituency is a very good example. It extends right out into the suburbs of the county, and includes a very large number of working men. We have a very considerable number of men engaged on the railways and a very considerable number of carmen. There are very few carmen who get home 745 before eight o'clock at night. Their work keeps them very long hours at their place of business—they have to put up their horses or their cars—and as a rule you find that carmen are not at home until eight or nine o'clock and sometimes ten o'clock. In my own Constituency at the last election one-third of the whole number of people who voted did so after seven o'clock, and, as we have heard, there are other places in London where the number voting after seven o'clock was more than half the total number who voted. The fact of the matter is that conditions have changed and are changing continually in London. Our social habits such as going out to dinner or to the theatre, are becoming much later, and the shops close later, with the result that a very large body of men have to stay at their work much later than they used to do. It is perfectly true that hours may be easier, though I do not think they are in many cases in London, but at the same time our habits achieve this result, that a great number of persons cannot possibly get back until quite late in the evening.
What has always appeared to me to be one of the most weighty objections raised against this proposal is the burden you are putting upon the polling clerks by increasing their hours. I believe that burden is really imaginary. We have to remember that an election comes round only once in three, or four, or five years, and therefore is an event which people are glad to take part in, especially if they are paid by the number of hours. If you look at the work that is carried on in the polling booths during the day you will find that there is a great opportunity for relieving individual clerks. Take again my own Constituency, for instance. I mention it because I know the facts, but I have no doubt it is a good example of what happens in other places. Roughly, the average number of votes per hour in the last county council election in each of the polling booths was: Between eight and nine o'clock, 130; between nine and two o'clock, ninety; between two and five o'clock, fifty; between five and seven o'clock, 150; and between seven and eight o'clock, 460. It is perfectly clear, and it is the common experience of those who go round the polling booths on an election day, that the work in the middle of the day is very easy indeed. There is no difficulty whatever in giving time off to the clerks during the middle of the day. What you have to provide for is the rush in the 746 morning and the rush in the evening. I do not think there will be very much difficulty in meeting that particular objection. Then there is the objection that the poll will finish so late that we cannot get the result on the same night. I do not believe that will happen. We are pretty late as it is upon an election day. In my own case I rarely get to bed before two o'clock the next morning after an election day, and I do not think the extension of the polling hour from eight to nine will prevent that. I do not think there would be any change whatever in the practice of the public-houses. As a matter of fact, they keep open until 12.30 during an election day in London, and they drive their business as usual, and they would do just the same if the poll were not closed until nine o'clock. We might indeed have put a Clause into the Bill to close all public houses but I expect there would be strenuous opposition to it from the other side. We still hope we will have their support for this measure.
§ Mr. HAMBRO
May I claim the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time? I should certainly support this Bill if it were simply in favour of extending the hours of polling in the morning, but I do not think it is so necessary to extend them later in the evening. As a representative of an agricultural constituency, I think the poll closes late enough to suit the agricultural labourer. I should like to see the poll opened at 6.30 in the morning. The hon. Member for Somerset who has spoken has stated that eight o'clock is not a busy hour. It cannot be a busy hour, because the men start at eight o'clock in the fields, but if the poll were opened at 6.30 in the morning it would enable many agricultural labourers to vote before going to their work. I do not relish the idea of the polling being extended until late in the evening. I have seen one or two lively Parliamentary elections, and the excitement seems to come towards the end of the poll. If the polling were extended after eight o'clock in the evening it would give more advantage to the gentleman who generally comes to record his vote from the nearest public-house and who waits until the last moment before he comes to the polling booth. From my short experience of Parliamentary life, I have found that riots and noise usually take place after the poll is closed. I had hoped that I should have been able to support the Bill, but I cannot do so because 747 it contains the extension of the polling until a later hour in the evening. I hoped that was going to be dropped, but as it has not been I am afraid I shall have to vote against the Bill as it stands. I know that we all want to encourage a certain class of men to record their votes and to make it as easy as possible for them, but I do not know of any constituency where the voters work so late as eight o'clock at night. Surely in many of those industrial constituencies they get a certain time off in the middle of the day for luncheon, and they are not very far away from the polling booth, and in a few minutes they could go and record their vote. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are miles away."] They may be miles away in some cases, but, after all, there are many polling booths provided in the industrial towns, and they may not be very far distant from them. I do not think there is much in the case of the polling clerks; I think a few hours more or less would not make very much difference. I am very sorry I am not able to support the Bill.
§ Captain JESSEL
My excuse for taking part in this Debate is the same as one which was urged by my hon. Friend and colleague, the Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Dickinson), and that is that the aspect of London must be considered in this matter. It is quite true, as the hon. Member says, that in 1878 a Bill was passed through this House, owing to the action of the London municipalities, to extend the hours of polling, and the effect of that Bill was that the present hours, from eight to eight, were put into operation. It is curious to notice that at that date there were only eleven constituencies in London, but let us pass from that ancient fact and carry the matter a step further. It was not until 1884 that Parliament dealt with the matter again, and it was then laid down that the hours of polling from eight to eight only applied to the rest of the country in places where there were more than 3,000 electors. Until 1885, in the country districts, outside the places where the population was more than 3,000, the polling ceased at five o'clock in the afternoon. I have taken the trouble to look at some of the Debates of that day, and there was a great deal of dissent expressed when in the next year, 1885, the polling hours all over the country were made the same, eight to eight. It was said it was not necessary in the country to extend the hours of polling and that no case 748 had been made out. I have listened very carefully to this discussion, and I am of opinion that no case has been made out for this alteration. The hon. Member for North St. Pancras said the London County Council had brought forward a proposal of this kind, but that is some time ago. He also told us that, in 1904, of the London borough councils, seventeen voted in favour of the extension of the polling-hours. The same remark applied to that; it is a good while ago; and no fresh action has been taken in London, so far as I know, by any public authority since that time. He referred to the Report of the Traffic Commission so long ago as 1904. There is a great deal of difference now in the traffic and transport facilities of London compared with that date. We have motor-'buses, with reference to which a Select Committee has been inquiring, and the tubes have been extended all over London, and therefore the transport facilities are very different from what they were in 1904.
When the London County Council made the order for the boards of guardians it did not fix the time from seven to nine, but from eight o'clock to ten o'clock. If the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for North St. Pancras had any weight regarding present conditions, the Bill would have made the time eight to ten, and not seven to nine. The hon. Member said that many people went to work before eight o'clock, and that there were others who did not get home till 9.30. How can those people who do not get home until 9.30 vote under this Bill? The only case the hon. Member made out for the Bill was with regard to carmen. I have great sympathy with the carmen and those engaged in the transport work of London, but why should we change the law for the sake of a small body of men? I could bring instances of far greater hardships. For instance, there is the case of soldiers and sailors who have to be on duty, and who are not able to vote at all. This House has repeatedly declared against setting up any machinery whereby sailors can vote. Apparently for the sake of a few men in one particular trade—I admit they had a grievance, although it is not even touched by this Bill, for it is not proposed that the hours should be extended to ten o'clock—the hours of polling right through the country are to be altered. Nobody knows better than the Under-Secretary that, as the law stands at the present moment, county councils have the power to extend the hours of polling from 749 eight to ten in rural districts for boards of guardians. Has there been any case throughout the country, except that of London, where the hours have been extended from eight to ten? I do not think the Under-Secretary can quote any case outside London where such action has been taken. Ever since the passing of the Local Government (England and Wales) Act, commonly known as the Parish Councils Act of 1894, no action has been taken at all except in London. That does not show a great call for any alteration in the law. May I also ask the promoters of this Bill whether any municipal corporation in the country has asked for this power? Has any county council asked for it; and have any representations been made to the Government asking them to alter the law? I have not heard any suggestion of that kind in the course of this Debate except that brought forward by the hon. Member for North St. Pancras, when he said that the London County Council passed a resolution to this effect in 1904.
As regards the country districts, there has been some divergence of opinion on this side of the House as to the advisability of altering the law in favour of an early hour. I think the House will be convinced, on reflection, that there would be great difficulty in country districts which are remote from large towns in getting the official staff ready at the hour of seven o'clock in the morning. I know of instances in which complaint has been made in rural districts through voters going at eight o'clock, and, owing to no fault of the returning officer or the presiding officer, the polling booth has not been open. Sometimes the weather has been bad. There is a physical difficulty in this matter in the country districts. As to the question of hardship on the staff, hon. Members opposite say that there is no hardship because the elections come very seldom. Let us take the case of London at this moment. We had the Metropolitan borough councils election in November, the London County Council elections in March, and in April the elections for the boards of guardians. In addition to that, I do not know how many by-elections have not taken place every year for these local bodies, owing to the elevation of certain gentlemen from councillors to aldermen; and again, unfortunately, owing to death or retirement. In fact, by-elections are always going on. The Under-Secretary said it was no great hardship, as elections only come once in 750 five years. He is thinking solely of Parliamentary elections. The same staff throughout London has to attend to the work, and it would be an extremely severe tax upon them. In connection with political elections there is the candidate and the candidate's wife to be considered, and the hours from eight to eight are quite long enough. The hon. Member for North St. Pancras said that he did not get to bed until two o'clock on election day. I would remind him that St. Pancras was almost the last borough in London to declare its result, owing to the unfortunate fact that we had three recounts, and we were not allowed to leave the town hall until 11.30. I hope that will not be the case at the next election, and that the matter will be decided more easily. In most parts of London the results are declared much earlier, and it would not be a good thing if these election results were kept in the balance until late in the evening. Turn for a moment to other countries. A Canadian Member of this House told me just now that in Canada, so far from extending the hours of polling, they have reduced them by Act of Parliament quite recently.
§ Captain JESSEL
I do not think hours of polling have been reduced, and the distances in a place like that are much greater than they are in London or any other part of the United Kingdom. I want to deal with another part of the argument put forward by the Under-Secretary. I think the more electors who vote the better it is, because it shows that greater interest is being taken in Parliamentary affairs. He gave some interesting figures about the London County Council. He said that in the year 1907 the percentage who voted was 55 per cent., in 1910 it was 51 per cent., and this year 52 per cent. These figures are of very considerable improvement on anything that has happened before as regards the county council returns, and as a matter of fact as regards our side, the Municipal Reform party, the bigger the poll the better was our majority, and therefore it cannot be urged that Members on this side have anything to fear whatsoever owing to the fact that there is going to be a big poll. I do not think any case has been made out, except in one or two isolated trades, to show that you are going to gain anything by disturbing the existing conditions at all. Finally, I should like, if 751 there is any strong desire to make a big change of this kind involving such an alteration in the existing practices which has prevailed now for a great many years, since 1885, that the Government should inquire into the matter by a Select Committee, because after all it comes to this, that the hon. Members opposite who have introduced this Bill—I do not find any Unionist name on the back of the Bill—must have no other object than in thinking it is going to benefit their party and their party alone. I do not think anything of the sort myself, but at the same time the Government will be well advised in getting more evidence on this subject by means of a Select Committee. No demand has been made by any large town, and no change has been made by any county council in the country, and the county council has full power to make this change as regards boards of guardians elections. For these reasons, I think the House will be well advised in not taking a decision on a Friday afternoon on a subject of this kind without full evidence. I therefore have very much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
The arguments which have been adduced from the other side against extending the hours of polling do not seem to me to be very convincing. I agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Dickinson) that this Bill will probably be of a great deal more service to London and one or two of the larger cities of England and Scotland than generally throughout the country. I cannot speak in regard to the agricultural districts with any great personal knowledge, but so far as Parliamentary and local elections are concerned in the Northern manufacturing towns, I know a great deal from having been an election agent for many years and having worked in those elections. It was said by an hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench that the percentage who polled in a particular election was determined very largely by the anticipated closeness of the contest, but that is not so at all. As a matter of fact in the last three elections in my own Division, which the Deputy-Speaker and myself represent jointly, the majority of the lower of the two winning candidates has not been below 3,800, and the percentage has never fallen below 90 per cent. and it has got to 94 per cent. So that there obviously it was not the fact that it was a close fight which caused a large number of electors to go to the poll. 752 The facts in London, so far as I can judger are these. You have people possibly working in North London. They finish their work at 5.30 in the evening. They have to find the cheapest means of locomotion, and before they can get to their homes in many cases it is after seven o'clock at night, if they live at the opposite end of the city as they often do. They have got an hour after they have finished their employment before they can get home. Naturally a man wants to get out and he wants to get washed and to smarten himself up before he goes out to give his vote. To extend the hours of polling from eight to nine o'clock in a large city, and particularly in London, would be beneficial.
If hon. Gentlemen argue that they have nothing to fear from an extension of the hour, inasmuch as the larger the poll the larger has been their majority, I do not see why they should attack this Bill at all. Certainly those of us who believe in democracy, on whatever side we may sit, desire to see the whole of the people take an active interest not only at election times, but between elections, and we want to see them record their vote. The ordinary working-class voter has a heavy handicap on him already without handicapping in the way of not giving him sufficient time in which to record his vote. He has not got facilities for getting to the poll. The candidates whom he is supporting, particularly the candidates of my party, are very often not supplied with motor cars, and where he has to walk, as he very often has in a much smaller town than London, the greater part of a mile to the polling booth, this hour would be a material benefit and help in obtaining a larger interest and a larger poll on election day. Therefore I shall support the Bill because I think it will be beneficial. I do not see, however, why it should be made obligatory on the whole of the, country. It might be applied definitely to London and the larger cities, and then left open for the smaller places to adopt if they thought fit. But that is a Committee point, and is no reason against voting for the Second Reading of the Bill as it stands.
§ Mr. GODFREY LOCKER-LAMPSON
The hon. Member speaks with great authority as he says he has been an election agent, but as he himself has made the suggestion that the Bill might very well be limited to a particular part of the country it only shows how very little consideration must have been expended 753 on the Bill by its promoters. I should like to know on whose expert authority the Bill has really been introduced. Supposing a Bill of this sort has to be introduced, I should have thought that you ought to have got together political agents representing parties on both sides of the House, and various other electioneering experts. It seems to me that it is quite impossible for individual Members of this House to be able to say exactly what grievances exist, and what difficulties the electors have in getting to the poll. What strikes me as very curious indeed is this: Here is a Bill brought in by various hon. Members who, as a matter of fact, all belong to one particular party in this House. I do not say that it is exactly a party Bill, for I believe that all sections in the House would be perfectly willing to consider a Bill dealing with any real grievances which may exist. But this is a Bill brought in only by hon. Members who sit on the other side of the House, and yet I notice that some of them—and remember their argument is that it will grant extra facilities to persons wishing to vote—are also introducing the Conveyance of Electors to Poll Bill, which actually limits the facilities in connection with the use of motor cars for bringing people to the poll. That seems to me an extraordinary attitude to take up. It does certainly create in my mind a very strong suspicion that this Bill is not really brought in to improve our electoral machinery, but to a very large extent, or possibly to a certain extent, in order to damage the interests of hon. Members who sit on this side of the House. The hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson) said that the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), who moved the rejection of the Bill, objected to a measure of this importance being brought in on a Friday afternoon. The hon. Member said that the hon. Baronet ought not to object, because a Bill of very great importance was brought in on this side of the House on a Friday afternoon. I do not think the hon. Baronet's argument was quite fairly dealt with. After all, the Bill brought in on Friday afternoon a fortnight ago was a Bill standing on its own merits, whatever they might be, and was not part of the great policy, so far as that particular Bill was concerned. But here you are bringing in a Bill dealing with a very small portion of a very big problem, and I do feel that, if hon. Members on the other side of the House want to improve the electoral laws and electioneering machinery, they ought to bring 754 in a Bill courageously dealing with the whole question, and not merely try to bring it up by little snippets which may happen to benefit one section of the House.
I do not think hon. Members have really considered the question of the excitement which results from prolonging of the hours of polling. I am sorry the House has not had the benefit of the attendance to-day of one of the Members for Sheffield, who is very interested in the temperance question. He must know very much better than I do what the probable effect of extending the hours would be. In Ontario, not so very long ago, they shortened the hours during which electors could vote at Parliamentary elections. They considerably shortened the hours—two or three hours, I think. The reason they did so was because they found the excitement at night led to an enormous amount of disorder and drunkenness. That reform was carried out in Ontario. The hon. Member opposite will correct me if I am wrong.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
At the present moment I grant that is so, but in the old days it was found that the keeping of these late polling hours resulted in a great deal of drunkenness and disorder. That reform was carried out, and now practically an election day is a whole holiday. I think I am right in saying that. Another point is as to the work which would be thrown on polling clerks. I feel that it is not only a question of overworking polling clerks and putting them at a disadvantage, but you have also to consider that if these men are tremendously overworked in the room where they count the votes there will be far greater opportunities for making mistakes and slips in the counting. You already find towards the latter part of the counting that so great is the excitement and stress that slips are generally made at that time. If you are going to prolong the counting to a later hour, when these men have already worked twelve to thirteen hours, you will find a great many more slips which will necessitate recounts, and there is no doubt that, if you multiply recounts, it will lead to a great deal of extra bitterness and complications at elections.
After all, what is the grievance? Hon. Members opposite say that people do not get proper facilities to vote at elections. Speaking for my own Constituency, I can 755 state that in January, 1910, or possibly December, 1910, very nearly 97 per cent. of the electors polled, and a great many of these voters live in agricultural districts many miles around Salisbury. I believe that in agricultural constituencies as many as 85 per cent. of the electors record their votes. Certainly it is my experience, and I am sure it is the experience of others, that a very large proportion of the electors who vote during the last hour are generally people who have been round the polling stations the whole day, and who are waiting until the last minute, not because they are people who are prone to procrastinate and to put off until to-morrow what they can do to-day, but because in many instances the voter delays recording his vote, believing that the longer he keeps it back the more important he is. I suppose greater civility is shown to a voter at an election time than at any other part of his life. There are hundreds and thousands of these men who wait until near the close of the poll before voting, and they will continue to do so if you make the closing hour nine instead of eight. If I thought this Bill would facilitate the voting of working men throughout the country, I should be delighted to support it myself, for the very good reason that I believe that the more we can facilitate voting by working men the more votes we shall have against the present Government. I do not believe it will have that effect, and therefore I am very sorry that I shall not be able to support it.
§ Colonel GREIG
In his very interesting and illuminating speech the hon. Member who has just sat down let the cat out of the bag at the end of his remarks. We have heard a great deal about Tory democracy in recent years. This Bill is meant as much for the Liberal as the Tory democracy, and therefore is not going to do any more good for one party than the other. An ounce of fact is worth a pound of theory. I have had an opportunity of studying this particular question from both ends. When fairly young I happened to act as polling clerk myself, in the days when the remuneration for a polling clerk was a consideration. It was in a constituency in the north of London, and my experience was that during the early hours of the day there was very little to do. As the day went on the polling increased, and at eight o'clock in the even- 756 ing we had to close the doors because of the crush of working people who were coming from their work and coming in to vote. A great many years after that I had experience in a different capacity as candidate in a constituency in Scotland. I happen to represent a constituency three-fourths of which is entirely agricultural. Another portion is as densely populated as any area in the Kingdom can be, and by working people. I happened to go into the polling booth in that district in the exercise of the right which a candidate has of entering the polling booth. I went in a little before eight o'clock in the evening, and found the passage leading up to the polling booth choked up with a large number of electors, who were trying to get into the polling booth and could not get in before eight o'clock. These men were not carters or men of that description, or drawn from one particular class. They were men from the workshops on the Clyde, who had been at work at engineering and shipbuilding and all the other industries which happily flourish there, and who did not vote because they were kept out of voting, and not because they had hesitated to go and vote or that they wanted to keep back their votes until a late hour. The hon. Member rather suggested that people kept back their votes because they had a higher value later on.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I made no such suggestion. I only stated that they felt more important so long as they still had a vote to give.
§ Colonel GREIG
I do not think that they felt anything of the sort. The fact is that men returning from their work are unable to exercise their votes as citizens. It is said that officials are going to be subject to a great deal more work. I am convinced that in the case of the gentlemen who are only too glad to take those positions at no great remuneration, it will not make the slightest difference to them if they have to stay an hour or two later. To put that as against the immense advantage of enabling electors to give their votes seems to be trifling with the question. The hon. Member made light of the promoters of this Bill because there is another Bill about motor cars in hand. I have no right to speak of these Gentlemen, but I may point out the difference in the nature of the two Bills. This is a Bill to enable citizens to give their votes in their own 757 time and discharge their duties as citizens. The other is to prevent a certain class largely provided with a certain means of conveyance from taking other people to the poll with the object that they should vote in the way they wish.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
In the recent elections that have taken place it is very difficult for the hon. Member to suggest that motor cars are more plentiful on this side of the House than on the other. It may be the case that the Labour Members are entitled to that argument, but it is not the case with the Radical plutocrats. If motor cars were labelled, not only with their registered numbers, but with their political numbers, the Radicals would come out easily first. So far as this Bill is concerned, I am not in the least afraid of allowing more voters to come to the polling booths. My experience always has been that the more voters that came to the poll the better for me. Probably, I have more experience than the hon. and gallant Member, and I have never, in any election, found any complaint that there was not enough time for the voter to record his vote, and my experience always has been in working-class constituencies. I agree that the number of voters who poll during the last couple of hours is in many cases proportionately greater than those who poll in the earlier part of the day. The reason is that according to the election system now in vogue, you put on your workers at the end and bring your men up. It is not in the least because the men are pushed and cannot vote at other times, but because their is more effort made to bring them to the poll. An electioneering day of twelve hours is long enough in all conscience, and to make it a fourteen hours days at a time when Labour Members and others are suggesting that eight hours is long enough for a day's work is quite inconsistent with the general policy of Members on the other side. The existing day of twelve hours gives to everyone who wants to record his vote ample opportunity to do so, and I am satisfied that to require the polling booth to be opened at seven o'clock in the morning and remain open until nine o'clock at night means that you want to put on men who are discharging, it may be a difficult and certainly a responsible duty, practically a sixteen-hour day's work. That is an odd thing to put forward from the Labour side of the House nowadays, when we hear so many complaints 758 about the length of the day's work. It is not only confined to those who are discharging official duties in the polling booths but takes in all those who are engaged in the election, candidates and Gentlemen on both sides politically, who will have to work from six o'clock in the morning until half-past nine or ten o'clock at night. The eight to eight o'clock day began, I think, in 1884—I think that probably before that in London there was some special regulations—and to establish a general fourteen hours' day at election [...] now seems to me not a forward step but a backward step. So far as my experience goes, I have never heard any complaint from any voter that the existing hours were not sufficiently long to enable every man who desires to exercise the franchise to do so. For that reason I wish to leave the law as it is now.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the experience he has had. Clearly it must have been outside London during the whole period of his political life. I have taken part in every election since 1885 in London, and I have never known a single case in which numbers of voters have not complained of having been unable to cast their votes because they were crowded out at the last moment. My experience is not confined to any one constituency. It has extended over a good number in North London, and some in East London, and in every instance I have heard of numerous cases of that kind. Let me tell the House of the experience of a friend of mine, who was a candidate in the recent county council election. I was talking to him before the poll closed on the day of election, and he told me that during that day he had called on twelve of his supporters who had promised to vote for him. Of those twelve, four—that is one-third—had been unable to arrive home in time to record their votes. There you have a case of four persons, active politicians, who had definitely promised to cast their votes, and had fully intended to do so, and who found themselves unable to carry out their promise. [An HON. MEMBER: "They could have voted in the morning."] That shows the hon. Member is not familiar with the conditions of my Constituency. My Constituency is an almost exclusively working-class constituency. A number of people there are engaged in the carrying trade and in manufacturing furniture. They leave home in the morning 759 between six and seven o'clock, in order to reach their places of business and commence work at eight o'clock. It is quite impossible for them to record their votes in the morning. Their work is too far away for them to be able to get home during the luncheon hour, and their only opportunity is that the hours of polling should be sufficiently long to enable them to get home and then to register their votes. What are the facts in regard to London elections? In the recent county council election nearly 50 per cent. of the electors polled after six o'clock.
All kinds of hours. The industries are very varied, and the hours of labour are very varied.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I am really asking for information. The hon. Gentleman says that these workpeople leave their homes at seven o'clock in the morning in order to be at their work at eight o'clock. At what time do they leave off work?
In many cases they work more than eight hours a day, and in some cases more than twelve hours a day. In the case of some voters in my Constituency they work more than a twelve hours' day. They leave home before eight o'clock in the morning and they arrive home considerably after eight o'clock at night. There are numerous cases of that kind, and I could specify them if opportunity permitted. This grievance does exist. Our experience always is that the bulk of the polling is done during the last two hours. Take the constituency formerly represented by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London. He has described Peckham as a very intelligent constituency. I believe that is so. Intelligent people often take second thoughts, and they did that in the case of Peckham, and I think that is very good evidence of their intelligence.
The constituency of Peckham at the last county council election polled 48 per cent. of their votes after six o'clock in the evening, and 33 per cent. during the last hour. In Haggerston, the constituency which I represent, 760 31 per cent. of the total votes were registered after seven o'clock at night; and it is perfectly certain that if the hours were extended to nine o'clock instead of eight o'clock—I would prefer an extension to ten o'clock—a large number of persons who now cannot record their votes would have the opportunity of giving them. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side agree with us that if we have a representative system it should be one which enables as many persons as possible to record their votes. If you have a system which by limitation of hours prevents a large number of persons otherwise qualified, you do not have true representation in its fullest sense. The hon. Member for Salisbury who spoke just now referred to the advantage to him of polling a large number of the working classes. What then have hon. Gentlemen to fear and why do they object? The objection can only come from one motive, and that is the desire to prevent persons who if facility were offered would be able to vote from voting. I cannot conceive any other reason than that. It is very refreshing to hear certain hon. Members concerned about the extension of hours for the polling clerks. Anybody who has witnessed the exhausting labours of the polling clerk kicking his heels during the greater part of the day must be very sorry for the overwork to which those clerks would be subjected if for a day once in five years when a General Election takes place, they were obliged to stay for two or three hours extra in the polling stations.
I am speaking of Parliamentary elections which do not come so frequently that the additional hour or two would undermine their health or very largely affect them.
I agree. But all those elections do not come so frequently as largely to affect the health or welfare of the persons engaged. I have no doubt plenty of persons could be found and that there would be considerable competition for the fee at present paid, even if the hours were extended. Whilst a few hundreds would be affected in that way, millions of people, since there are seven millions on the register, are potentially affected by the limitation of the hours of 761 voting. I am quite sure whilst this Bill can do no harm, the extension of facilities will remove a real grievance which exists widely in London—I know little or nothing about the country—and will enable a truer index of public opinion to find expression in this House than is possible now.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken founded his speech on a very large number of assumptions, some of them charitable assumptions, some of them the reverse. When, for instance, he deals with the elector who does not vote till the last moment he is in the most charitable frame of mind, but when he deals with the motives of his opponents on this side he is in quite a different frame of mind. He cannot imagine that any of us object to this Bill for any reason but a desire to prevent the electors from recording their votes. He really does not understand our position so long as he is obsessed by that prejudice. We are as much dependent on the electorate going to the poll as Gentlemen opposite, and we have not found that large polls are to our disadvantage, and we are content to rely, as all of us must rely, on the ups and downs of political warfare on our power to convince the electors that the country will be better served by adherence to the principles which we support than by adherence to the opposite principles favoured by hon. Members on the other side of the House. I beg the hon. Member, if he can, to put out of his mind the suspicion that by some back passage we are trying to annul the enfranchisement of the working classes. That is not the case at all. If it were proved that there was to any large extent an inability on the part of the existing electorate to record the vote within the hours stated, then I think there would be a strong primâ facie case for extension of those hours. But the hon. Member did nothing, by the assumptions which he made, to prove that case. He stated quite truly that a large percentage of electors record their votes in the last two hours. That is so. That is partly because the last two hours are the most convenient for them. But it does not follow that, because the last two hours are the most convenient, by extending the hours further you will get into a more convenient time still.
The right hon. Gentleman forgets that I stated that a large number of electors arrived too late to record their votes.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I did not forget that; I was coming to it. In the first place I say that, because from six to eight are the most convenient hours for the mass of voters, it does not follow that from eight to nine would be more convenient. I do not think that it would. My own experience is of a very populous constituency, one which has grown from an electorate of 8,000 at the time of the last Redistribution Act to one of 26,000 or 27,000 at the present moment. It is largely industrial and extends over a wide area. I have never had a complaint from any voter that the hours were not long enough. I have, of course, been told by particular voters that they could not be there on that day within the given hours. For instance, I have a considerable number of commercial travellers in my Constituency. It is a question not of the hours, but of whether the day is one of the days of the week on which they are free, or whether they have to leave their business and come home perhaps from the other end of England or Scotland to record their votes. In earlier days, too, I worked to a certain extent in municipal and other elections in Birmingham, and I have been fairly familiar with the circumstances there since I have ceased to take an active part. But I have never heard a complaint from Birmingham that the hours were not sufficiently long. That there are individual electors who on particular occasions are prevented from recording their votes, I admit. But it is by no means certain that you will let them in by putting on an extra hour at either end. My experience is not that of the hon. Member opposite, that the working man wants to go home between leaving off work and recording his vote. My experience is that it is more convenient for him to record his vote when going to or returning from his work, so that when he gets home he has not to come out again. The hon. Member speaks of numbers who are crowded out. At most elections in populous districts there is a crowd at the last moment and a certain number are shut out. But what the hon. Member has failed to prove, and what cannot be proved, is that the bulk of those could not have voted earlier. For one reason or another they put off voting until the last moment. I do not believe that you will stop that by extending the hours of polling. If you want to make it easier, I believe that what you have to do is to multiply the polling stations so as to give voters less 763 distance to go. That is far more needed in country districts than in the towns. As far as my experience goes, that is where the real complaint lies.
§ [ROYAL ASSENT.—Message to attend the Lords Commissioners. The House went, and, having returned, Mr. SPEAKER reported the Acts which received Royal Assent.
- 1. Army (Annual) Act, 1913.
- 2. Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913.
- 3. Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-health) Act, 1913.
- 4. Edinburgh and East of Scotland College of Agriculture Order Confirmation Act, 1913.]
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Before a case can be made out for a Bill of this kind you ought to establish some kind of a general demand for it. There is no evidence of a general demand in this case. Hours of work are not longer now than they used to be—in fact, they are shorter than when the present polling hours were fixed. As far as I know no local authority in any part of the country has put forward any demand for this extension of the polling hours. I believe there is power under the Local Government Act to extend the polling hours for local government purposes, and if there is any difficulty surely it will apply equally to Parliamentary and local elections. I do not know of any local authority outside London which has used the power to which I have alluded. The hon. Member who spoke last laughed at the idea that we need to consider the case
§ of the returning officers, clerks, and so forth. I do not say that that ought to decide the matter, and no doubt after an extension of hours you could get volunteers to do the work. That, however, is not the plea we usually hear from hon. Members opposite in regard to long hours that men are willing to serve. I wish to knew if the police authorities have been consulted about this question, because they have a very great strain put upon them at elections. The police force at election times, all over the country, have to work very long hours, and the late hours of elections are rather anxious hours for them. I think we ought to have some evidence from them on this point, and we ought to obtain their opinion before we rashly extend hours which were fixed when working hours were longer, and when it was more difficult for working men to poll than it is now. More than that, the present hours have prevailed without any demand for an extension coming from any part of the country with the exception of London. To needlessly prolong the hours of polling is not a step forward but a step backward. We used to have the poll open for days together, and we all know the abuses to which that practice led. When the hours of polling were shortened it was a great step in advance, because it helped to preserve order and prevented disorderly proceedings; therefore, I think, it would be a step backward and not a step forward to needlessly extend the polling hours.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 208; Noes, 56.765
|Division No. 75.]||AYES.||[4.35 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Bryce, J. Annan||Dickinson, W. H.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Doris, William|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Alden, Percy||Byles, Sir William Pollard||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Allen, A. A. (Dumbartonshire)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Edwards, John Hugh (Giamorgan, Mid)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Chancellor, H. G.||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Falconer, J.|
|Barnes, George N.||Clough, William||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Ffrench, Peter|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Cotton, William Francis||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Crean, Eugene||Gelder, Sir William Alfred|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Crooks, William||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Crumley, Patrick||Gilhooly, James|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Gill, A. H.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Dawes, J. A.||Gladstone, W. G. C.|
|Brace, William||Delany, William||Glanville, Harold James|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Goldstone, Frank|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Dewar, Sir J. A.||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Gulland, John William||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Reddy, M.|
|Hackett, John||Marshall, Arthur H.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Rossendale)||Martin, Joseph||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Meagher, Michael||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Hayward, Evan||Millar, James Duncan||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Hazleton, Richard||Molloy, M.||Rowlands, James|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Mooney, John J.||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Henry, Sir Charles||Morgan, George Hay||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Morrell, Philip||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Higham, John Sharp||Morison, Hector||Shortt, Edward|
|Hodge, John||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Munro, R.||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Hudson, Walter||Needham, Christopher T.||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Sutherland, John E.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Thomas, J. H.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||O'Brien, William (Cork)||Touche, G. A.|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wardle, George J.|
|Jowett, Frederick William||O'Doherty, Philip||Waring, Walter|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Dowd, John||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Keating, Matthew||O'Grady, James||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||O'Malley, William||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Kelly, Edward||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||O'Shee, James John||Webb, H.|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Sullivan, Timothy||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Lardner, James C. R.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Parry, Thomas H.||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Low, Sir. Frederick (Norwich)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Lundon, Thomas||Pointer, Joseph||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Lyell, Charles||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Wing, Thomas|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|McGhee, Richard||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Pringle, William M. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. W. Pearce and Sir Ryland Adkins.|
|MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Radford, G. H.|
|Macpherson, James Ian|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Fletcher, John Samuel||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gilmour, Captain John||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Grant, James Augustus||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Boyton, James||Haddock, George Bahr||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Sandys, G. J.|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Kerry, Earl of||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Cassel, Felix||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Macmaster, Donald||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Courthope, George Loyd||M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.||Younger, Sir George|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir W. Bull and Captain Jessel.|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Fell, Arthur||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."766
§ The House divided: Ayes, 207; Noes, 55.769
|Division No. 76.]||AYES.||[4.45 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Barran, Sir John (Hawick Burghs)|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Beale, Sir William Phipson|
|Alden, Percy||Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Beauchamp, Sir Edward|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Barnes, George N.||Beck, Arthur Cecil|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Hodge, John||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Holt, Richard Durning||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Hudson, Walter||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Illingworth, Percy H.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Brace, William||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Brady, P. J.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Jones, Leif Statten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Jowett, Frederick William||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Joyce, Michael||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Keating, Matthew||Radford, G. H.|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Kelly, Edward||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Clough, William||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Reddy, Michael|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Kilbride, Denis||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Lardner, James C. R.||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Crean, Eugene||Lewis, John Herbert||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Crooks, William||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Crumley, Patrick||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Rowlands, James|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Lundon, Thomas||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Dawes, J. A.||Lyell, Charles Henry||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Dickinson, W. H.||McGhee, Richard||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Doris, William||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Shortt, Edward|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Macpherson, James Ian||Simon, Rt Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, M d)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Falconer, J.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Martin, Joseph||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Ffrench, Peter||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Thomas, J. H.|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Meagher, Michael||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Gelder, Sir William Alfred||Millar, James Duncan||Touche, George Alexander|
|Gilhooly, James||Molloy, M.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Gill, A. H.||Molteno, Percy Alport||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz||Wardle, G. J.|
|Glanville, H. J.||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Waring, Walter|
|Goldstone, Frank||Mooney, John J.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Morgan, George Hay||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||Morrell, Philip||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Morison, Hector||Watt, Henry A.|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Webb, H.|
|Gulland, John W.||Munro, Robert||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Hackett, John||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Needham, Christopher T.||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Nicholson, Sir Charles (Doncaster)||Whyte, Alexander F.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Hayward, Evan||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Hazleton, Richard||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||O'Brien, William (Cork)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wing, Thomas|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Doherty, Philip||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Henry, Sir Charles||O'Grady, James|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||O'Malley, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. W. Pearce and Sir Ryland Adkins.|
|Higham, John Sharp||O'Shee, James John|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Delany, William||M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.|
|Baird, J. L.||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S.||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Fell, Arthur||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honlton)|
|Boyton, J,||Gilmour, Captain J.||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hambre, Angus Valdemar||O'Dowd, John|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Orde-Powlett, Hon. G. W. A.|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hunter, Sir C. R.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Kerry, Earl of||Pollock, E. M.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Samuel Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Macmaster, Donald||Sandys, G. J.|
|Stewart, Gershom||Wood, John (Stalybridge)||Younger, Sir George|
|Thynne, Lord Alexander||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir F. Banbury and Major Gastrell.|
|Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
Bill read a second time.
§ "That the Bill be committed to Committee of the Whole House."
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 50; Noes, 202.771
|Division No. 77.]||AYES.||[4.55 p.m.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Fell, Arthur||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gilmour, Captain John||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Boyton, J.||Hills, John Waller||Sandys, G. J.|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Stewart, Gershom|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Butcher, John George||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Locker-Lampson, C. (Salisbury)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Cassel, Felix||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Younger, Sir George|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Newton, Harry Kottingham||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Ronald M'Neill and Mr. Remnant.|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Horbour)||Falconer, James||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Farrell, James Patrick||Kilbride, Denis|
|Alden, Percy||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Ffrench, Peter||Lardner, James C. R.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Gelder, Sir W. A.||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Barnes, George N.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick Burghs)||Gilhooly, James||Lundon, Thomas|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Glanville, H. J.||Lynch, Arthur Alfred|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Goldstone, Frank||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Greig, Colonel James William||McGhee, Richard|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Griffith, Ellis Jones||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Gulland, John W.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Brace, William||Hackett, John||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry|
|Brady, P. J.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hardie, J. Keir||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Meagher, Michael|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||Millar, James Duncan|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Hemmerde, Edward George||Molloy, Michael|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Clough, William||Henry, Sir Charles||Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Higham, John Sharp||Mooney, John J.|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hodge, John||Morgan, George Hay|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Morrell, Philip|
|Crean, Eugene||Holt, Richard Durning||Morison, Hector|
|Crooks, William||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Crumley, Patrick||Hudson, Walter||Munro, Robert|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.|
|Dawes, J. A.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.|
|Delany, William||Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Norton, Captain Cecil w.|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Doris, William||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Jowett, Frederick William||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Joyce, Michael||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Keating, Matthew||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Kellaway, Frederick George||O'Dowd, John|
|Esslemont, George Birnle||Kelly, Edward||O'Malley, William|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Wardle, George J.|
|O'Shee, James John||Roe, Sir Thomas||Waring, Walter|
|O'Sullivan, Timothy||Rowlands, James||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Parry, Thomas H.||Scanlan, Thomas||Watt, Henry A.|
|Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.||Webb, H.|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Pointer, Joseph||Shortt, Edward||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Simon, Rt Hon. Sir John Allsebrook||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)||Whyte, A. F.|
|Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Pringle, William M. R.||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Radford, G. H.||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Sutherland, John E.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Thomas, J. H.||Wing, Thomas|
|Reddy, Michael||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Young, William (Perthshire, E.)|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Touche, George Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. W. Pearce and Sir Ryland Adkins.|
|Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.
Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
Adjourned at Four minutes after Five o'clock till Monday next (28th April).