HC Deb 10 July 1913 vol 55 cc626-61

Nothing in this Act contained shall prevent a Parliamentary elector in the City of London from voting, or asking for a ballot or voting paper for the purpose of so voting, in the City of London and in one other constituency.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

4.0 P.M.

The new Clause which stands in my name embodies a proposal on which a discussion took place on Friday last, and but for certain circumstances I do not think I would have ventured to put it down for further discussion to-day. There were two circumstances in connection with the discussion of this Clause last week which make it desirable that we should have a further discussion upon it this afternoon. The first circumstance is a somewhat personal one. The Solicitor-General, when he was dealing with this new Clause, made some very courteous though rather pointed remarks with regard to myself and the constituency which I represent. Naturally, under those circumstances, I desired to make a reply, more especially as I think the right hon. and learned Solicitor-General was suffering under a misapprehension, but I was not permitted to do so. No sooner had I risen in my place than the President of the Board of Education rose in his, and claimed "that the Question be now put." I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education thought that was a funny thing to do. If he did, I think he must have a rather strange sense of humour. The second circumstance which, I think, make it desirable that we should further discuss this proposal is that the speech made on that occasion by the learned Solicitor-General makes it quite clear that either he had not read the proposed new Clause, or if he had read it, he did not really appreciate its exact meaning. I quite believe that the interpretation of legal phraseology is past all understanding, but if a common-sense justification of this proposed new Clause be given, I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will see that the greater part of his argument against it did not rest on any foundation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that this new Clause was to be inserted in the Bill for my special benefit. This is what he said:— If I am not mistaken, there is a booth in the Guildhall where voters have the privilege of electing the Noble Lord the member for the Hornsey Division of Middlesex. Does anyone think that is a fair principle? May I very respectfully point out to the learned Solicitor-General that he was there referring to those electors who by reason of freeholds in the City which they do not occupy, exercise their vote for the Hornsey Division of Middlesex. But surely this new Clause does not touch those persons at all. I will read the wording of the Clause:— Nothing in this Act contained shall prevent a Parliamentary elector in the City of London from voting, or asking for a ballot or voting paper for the purpose of so voting, in the City of London and in one other constituency. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must know that these men who possess a vote for the Hornsey Division of Middlesex by reason of their having freeholds in the City of London which they do not occupy are not, as a matter of fact, Parliamentary electors in the City of London at all. They have no right to cast their vote for a representative of the City of London, and surely, unless the legal interpretation of this Clause differs even more widely than usual from the ordinary interpretation, it only refers to those persons who have the right to exercise their franchise in the City of London for the return of a Member for that city to this House. If the right hon. Gentleman disputes my interpretation, I shall be very glad if he will point out to me in what respect I am wrong. Suppose the right, hon. and learned Gentleman is right, suppose that this Clause was designed to give these electors who have freeholds which they do not occupy in the City of London the right to vote in Hornsey, as they do at present—suppose all that is correct, the passing of this Clause would not, after all, really benefit me particularly to any very large extent. At any rate, if I may judge by what has happened in the past, it would make no very appreciable difference to my position in this House. There are, I think, some forty or fifty London freeholders who, under the present system, do not vote in London but vote in the Hornsey Division of Middlesex. Even assuming that all of these electors are Unionists—I do not for one moment assert that they are, though I think the Solicitor-General rather suggested that they are—I, personally, should be truly graitfied by his suggestion that they would all vote for me, because we all know— it is admitted on all sides of the House— that these men are a particularly intelligent portion of the electors. And even supposing that everyone of those men recorded his vote against me it would really only reduce my majority on the last occasion from 3,400 odd to about 3,000, so that the hope which naturally underlay the Solicitor-General's opposition to this new Clause would, I am afraid, have been disappointed. But there is another aspect of this question. It is quite true, quite apart from the freehold voters to whom the Solicitor-General devoted the main part of his speech, that there are voters who reside in the City of London and have votes there and who also have votes in adjoining constituencies, that is to say, there is a very large number of out-voters not in my Constituency or in adjoining constituencies, but out-voters in the City of London. Unless this proposed new Clause passed those men would have to come to some decision as to whether they would exercise their right to vote in that part of the country in which they reside or in the City of London. The President of the Board of Education told us that last year he received a deputation from the Lord Mayor and ex-Lord Mayor and other representative officials of the City of London who had assured him that if those electors were presented with this dilemma of having to decide whether they would vote for a representative for that part of the country in which their home was situated or for the City of London, they were so attached to the City of London that undoubtedly most of them would record their votes in the city. That is an expression of opinion, but I venture to think it is very doubtful whether that would be the case. The right hon. Gentleman must remember that, no doubt, there would be great pressure put upon those men by the various party organisations in the constituency in which their homes were situated to record their votes there. I think also that at the present day their instinct would lead them to record their votes in the constituency in which their home was situated. You must remember that those men who have votes in the city are, generally speaking, men who by their own industry have been successful in amassing, not much, perhaps, but generally a certain amount or, as my hon. Friend (Sir Harry Samuel) says, a modest competence.

Those men have been amazed and amazed at the recent tendency which has been observable in our public life of men in responsible positions preaching the doctrine of public plunder. They have become alarmed at the passage of Increment Value Duty and other measures which they regard as measures of spoliation, and so on. They are very much inclined therefore to see that the representative whom they send to the House of Commons from the constituency in which they reside is a man who represents their views. There is a very large number of those men. The Solicitor-General pointed out how extraordinarily the City of London differed from other constituencies. He pointed out that the residential population amounted to only about 19,000 odd, including, I suppose, men, women, and children. The total electorate as compared with that amounted to upwards of 31,000. It is quite clear, therefore, that a very large proportion of the city electorate reside not in the city, but in the surrounding districts. The question that we really ask is, is it desirable that the representation of the City of London as a corporate body should be left to the mere chance whether the electorate in the city should consist, as it has done in the past, of a vast body of men of great influence and great knowledge representing great interests, industrial interests, and financial interests. Is it desirable that it should be left to chance whether the Members for the City are representative of a body of men like that or whether they are merely to be representative of caretakers, and, I suppose, if the wishes and desires of many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite ever fructify, not only of caretakers, but of charwomen. That is really our point. We desire that the City of London, being as it is, so differently situated in circumstances to other constituencies in the United Kingdom, should continue to have as its representatives those who will represent all that vast and important body of men representing all those great national interests. We desire that that should be made certain by the Clause which we now propose should be inserted in the Bill, and which I have the pleasure to move.


I beg to second the Motion. The Noble Lord gave two reasons why he thought we were justified on this side of the House in reopening the question of the exclusion of the City of London which had been debated at some length the other day. I think there is one matter which we have the right to bring before the House. The Senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), who occupies a singularly high position in the House, delivered an able speech on this subject, in which he was very rightly pleading for his own constituency. There was no reply whatever vouchsafed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and all that happened was that the President of the Board of Education immediately moved the Closure. That alone justifies any action we may feel inclined to take upon this side, and, without wishing to say anything disrespectful, the action of right hon. Gentlemen opposite certainly showed a want of courtesy to a man who occupies that singularly high position. I think that the position of the City of London stands out as unique. I would like to put this argument forward with the idea of its acceptance by the Solicitor-General. We have heard from the other side of the House the expression oftentimes used that all their Franchise Bills, or I think I might say Franchise and Disenfranchising Bills, were with the desire to get the real, true opinion of the constituency. They tell us that the freehold voter and the plural voter have really debarred us from having as the representatives of the constituencies the men who are really desired by the majority of the voters. If that be so, I think I am entitled to ask right hon. Gentlemen opposite to choose the one course or the other, because it is perfectly impossible for them to stand on both. I think I can substantiate the fact that the City of London is the one exception in the whole of the United Kingdom, and that the effect of this Bill would be to deprive that great city of the power of putting forward and electing the man or men whom that constituency really desires to sit on these benches. First of all, it is the one constituency in which there are practically no residents. There may be a few resident clergy, and there are, as we know, caretakers and policemen, but there are practically no residents. The consequence of that is that it is a constituency almost entirely consisting of plural voters.

Under those circumstances I do plead that if you really desire to get the full sense of the constituency you should exclude the City of London, at all events to some degree, from this Bill. I ventured to plead the other day that it was very desirable that we should have the concentrated opinion of the electors of the City of London upon many very vital questions which could and would probably affect the whole destinies of this country. I do not think that even right hon. Gentlemen opposite desire that the whole of the influence of the City of London should be concentrated in the votes of caretakers, and, in certain eventualities, with the addition of charwomen to their ranks. I think right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are taking a rather mean advantage. They have perhaps confessed in a small degree to the fact that they know they are going to obtain party advantage out of this Bill. We have not the smallest shadow of doubt of the motives actuating them. In dealing with the City of London in the manner in which they propose they see that they are going to gain an advantage in one way or another. It may be that the advantage they are going to gain now they may desire to follow up with an even greater advantage. Let us take this case. Suppose, as the Solicitor-General said, that the greater number of those who do business in the City and earn a modest competency, vote in the City, then the Solicitor-General knows that there are going to be depleted from a number of seats on which the present Government has fixed longing eyes a number of voters. On the other hand, if the voters decide to cast their vote elsewhere there must, under those circumstances, be a very small pool for the City of London.

I can well understand the argument moving hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that if there is a very small poll of two or three thousand why give two Members to the City? This, therefore, might be followed up in the future by some other action in order to deprive the City of London of one of its Members, or why not disfranchise it altogether, or make it an out ward of Romford That seems to be an argument approaching very nearly to the ludicrous, but it is to the argument not on this side but on the other side that I refer. After all, the City of London is not only the property of the British Empire but it is really and truly the property of the whole world, it is the centre of the civil- ised world. It is looked up to by foreign countries, and it is the centre mart and exchange and the centre of financial transactions. In every way and shape it occupies a position which is really and truly unique. Its past history has been alluded to, and there has been mention of exceptional privileges which it has enjoyed under various Acts. I do appeal, and I feel in making that appeal I am not going beyond that which I think is our right here, though I am not prepared to make it in the eloquent language of the senior Member, nor do I profess to have the feeling which actuated him, but still I do plead for something which is after all the possession not of a body, not of the Empire, not even of our country, but practically and truly of the civilised world. I ask that there should be some exception made in favour of the ancient City of London.


On the Committee stage we had an extended Debate on this subject, and the question raised by this Amendment was then considered and decided by a large majority. I do not think that those who have listened to the two interesting speeches which have just been delivered would have very easily gathered exactly what the proposal of this Bill is in regard to the City of London. It is not proposed to disfranchise the City of London. It is not proposed to prevent a single person who is entitled to be a Parliamentary elector in the City of London from exercising his right to vote there. It is not proposed in any way to lessen the importance of the City of London as a great electoral constituency. All that this Bill proposes is that, so far as regards those persons who have a right to vote in the City of London, they should be dealt with in the same way as persons who have a right to vote anywhere else. The real way of judging this matter is to take the limiting case. Let us suppose that I am a voter in the City of London, and that if I exercise my choice of voting there my vote will turn that election. Let us suppose, further, that I am also a voter in some other constituency, and that there also, if I exercise my vote there, it will turn that election. That is the real limiting case. The question is: Is there any reason on earth why I, in those circumstances, should be entitled to turn two elections when no other elector in the United Kingdom who is not a voter in the City of London can turn more than one? I submit very confidently that there is no reason whatever in common sense why such a state of things should remain.

I have always had some difficulty in understanding how those who have the honour of representing the City of London could possibly bring themselves to urge this Amendment in the House. So what does it mean? It is nothing less than a reflection upon their own constituents, because it suggests that their constituents cannot be trusted to vote for them if they have only one vote, and that therefore it is necessary they should have two votes, and, at any rate, vote for them as second choice. I had the pleasure of telling the hon. Baronet in Committee that if I could be sure that the giving of my vote in the City of London would decide whether or not he would be elected for it, I should certainly exercise my choice in the City of London— in what direction I need not explain. Whatever may be the unique character of that constituency, and no one doubts its overwhelming importance as a great radiating centre of population and trade, that is, the only one reason the more why there is no danger whatever in trusting that its voice in our Legislature is not likely to be silenced, and that its influence upon the course of the history of the world is not likely to be affected by what we propose. The Noble Lord who moved the new Clause referred to a speech which I made in Committee. That speech was principally concerned, so far as it was concerned with persons at all, with the two distinguished Gentlemen who represent the City of London. The Noble Lord seems to think that I said something about him. I made a casual reference to the Hornsey Division—


Not in the least about me. I said that the Solicitor-General had really misread the new Clause, because a large part of his argument was devoted to dealing with those who have freeholds in the City of London, but do not occupy them.


It was not a very important part of the discussion, and I am quite content to leave it. Everybody who owns a freehold in the City of London and does not occupy it, has a vote in respect to that ownership, not, indeed, in the City of London, but in the Hornsey Division of Middlesex. A similar arrangement obtains in regard to freeholders in any other great town, such as Birmingham or Manchester. This Bill proposes to stop that in the City of London, as in all other big towns, to this extent, that if a man chooses to exercise any other of his qualifications, he will not be able to exercise that qualification as well. I do not quite understand the Noble Lord when he thinks that what I said before was not apposite. Every single person who owns a freehold in the City of London and does not occupy it, if he is also a freeman or a liveryman of the City of London, or occupies some other premises, has two votes, one in the City of London and another in the Hornsey Division. I took that as an illustration, and it seemed to me to be a very good one. There are some hundreds of persons who vote in the Hornsey Division because they have property in the City of London. I argued that there was really no reason for making a special exception in the case of a plural voter, one of whose votes was in the City of London and another in the Hornsey Division. It is surely much more natural and right that we should deal with that class in the same way, when we are dealing with the City of London, as when we are dealing with any other large town. I do not think that anything I said was incorrect. Certainly it was only intended as an illustration of the general argument which I put forward. The broad argument is this: Accepting, as for the purposes of this Debate we must accept, that plural voting is going to be stopped, and that it is going to be stopped not by limiting a man to one kind of franchise, but by compelling him to make a choice between his different franchises, is there any justification at all for saying that that rule should cease to operate if one of his franchises happens to be any sort of franchise in the City of London? It is only natural that some hon. Gentlemen opposite should take a different view. We all recognise that they have put their views with great moderation. But the view that we take is that there is really no justification for drawing a distinction between one case and the other, and after the arguments which have been put forward, both on the Committee stage and now, we invite the House to decline to make this distinction.


I listened to the Solicitor-General, as I always do, with interest and admiration, but I think he must have been hard put to it for argument when he suggested, as a possible case, an elector in the City of London who could by his single vote turn the election in the city and also in the constituency in which he lives. There is a well-known saying that hard cases make bad law. I think one might fairly say that an impossible hypothesis is the basis of a bad argument. I cannot help thinking that the Solicitor-General and I differ somewhat profoundly as to the purpose of the franchise and the object of the representative system. The Solicitor-General seems to regard the vote as a boon conferred upon the elector by a benevolent Parliament at the instigation of a wise Government; he thinks that everybody should be served alike, and that the votes should go round like buns at a school treat, the great object being that every child should have one, but that no child should have more than one. My idea of the representative system is that it should be a means of obtaining the opinion of the people on important questions, and of obtaining it in such a way that it should be a guide to Parliament and to the Government, and not merely a means of supplying a number of voters to follow patiently one side or the other through the Division Lobbies. That being my view, I hold that certain constituencies have a definite character, and their Members are channels for the supply of information and opinions to this House which it is important that we should obtain. I urged the same point in the matter of university representation. I urge it again, and I think with as much or even more emphasis in the case of the representation of the City of London, inasmuch as London is the heart and the nerve centre of the finances of the Empire, if not of the world. It is extremely important that we should hear the voice of London on the great commercial, financial, and industrial questions which come before this House, and will come before it with increasing frequency as time goes on. Shall we get it? The Solicitor-General says, with a great deal of force, that the voter in the City of London, if he has a vote elsewhere, has an option as to where he shall vote. But we do not know what the political exigencies of a General Election may bring forth or what disfranchisement may come upon the voter who has votes in more than one place, as many of us have, and it ought not to be left to chance whether London speaks with the voice of a great commercial and financial community or with the voice of caretakers. Surely it is a matter of concern to the Government whether constituencies represent great interests or whether they represent nothing more than good, substantial votes in the Division Lobby. I maintain, on the ground of the value to this House and to the Government of a strong representation of a great body of opinion on subjects of momentous importance to the community, that this Clause ought to be accepted and added to the Bill.

I would like to supplement something which fell from the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir P. Magnus) the other day as to the historical position which the City of London occupies. I will not go back to the history of the five Members. I would rather take up the history of London at a later period. I do not know whether a book called "The History of Representative Government'' has been studied by many Members of this House. It was a Radical publication, or what passed for Radical in the year 1816, strongly advocating a reformed Parliament. This is what it said:— ''The city has distinguished itself in the pages of history for the uniform defence of the rights and liberties of the people. I am not sure that the rights and liberties of the people do not need as much defence from the arbitrary action of the Government now as they did in the reign of George III. But we know how manfully the city stood forward in the reign of George III. for the liberty of the Press and the liberties of the people. To come to a later date, the city was the first, I believe, to return a member of the Jewish persuasion to assert religious freedom in this House. The City returned for many years Lord John Russell, a prominent member of the Liberal party, a great figure in this House, who had sat in Parliament for eighteen years before he sat for the City of London, and during that time he sat for six different constituencies. The City of London was faithful to that eminent man. I may add that the City of London was the means of introducing to public life the late Lord Goschen, who came into Parliament as a young man, was promoted to office very early in life, and sat for sixteen years for the City of London. But apart from what I may call the abstract reasons for supporting this Clause for securing to this House a full and adequate representation of great commercial interests, I say that, if for nothing-else, the great part that the City of London has played in the political history of the country and its political character demands respect, and I would urge most earnestly that the proposed new Clause should receive the favourable consideration of the House.


As I understood the first argument of the Solicitor-General, it was a fantastic and impossible hypothesis which has been already exploded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford, and I therefore shall not refer to it further. The Solicitor-General's second argument was that this was an exception to the main principle of the Bill, and, therefore, could not be admitted. Yes, but it is an exception under wholly exceptional conditions, and that is exactly a case in which an exception ought to be made. I venture to think this is really a very modest demand. It might very fairly be said that if a man occupies business premises in an urban area and has a vote for those premises, and you have him also having his residence in a constituency outside where he also has a vote, that, as a general proposition, it is to the interest of the community that he should be allowed to exercise his vote in both places: for this reason, not because of the advantage to the man himself—that is not the principle on which you give votes—it is not the principle on which a franchise ought to be based—but because in the interest of the community it is desirable that the voice of the business community should be expressed in this House. It should not be left to chance, as it would be if the Bill is allowed to stand in this form, as to whether or not business premises send Members to this House to express the views and desires of their owners. This proposition does not go so far as it might. What it says is that the case of the City of London is certainly an exception, not only to all the cities in this country, but to every business community in the world, and, therefore, the exception should be made. Thereby we shall be enabled to secure continuity of business representation for the City of London. I have heard no argument in this House, either upon this occasion or upon the former occasion when this proposition was before the House, giving any reason why this proposal should not be adopted. Will the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill give us any reason whatsoever how the community will be injured if this Amendment is accepted? Will he tell us how it will destroy the Bill? He cannot do so. On the other hand reasons have been given— unanswerable reasons to my mind—to show why this Amendment should be accepted and why a temporary, halting makeshift measure like this, alleged to improve our representation, should not be allowed to go to some distance, maybe all the distance, to destroy the representation of the City of London, which has had a great historical past and has played a very important part in the character and Debates of this House.


The Solicitor-General is usually charming and delightful, but is sometimes exceedingly subtle and deluding. To-day he has been subtle and exceedingly deluding. I do not think in his heart of hearts the Solicitor-General would really like to disfranchise the great City of London He tells us, in respect of this Amendment, that the House is doing nothing to disfranchise the City of London. I am perfectly certain that it does not require the great acumen and great ability of the Solicitor-General to know that this is a halfway House towards disfranchising the City of London. If this Amendment is not accepted, if this new Clause is not accepted, and if the Bill passes in the form in which it is defended by the Solicitor-General, it cannot be many years before the City of London will be disfranchised and loses that special privilege which we are anxious to maintain, and which we plead for good cause, shown in the arguments advanced in the course of this Debate and in the course of the Debate-which took place last Friday. The Solicitor-General seemed to be profoundly affected by the most fantastical hypothesis which was ever advanced even by one of his great ingenuity. This was to the effect that it might, in the course of a million years, so happen that some voter might be able by his vote actually to turn two elections, one in the City of London and one in some other place. That seems to have profoundly affected the judgment of the Solicitor-General. It seems to be a very great shock to him that it should ever by any possibility occur! Does he think it ever will occur? If he is so shocked that one man should have that power, possibly once in a million years, why is he not shocked that 40,000 electors should only return one Member to this House and another 40,000 electors, equally qualified to exercise the franchise, should return eight or even ten Members to this House? We have not got to wait a million years for that. That happens to-day. That will happen at the next election, because the present Government do not propose to remove those great hypotheses which are real, which are effective, and which really make weight in our Con- stitution. He was terribly shocked that it might possibly occur once in a million years that somebody might actually exercise the vote and by that power ensure the return of two Members to Parliament instead of one.

The Solicitor-General was subtle in his arguments. He sees well the great power which will be exercised over the electors in the city to vote in a particular constituency! The election agent will come and say, "Your vote is sadly needed in the other place in which you exercise a vote," and the consequence of that will be that the man will be seduced, quite contrary to his natural sentiment, to vote in the other constituency. That is exactly what we have been urging all along, that in these days, when wire pulling has been brought to a very fine art—as the President of the Board of Education very well knows, for nobody has exercised that art more frequently and more subtly than he has—in these days when wirepulling has been brought to that state, you will find the election agent will go to anybody who has a vote in the city, and in another constituency, and he will say to that person, "You need not give your vote in the city, the city Members are safe, but you can give your vote in that constituency in which you reside or in which you have the other vote." It may happen that, however great may be the sentimental desire on the part of a voter to vote in the City of London—the very best of the voters in the City of London: the best, I mean, for financial influence and those who hold a very strong position in the city; the best because of their businesses, and because of many other qualities—those men will all exercise their franchise, not in the city, but in the place whore they reside. The consequence will be that nobody will be left in a few years' time in the city to vote except the resident caretakers, a few clerks, and people of that kind. When the next Redistribution Bill that comes along—for a Redistribution Bill comes once every quarter of a century on an average—the Government of the day will say, "Why should we continue this representation of the city? Why should the city have this perpetual franchise when it no longer represents the collective voice of the City of London, but only caretakers and clerks, for only 4,000 or 5,000 voters have voted in the City of London during the last few contests?" That very likely will have happened. That argument, will be adduced to disfranchise the city, and to take away from the city that representation which it has exercised so wisely and so well through so long a period. With all these subtle distinctions on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman there is no doubt whatever that the effect of this Bill is to disfranchise the city. The effect of this Bill is undoubtedly to put the argument I have named, I think an overwhelming argument, into the hands of any other Government which succeeds this Government, when the next Redistribution Bill comes, to take away the representation from the City of London.

What a loss! What a loss to the world! Anything that diminishes the prestige of London is a real loss not only to the civilisation of this country, but a real loss to the world. It is an international loss. The city is international. It is cosmopolitan. Anything that diminishes its prestige is a great blow, I believe, actually to the advancement of civilisation throughout the world. London is the centre of many great beneficent movements, not only here but in the world generally. I believe that any single thing that takes away from the prestige which attaches to the City of London, is a loss to the world. We ask, we plead, that this exception may be made. I know we cannot alter your determination that nobody shall, as a rule, have more than one vote, but we ask you to make this one single exception. We say that the city is in a different position to any other city. Edinburgh could not claim the same rights and the same privileges. Neither could Glasgow, nor Liverpool, nor Manchester, and I am quite certain that no other town would be jealous of the City of London in that particular privilege being left to the city. We plead, therefore, that this exception should be made. We believe that there will be no loss from any party point of view. There may be two votes perhaps; though why you should always think the city will always be on our side and might not sometimes be on yours, I do not see. After all, these great changes occur, sometimes very rapidly; but I do not think we ought to argue these questions of franchise from the point of view as to how they are going to affect parties at the present time.

We should take a wider outlook and a broader forecast. I am strongly in favour of a very great reform in our franchise system. Whatever reforms we may make, I do say it is well to consider that we should not merely make systems of one size, containing ugliness, and containing nothing that is good; but that we should, to a certain extent, consider the idiosyncrasies, particular qualities, and particular habits even, of the electors who reside in certain constituencies. I remember very well Mr. Gladstone's argument that Ireland should have a greater representation than her population entitled her to on what he called the "centrifugal theory," which was that Ireland was further from the seat of Government. He put forward magnificent and splendid arguments for the franchise being given to some constituencies, and other constituencies being allowed to retain their representation, although they did not come up to the standard of population, because they had certain characteristics, certain historical traditions, and so on. I myself am a great believer in that, and that we should at all events throw these conditions into the balance wherever we are redistributing electoral power. We ought to look at all those things. We ought to look at those old historic traditions. We ought to look at the position of this great constituency. I ask the present Government to recast their thoughts, to think of what they are doing. If they pass the Bill in its present form, they will be going a long way to disfranchise this great historic constituency, the City of London. If they would make this one concession, if they would make this one exception, and allow a man to vote for the city and for somewhere else at which his residence was, they would at least do something to preserve the rights of this great centre of cosmopolitan and international influence; they would do something for the good of the country, of the Empire, and I would add, of civilisation.


I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General, has rather forgotten what took place in Committee, because on that occasion the right hon. and learned Gentleman throwing aside, the secrecy of the ballot, informed me that in the event of my being in distress, he would come to my rescue and support me with his vote. My right hon. colleague, the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), speaking after me, was rather concerned as to the further results of the Bill. At any rate I understood we should have the support of the right hon. and learned Gentleman if ever we were in distress, but I was sorry to notice that on this occasion he did not repeat that assurance. Now, I understand, the secrecy of the ballot is to be allowed to intervene. I hope, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has apparently changed his opinion with regard to one statement which he made in the Committee stage, he will also change his opinion with regard to the whole thing, and will support the new Clause proposed by my hon. Friend, and reverse the opinion which he expressed on the last occasion. I quite agree with the proposition which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has laid down. I quite recognise the rule that the Bill having been read a second time, the principle of the Bill should be accepted, namely, that no man should have more than one vote, although I do not myself agree with that principle, or as my right hon. Friend (Sir William Anson) has put it, that each man have one bun and not more than one bun. But what we have endeavoured to show is that there may be a possible exception which may prove the rule. This, I believe, is the exception which proves the rule, and it is an exception in this particular instance of a very strong character. I think there are very strong grounds for this exception. These grounds are very simple. It has been said that the City of London is the only constituency in which there is an enormous majority of plural voters.


There are the universities.


My hon. Friend reminds me that I ought not to forget the universities. I shall never forget the universities. Like my right hon. Friend the senior Member for the City of London, I have supported the universities. But that does not affect my point. At the present moment, I was dealing with the City of London alone. The City of London is composed, to a large extent, and with the possible exception of the universities, to a far larger extent than any other constituency, of plural voters. The right hon. Gentleman opposite read to us a statement showing that the residential population of the City of London consisted of 19,000 people. That is quite true, but I read on a previous occasion, from a statement which I had prepared, the figures showing that the floating population of the City of London consists of 1,000,000 people, and the rate-able value is nearly £6,000,000. Can the right hon. Gentleman give any single instance where there is a city with a residential population of 19,000, which has a floating population of 1,000,000? What sort of population is that floating population? It is the best sort of population which any city in any part of the inhabited globe could have. They are all practical, hard-working, industrious and well-educated people with a great stake in the interests of their country, which, after all, even in these days, is something. What is it that we ask? We say, "Here is a constituency which occupies an exceptional position. We recognise that the principle of the Bill, that there should be only one vote for each voter, has been accepted by the House. We do not for a moment ask to reverse that principle. What we do ask is that in one isolated case, which has great historical interests, which has returned distinguished men to this House, and which has, as its floating population, a class different from any other constituency in the Empire, should be the place in which this one exception should be made." We are told that the Bill will preserve intact the representation of the City of London, but whoever will succeed, my right hon. colleague or myself, if this Clause is not carried, though he may sit as representative for the City of London, will sit not as the representative of the financial, commercial, and industrial interests of the greatest city in the world, but as the choice of the caretakers and the few residents and the small number of people who will be induced to vote in the city, instead of voting in any other constituency. The President of the Board of Education told us that he was quite certain that a. large number of the electors of the city were so enamoured of their vote for the city that they would still vote there, instead of for any other place.


I think what I did say was that a deputation representing the city expressed that view. It is not a view which I altogether share, but that was the view of the representatives of the city who waited upon me last year.


I think the representatives of the corporation waited upon the right hon. Gentleman, but that is only one part of the city. He knows that. They waited upon him in rather exceptional circumstances. They thought they were going to be done away with altogether. They said, "Half a loaf was better than no bread." They said, "Let those electors remain on the register; do not take away our vote altogether." I think the circumstances are now very different. Be that as it may, I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher), who has had very great experience in electioneering, is right, and although possibly the corporation were right in their view as a whole, I agree with my right hon. Friend as to what would be the effect when the election comes. What takes place in that case? Say there is a voter who lives in Croydon, and is also a voter in the City of London. The Conservative agent for Croydon goes to him and says, "You know that in the city we are going to have a large majority, and, therefore, it is useless for you to vote there. In Croydon the majority will be small, and you ought to vote here." I think that is one of the reasons why hon. Gentlemen opposite do not support this Clause, because after all, what will the voter say? He will say, "I am only one. Why should I not vote in Croydon, and not in the city. I shall not jeopardise the city, and I may save Croydon." He may be only one, but it will be put to a great number of voters individually, and each will not know that the same argument has been put to many others, and the result will be that a very great number may choose to vote for the constituency in which they reside, instead of for the city.

Hon. Members opposite may say, "What does it matter?" I admit, according to the principle of the Bill, that it would not matter very much if the City of London were an ordinary constituency, but the City of London is not an ordinary constituency, and it does matter in that case, because you are going to change entirely the representation of the city, to give it different qualifications and different Members from what it has had in the past. The senior Member for the City of London, when the University Amendment was under discussion in Committee, pointed out that after all there was one advantage in university representation, and that was that where you had a man who perhaps did not enjoy strong health and at the same time had great political experience, and was a most useful man in this House, it was desirable that he should have a place where he could expect to have a more or less quiet election, and where when he was elected he would be able to devote his time to his duties in this House, and not have to attend smoking concerts, bazaars, and the other varied entertainments, which every hon. Member knows the majority of the Members of this House have to attend to the detriment of the work of this House. He said it was desirable that there should be at least a few constituencies where men of that sort might be returned. Does not that apply to the City of London?

The Member for Oxford University (Sir William Anson), has pointed out that Lord John Russell, during the the thirty-six years when he was a Member of this House, sat in eighteen years for six different constituencies, and then he became Member for the City of London, and for the last eighteen years during which he was in this House, he sat as Member for the City of London. Is not that a good thing? If you can get men like Lord John Russell or my right hon. colleague (Mr. Balfour), men who have done great service to their party and to the State, is it not desirable that there should be an opportunity for them to represent a great constituency like the City of London, where they may be quite sure that, so long as they carry out the wishes of their constituents—I do not say their small wishes, but the general aims of their party—they will be certain to have a seat in this House without going through the turmoil which is necessitated by a General Election. Is it not wise and right, that some few constituencies of the kind should be left? My right hon. Friend (Mr. Hayes Fisher) has said that you ought not to go upon the opinion that the City of London is always going to be Conservative. It probably would be Liberal if hon. Gentlemen opposite would go back to the old traditions of their party. I can remember when the City of London was a strong Liberal constituency, even in my own day, when I was a voter. I will not go into the reasons why this change has taken place; it would not be in order to do so. But I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite should run away with the idea that because the City of London, at the present moment, is a Conservative stronghold, it is always going to be the same. I think the electors for the City of London are really the most single-minded electors in the whole country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] They are really. They are actuated by a general desire, according to their lights, to do what is best for the country as a whole. They are not actuated by one particular motive as individuals. They do not think, "Here I am going to get something." They take a broad view of what is best, perhaps for their party, but what they believe is best for the country. They ask themselves which is the best party to govern the Empire, and they vote for the person whom they think will support that particular party. That is a sort of constituency I think which ought to be maintained, and I have not heard a single reason advanced by any hon. Gentleman against it. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education said a few pleasant things about the two present Members, and added a few other generalities, but he did not in any way make out a case against the acceptance of this new Clause. The right hon. Gentleman the Solicitor-General attempted to show a case, but I do not think he succeeded. Not a single Member on the other side, except those two right hon. Gentlemen, has had a word to say about it. It is quite true that on a previous occasion the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. Morton) voted with us, but for some unknown reason he is not here to-day. He told me yesterday that he was only too desirous to speak in favour of the Clause. I can hope that the Government have changed their views, but even at the last moment I do venture to ask that something will be done, and that what has been said may induce the right hon. Gentleman opposite to change his attitude of absolute opposition.


The hon. Baronet who represents the City of London claims that his constituency is more intelligent, richer, and possesses more historical associations than any other constituency.


I did not say it was more intelligent, but I said it had more historical associations, and that the vote of the electors taken together were more intelligent, because they consisted mainly of educated men, whereas this was not so in other constituencies.

5.0 P.M.


I deny that the intelligence in the City of London is any greater than it is in any other part of the country. If I were asked the question I should say that the ordinary business man in the City of London who has an office there and lives in a villa in Dulwich, or any other suburb, knows less about the working classes than any other man in the country. As far as intelligence goes, I would prefer the artisan in Lancashire or Yorkshire, rather than the ordinary City of London man. Even under this Bill I think the hon. Baronet said the agents of the different London constituencies would put their heads together and the City would continue to return Members of the same political complexion.


That applies to the next election.


The whole argument amounts to this, that the people who have their businesses in the City of London must have more political power than other people. I do not think that that is right. Why should the same principle not apply to all other large cities, and why should we put forward a special case for the City of London? In this Bill we are going to have one man one vote, and I do not think any case has been made out why individuals who happen to have a business in the City of London should be treated differently from other people in other parts of the United Kingdom.


I am not going to debate the question of the intelligence of various constituencies. The point that can be urged in favour of this new Clause is the fact that the City of London is totally different from anything else in the country, and it is exceptional in every way. I do not mean in intelligence, but in its history, wealth, and accumulation of business, and in those respects there is no city in the country to compare with it.


But we do not give votes to wealth.


The hon. Baronet the Member for Prestwich (Sir F. Cawley) argued that if you do this for the City of London you would establish a precedent for doing the same thing in the case of Manchester or any other great city. It is absurd to put forward that argument, because nobody ever compares Manchester as it is with the City of London, and nobody would put any other city in the country on the same plane. It is purely on the argument as to the exceptional position of the City of London that this Clause can be justified. The Government will find that they make no mistake by treating the City of London as an exception. It is true that the population in the Census is about 27,000 and the electors 30,000, but the fact that you treat by this proposal the City of London as an exceptional case will not prejudice your position later when you come to treat it in a Redistribution scheme, because even then the Government will be obliged to treat this constituency as an exception, and they will also find that they will have to treat one other constituency, namely, Orkney and Shetland, in the same way, and those two seats will balance one another, and you will lose nothing by treating the City of London in the way which is suggested by this Clause. I know the right hon. Gentleman opposite can appreciate the point of view of the historical interest, and I hope he will not close his mind and shut the door to this very reasonable Clause.


I should like to use one argument in favour of this Clause in addition to the many arguments that have been used. It does not seem to me necessary to add arguments in this matter, because those already adduced have not really been answered. The Solicitor-General made a sort of attempt to answer some of the arguments, but I think it will be generally admitted that he signally failed. The hon. Baronet who has just spoken is the only hon. Member opposite who has attempted to support the Government in the opposition which is being taken to this Clause. The real argument in favour of the Clause we are now considering is that the City of London affords an exception different to every other city in the United Kingdom. One reason only is sufficient to mark its exceptional character, and it is that the number of electors is greatly in excess of the whole population of the city, and I do not think that is true of any other city. A large proportion of them are plural voters. The number of plural voters in the City of London is enormously in excess of the number in any other city. The Solicitor-General, in his arguments, both as regards university representation and the City of London, pointed out that the electors were men of considerable position and of great influence, and he said that was certainly a reason for not giving them an additional vote, because by that influence they had more political power than those who had less influence. I need not say that if that argument were carried to its legitimate conclusion you would take away from anybody with any education the vote already given, and leave the votes entirely in the hands of persons who were uninfluential, and at the same time unintelligent.

I want to draw attention to one fact which has not been brought out in any of the speeches made by my hon. Friends on this side, and it is that there is no doubt whatever in my mind that at a General Election very great pressure would be put upon the electors in the City of London to vote in the constituency in which they reside rather than in the city itself, on account of the fact that it will be said the candidate; for the city is perfectly safe, and therefore the vote might be given for a candidate in some other constituency which is not considered safe, with the result that the Members for the City of London, at the General Election, might be returned by the caretakers and the small clerks and other persons who are the only residents in the city. What will happen at a by-election when every voter in the City of London will be able to vote? On that occasion every one of the 30,000 voters would be able to vote, and it is more than probable that the elect of the caretakers and clerks at the General Election would not be the elect of the 30,000 at a by-election. The result of the General Election might be altered at any time by a by-election, not on account of the change in the political opinions of the electors, but because a different set of electors would vote. Where you have a constituency such as the City of London or university constituency, where the number of plural voters is out of proportion to the other voters there is a case for exceptional treatment which ought to be considered by the Government. The City of London is one of those cases, and I trust that this Clause will be carried.


I agree that it is a blot on this Bill that it does not apply to by-elections, and if the hon. Member opposite had proposed an Amendment to extend the Rill to by-elections I should certainly have endeavoured to give him what support I could.


Why does the hon. Member not propose such an Amendment himself?

Sir F. LOW

Because I think the hon. Gentlemen who has just interrupted me could do it much better. My object in rising was not altogether to refer to that part of the Bill. No doubt this measure does not go as far as some of us would like. But the principle, as I understand from the observations from the hon. Baronet who represents the City of London, that plural voting should be abolished has been accepted on the Second Reading of the Bill, and, that being so, I am entirely unable to follow the argument that, having accepted the principle of the abolition of plural voting, you are to select the most plural voting places there are, and exempt them from the operations of the Bill. It may be an argument having great force, but it is certainly an argument I am totally unable to follow. There is another aspect of the case which has been presented and pressed, and it is this: In some way the electorate of the City of London is different in quality from the electorate of any other place. I can speak with some experience in this matter, because for some years it was part of my duty to make out the list and assist in revising the list, not as revising barrister but in another capacity, for one of the important wards in the City of London, and I venture to say that it is a total misapprehension to say that, on the whole, the electorate of the City of London is different in quality from the electorate of any other place.

The vast number of the great interests of the City of London are represented by corporations and by companies who get no vote at all. The vast number of the great interests in the City of London are vested in corporate bodies who get no representation. That may be a wrong thing, and it may require remedy—I say nothing about that—but it is a fact that, they do not got representation on the electoral roll. On the other hand, a very large number indeed of the electors of the City of London consist of comparatively very small people who represent various country business houses, very often having one room or the share of a room up several flights of stairs, and who are in no sense to be distinguished either for education or for anything else from the bulk of the electors in the other great constituencies of the country, or in any of the other great constituencies in the Metropolis. It is true, of course, that among the electors of the City of London, there are big people, but there are also a great many small people, and, besides that, there are a great many barristers in the Temple. The result of this Amendment would be to give those barristers in the Temple two votes, but the barristers in Grays Inn who vote, I believe, in the Holborn Division, and the barristers in Lincoln's Inn, who I suppose are equal in education and political aptitude to the barristers in the Temple, would be still left with one vote. One could go on pointing out anomalies which would arise from this Amendment for a very long time, but the gist of what I want to put before the House is that there is really no sound foundation for saying that the electorate of the City of London is by education or political aptitude of any different quality from the electorate of other great cities and constituencies, and, therefore, I shall use every endeavour to oppose this Amendment.


The Liberal Association of the City of London, of which I have been a Member for many years, are in favour of the City being treated differently from other constituencies. It is well known that there is no district in the country comparable with the City of London. People cannot possibly reside there because the ground and the buildings are wanted for business purposes. I should have thought myself that the Government would have been only too glad to recognise the importance of the City of London, and would not simply hand it over to two or three thousand caretakers. It is quite true that under this Bill the plural voter can keep his City vote by giving up his other votes, but under the Bill brought in last year they would very likely have lost it altogether, and in any case I should like to ask the House to consider the greatness of the City of London in business and in trade. Everybody in this country ought, in my opinion, to be proud of the City of London. There is not much of party politics in the City at all; it is more a question of business and business arrangements than anything else, and the City Members are not asked to pledge themselves to anything except the preservation of the ancient rights and privileges of the City. It is most extraordinary, but the Liberal party have coolly handed it over to the Tory party, because it is really a Liberal constituency. They have done so because they want to destroy all those old privileges, which really constitute Home Rule and are democratic. We Liberals consequently have lost the City as a Liberal constituency. It is very clever, no doubt, of the Tory party to have granted everything to the City of London that they have refused to everybody else. It is a curious thing that while the City Members have pledged themselves to support the ancient rights and privileges of the City of London, they have refused similar rights and privileges entirely to any other constituency.

I do not suppose it is any good my speaking or trying to represent the Liberal Association of the City of London in this matter, but the Government ought to remember that the deputation which waited upon the right hon. Gentleman last autumn and asked him that the city should be exempt was quite united. The Liberal party in London are as anxious as the Tory party to see this old and valuable constituency preserved. The City mainly represents, of course, the money interest and the trade interest of all the world, and I should be sorry, as a Liberal, to refuse to acknowledge the great position of the city in trade and commerce all over the world. It is a constituency that you might fairly treat in a different manner from any other district in the United Kingdom, and I trust the Liberal party will give up its policy of destroying all that is democratic in the City of London. If Ireland had been able to get the same privileges as the City of London enjoys there would be no question of Home Rule, because we have had it in the City of London for many years. I do trust that the Government will try and realise that it is a democratic constituency. The people, the little shopkeepers if you like, have made the City of London what it is. It has been made by the people, and it is not simply an English district, because Scotland has had as much to do as any other nationality in making the City of London. My hon. Friends seem willing for some reason to destroy the City of London and everything that is democratic about it, but I do not want to do so. I want to keep everything that has worked well for the last six hundred years, and consequently I shall have pleasure in again voting for this new Clause.


I do not often find myself in agreement with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, but on this occasion I am glad to follow him, and to express my concurrence in much of what he has said. I do not think that there has been any attempt made to answer the case which has been put by the hon. Gentleman and by several of my hon. Friends. The defence put forward by the Government and their supporters, as far as I can gather, is twofold. In the first place, they say that this, by its title and on the face of it, is a Bill to prevent any man from voting more than once at a General Election, and, that being so, they cannot make any exceptions. One man is as good as another. Men, as my hon. Friend beside me said, are treated like children at a school treat; they must each have the same amount of the good things that are to be distributed. That is the line of the Solicitor-General. Is that really the ground that ought to be taken in this House? The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Cawley) and the hon. Member (Sir F. Low) carried it a step further. They attempted to show that neither in political nor any other form of intelligence did the electors of the City of London surpass the intelligence of those of their own constituencies. I do not believe that it would be a very fruitful subject of inquiry to ascertain who has the most intelligent constituency. In such a case, each of us would plump for himself.


I said that it was a plea put forward on that side of the House.


I beg the hon. Baronet's pardon. The plea which has been put forward from this side of the House has never been answered, and nobody has attempted to answer it. The plea is not that the elector in the city is more intelligent than the elecor elsewhere, but that the City of London has a corporate existence deeply rooted in our history, that it has contributed much to our history, that it is historically distinct from, any other electorate community within the country, and remains so distinct to-day. Is there a man who outside this House would not recognise, in almost any respect in which it might be claimed for it, the peculiar position of the City of London? I do not think there is a man on those benches who, if asked to compare the City of London with other places, would deny that the city holds a position which no other constituency and no other town in the Kingdom holds. It is only within this House, and when we are discussing this particular Bill, that we pretend the City of London is nothing but a chance aggregation of men, having no peculiarities, no special relation to our history, and no corporate or continuous existence of its own. What we ask you to recognise is not the special intelligence of a particular elector, or the higher average intelligence of the electors of one constituency rather than of another, but the great historic fact of the position which the City of London holds in this country and, indeed, in the world. Can anyone think that if, as a result of this Bill, you got what is called a representation of the caretakers of the City of London, as distinct from the great financial interests which centre there, you would make any improvement in our electoral system or any improvement in this House? Would you not be making both poorer? Would you not be sacrificing something which it would be your desire to retain? The city has so strong a corporate feeling that I believe if you disfranchised everybody in the City of London except the caretakers, my two Friends who now represent that city would still be returned. But that is only because of this corporate feeling in the city, and of the special feeling which your whole argument denies, that the city holds a peculiar position to which I invite the House to pay attention.

The other answer we have received from the opposite side was given by the Solicitor-General, who admitted that, if by refusing this Clause you were to alter the character of the city representation, and if you were to put it in the hands of people who are indeed resident in the city but who in no sense are representative of the great affairs which centre there, it would be a misfortune. But he consoles himself and us by saying that there are so many that there will always be found a majority who will prefer to give their votes in the city so as to keep up the character of the city representation. If that is your consolation and your hope, why leave anything to chance? Why not recognise that which everyone outside this particular discussion does recognise, that the city stands by itself and that it has no parallel elsewhere. We should make our House poorer and our electoral system less representative if we did not have special representation of that historic corporate body of people. However you manipulated the electorate of the City of London that feeling would still find expression. After all, it is but a comparatively short time ago that men engaged in business in the city to a very large extent, lived within its boundaries. My own great-grandfather lived and died over his warehouse in Milk Street, Cheap-side. It is the aggregation of business which has made it no longer possible for a man now doing business in the City of London to live within its boundaries. He has to look elsewhere for his home. But the corporate character of the City of London is still maintained, and I say with the Solicitor-General that it ought to be represented here, and we ought to make certain that it is represented. One of my hon. Friends has said that the proper time to make an exception to your Bill is when you are dealing with an exceptional case. Does anybody seriously pretend that if you make an exception in the case of the City of London you would be unable to resist an appeal from Birmingham, or Manchester, or Glasgow for like treatment. I have great pride in the city of my birth, but I venture to say that whether one comes from Birmingham, or Manchester, or Liverpool, or Glasgow, one can find nothing which rivals or compares with the historic position of the City of London. Our representative system ought not merely to count heads. It ought to look for representation of that which makes the life of the nation or of a community within the nation. If you look only at the number of heads, if you count only the number of voters, if you take no count of the communities with which you are dealing and to which you are seeking to give representation, then you will not get an actual representation of public opinion, and, in consequence, you will have a poorer House of Commons.


To my mind the whole arguments of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken and of my hon. Friend the Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. Morton) and other speakers are absolutely fallacious. This question has nothing whatever to do with the corporate existence of the City of London. It is quite true that last year that corporate system was in danger, and that was the time when the Liberal Association of the city sent a deputation to the Prime Minister.


We went to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education.


I gave you credit for going one step higher. Under the Bill of last year there was a different principle at stake. By it it was proposed to give the right of selection to persons as to where they would vote. We have heard a, great deal about that. I am myself a freeman of one of the largest and wealthiest city companies, which takes a great deal of interest in the well-being of the city. I say that those who have pride in the historic continuity of the city will give their votes in the City of London. But this Resolution says that not only are they to be at liberty to give their votes in the city, they are to be enabled to vote in some other constituency that has nothing to do with the corporate existence of the City of London. Hon. Members who support this proposal are asking the House to make an exception in favour of those who have a dual qualification; who have a vote in the City of London and who also have a vote for a residence outside. It is claimed on behalf of the liverymen of the city that they shall have the right, not to vote in the City of London, because they already have that right, but that they shall also be able to vote in one of the constituencies in the Home Counties within twenty-five miles of the city. This is an endeavour to give them exceptional rights in constituencies just outside the city; to enable them to vote in one of those constituencies, and then come up. to the city and vote there. That is the result of the arguments used by those who have pleaded so strongly with regard to the exceptional position of the city. I endorse all that the hon. and learned Member for Norwich (Sir F. Low) has said about the bulk of voters in the city. But there is not one of the right hon. or hon. Gentlemen who have spoken who can say exactly where the boundaries of the city are, and when they are crossing the boundary line between the City and a neighbouring constituency—the overflow of industry and the extension of the business of financial houses has forced so many beyond the one square mile which constitutes the City of London. If this Bill had been on the same lines as that of last year, if it had insisted on a residential qualification which took away the right of selection, the whole arguments to which we have just listened would be pertinent. But under this Bill they are not pleading that they shall have the right to vote in the city. What they want is the power to vote in the Home Counties where they reside. I think the right hon. Gentlemen in charge of this Bill and the Government would be acting unjustly to the rest of the country unless they resisted this proposal.


It seems to me that the natural and inevitable consequence of this Bill must be that the Corporation of the City of London will be affected, because if plural voting is wrong in principle in political affairs, it will not be very long before the principle of this Bill is brought into operation with regard to municipal affairs, and those who are interested in the Corporation of the City of London and in the local affairs of the city will have to choose between voting in municipal matters in the places where they live or in the City of London, where they carry on their business. Therefore, it is not right to suggest, as an hon. Member has just done, that the Corporation of the City of London cannot be affected by the Bill. It must be only a question of time, if this Bill is carried. when the City of London will be placed municipally in the same position as it is now proposed to place it politically. I have had a vote for the City of London for the last thirty-five years, as well as a vote in my own constituency, and I do not think it can be said that because Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn happen to be without the city while the Temple happens to be

within the city, that that is any reason why the proposal before the House should not be carried.

Question put, "That the Clause be read: a second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 156; Noes, 280.


The next Clause, standing in the name of the hon. Member for the Wilton Division (Mr. Charles. Bathurst)—(Onus upon Defendant to Prove Innocent Intent) —ought to come as an Amendment to Sub-section (3) of Clause 1.