HC Deb 04 July 1913 vol 54 cc2425-7

Unless Parliament otherwise determine this Act shall not continue in force after the expiration of five years from the passing of this Act."

Clause brought up and read the first time.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."


The effect of this would be to make this measure a temporary measure. I think that the Government themselves intend it to be merely a temporary measure. It is a makeshift expedient to tide over a particular time, as will be seen from the way in which the Government have dealt with the matter. It is true that in 1906 the Colonial Secretary introduced a Bill which was very much on the same lines as this Bill. Subsequently in this very Session we had another Bill which had the effect of stopping plural voting, but which did not create a new crime, but proceeded on an entirely different principle. I think that the President of the Board of Education in introducing this measure admitted that the other Bill proposed to deal with the matter in a much more reasonable way, namely, by providing that a person could only get on the register in one constituency. It is an absurd way of dealing with the question to penalise a person for exercising a choice which he has always exercised. I think that the Government themselves recognise that, because they adopted a different procedure last Session from that which they adopted in the Bill which the Colonial Secretary originally introduced. Indeed, they would have continued with that measure if it had not been for Mr. Speaker's ruling to the effect that if a certain alteration were made in the Bill the Bill would have been so completely changed in character that it would have been a different Bill, and he could not allow it to proceed. In those circumstances the Government withdrew that Bill and introduced a Bill on an entirely different principle. I should like to ask the Government why? If they thought last Session that the right way of dealing with this matter was only to allow the elector to be registered in one constituency, why do they entirely depart from that principle and seek to penalise a man for exercising a choice in voting? I say that one reason is that this is merely a temporary expedient, and, being a temporary expedient, it ought to be limited to a definite period of five years or four years—I am not particular. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts the principle of my Clause and gives it a Second Reading, I am prepared to accept an Amendment that the period should be four years or three years. The period of five years which I have selected no doubt does ensure that the Bill will not apply at, the next General Election, the life of Parliament, by the Parliament Act, being limited to five years. By the adoption of my Amendment it would be perfectly certain that the Bill could not be in operation at the next General Election, and whatever Government might be in power, it would have to deal with the question of electoral reform before the General Election which follows the next General Election. The addition of this new Clause would be the lever which would force them to deal with the question of Redistribution. It would also necessitate the Government's dealing with a question with which my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and myself dealt in a Bill we introduced, namely, the anomalies of the Registration Law, which we proposed to remedy by consolidating the various Statutes into one Statute. The whole of that question would have to be faced by the Government if this limit were inserted. It is perfectly clear that any Minister, considering what legislation he had to propose, would have to take into consideration that the Plural Voting Act would expire at the end of five years.

It being Five o'clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House; Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.