§ Unless Parliament otherwise determines this Act shall not continue in force after the expiration of five years from the passing thereof.
§ New Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Mr. CASSEL
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."
I would not have ventured to have brought this proposal up again on the Report stage had it not been for certain remarks by the spokesman of the Labour party signifying that he had considerable sympathy with the Amendment. The hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Arthur Henderson) said that the Amendment was well worthy of consideration. Indeed, I think he went so far as to say that if there 726 had been present Members on the Front Opposition Bench he would have voted for the proposal, but for some inexplicable reason he concluded his speech by saying that he was going to vote against it. While, therefore, emboldened to bring forward the proposal again, I shall not support it by the same arguments which I adduced in Committee. One reason why I think the Bill should be of a temporary character is that it deals only with General Elections. Is it not absurd to put on the Statute Book as a permanent piece of legislation a measure which introduces one method of voting at a General Election and another method at by-elections? That distinction could only be justified by the fact that the Government are anxious to bring the Session to a close at the earliest possible moment. They have not sufficient confidence that if the Session continued beyond about the 12th August they would be able to command the following of their supporters. I can see no other reason for dealing with the problem in this way, which the Government themselves have over and over again admitted is not the best way of dealing with the matter. Their only reason for limiting the Bill to General Elections is that it enables them to bring in a one-Clause Bill. That being so, I think they ought to make so imperfect a piece of legislation temporary. By so 727 doing, they would be following the precedent of the Ballot Act itself, because by Section 33 of that Act it is provided that it should continue in force until the 31st December, 1880, and no longer unless Parliament otherwise determined. Ever since 1880 the Ballot Act has been continued by means of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, and if this Clause were introduced it would be perfectly possible to deal with the present measure in the same way. It is desirable to have this Clause in the Bill in order to keep it present to the minds of whatever Government are in power that they ought to deal with the electoral problem in a more comprehensive and reasonable manner, by a Bill having reference to the problem itself, and not by a Bill drawn up simply with a view-to taking the minimum amount of time in the House. That is the sole principle of the present Bill. On these grounds I beg to move the Second Reading of this Clause.
I think it will perhaps be for the convenience of the House if I imitate the admirable brevity of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just seconded the Amendment. Let me put our point of view quite simply and frankly before the House. We avowedly want permanence for this measure. Hon. Gentlemen opposite desire to have something like automatic repeal. We want this Bill to last until some other or better method is substituted for it. I quite agree that there are many other ways in which this matter could be carried out. There was the proposal which fell to the ground, not by our fault, earlier in this year. I have, too, a fatherly affection towards a proposal of my own in 1906. The question of by-elections which have been alluded to by hon. Gentlemen can only be dealt with by an elaborate system of registration which we have not thought it right to throw into this Bill. This measure is short, simple, effective, and it is indulgent to the plural voter. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Yes, because for the first time in any of these proposals it leaves him up to the last moment free to choose his constituency. It is no doubt quite true that if hon. Members opposite are in office at the end of five years they will repeal this Bill. We can face that with confidence, because I have heard promises of repeal made in the past by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Sir F. BANBURY made an observation which was inaudible.
Hope springs eternal in some breasts. I heard the late Lord Salisbury promise during, the passage through the House of Lords of the Budget in 1894 that it would be repealed by his party. They were in office for ten years afterwards, and never touched one of its provisions. If we are in office five years hence, we mean to maintain this Bill—possibly to amend it. At all events we have no desire or intention to relegate it to the sort of sickly schedule of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act in which it may be repealed at any moment, if hon. Members are in office, by the mere omission of the Bill to be brought before this House. The fact is the House is quite frankly and honestly divided into two parties on this, question. Those who think as I and my Friends do on this side of the House, think that this Bill is good, and we mean, so far as we can, to maintain it, as an hon. Member opposite said yesterday about the Parliament Act, for all time. Those who dislike this Bill do not even want to maintain it for five years. They even think that it ought not to be passed at all. This is a sort of half-way house that provides no comfort or accommodation to either party—I mean the half-way house of this new Clause. Either you want the Bill or you do not. We do want it. You do not. The issue is such a simple one that I think we might almost at once proceed to a division.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman said, "Either you want this Bill or you do not." I do not think the position is quite so simple as he would have us believe. The Government themselves admit that they are dealing with one little point in a big area of controversy; that their measure is incomplete, imperfect, difficult to work in many respects. In spite of all those defects they desire to carry it at once in this form, leaving further reforms to be dealt with at some period between the present and the time that this Parliament comes to an end. We are not at all sure that even if the wildest hopes of the right hon. Gentleman in his most sanguine moments were realised, and that they had not only the whole of this, but of another Parliament in which to realise the good intentions that they have expressed, that they would ever touch this question again, once they had secured 729 themselves against the plural voter. We desire there should be on the face of this Bill some indication of that which we find in every speech that every Minister makes, that this is not a complete solution of the difficulty which confronts us—that it is not a simple question, but that this is only a temporary expedient to suit the present convenience of the opposite side, to be perfected and improved at the earliest moment that Parliament can direct its attention to the matter. That is the object of the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend. It is to write on the face of this Bill its temporary and imperfect character, and to remind the House—not this House but its successor—that this was not a solution of the question, and that the question still remains to be solved. The right hon. Gentleman said this Bill was short. That is true. He said this Bill was simple. That I think is, perhaps, paternal fondness, and scarcely expresses what the practical effects of this Bill will be. It necessarily involves a greater attention to machinery; less thought to what the country is really thinking; more thought about how you can best arrange the various votes you command to secure the greatest number of representatives in this House. That, seems to me to be the first effect this Bill will have.
Any Bill which has the effect of lessening the importance of the vote and increasing the importance of the machine can not, I think, be described as a Bill which will be simple in its operation, whatever it may be in its actual terms. The last observation of the right hon. Gentleman about the Bill was really unique—as to the attitude of mind with which the Government approaches this matter. He said the Bill was indulgent to the plural voter. What indulgence is shown to the plural voter under the terms of this Bill? [An HON. MEMBER: "He can vote at a by-election."] The right hon. Gentleman knows the kind of questions at by-elections. At a by-election the plural voter is still left some of his rights, merely because it is the desire of the Government to have the Bill short and simple, and when you attempt to deal with by-elections, your Bill can neither be one thing nor the other. That is what the right hon. Gentleman was thinking of when he said that the Bill was indulgent. He meant that it was indulgent at a General Election. I invite him to say why. What boon has the plural voter got under 730 this Bill; what right, what advantage, that is not common to every elector in the country? The Bill provides that he should give no more than one vote. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Perhaps hon. Members will allow me to pursue my argument. It will be their fault if my speech is longer than I intended. This Bill prevents the plural voter from voting more than once, but every other elector has one vote only. He can only record his vote in one place. What is the indulgence there? [An HON. MEMBER: "He can choose his place."] That is not an indulgence. He is qualified for more than one place ex hypothesi. It is not an indulgence to him to allow him to exercise his vote in the place in which he wishes to exercise it. It would be a special disqualification, if being qualified to vote, he should not be allowed to exercise that right where he wanted to exercise it. That, no doubt, is what you wanted. I agree that that is what the original proposal was, and what the party opposite would like, and that is the kind of Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman has in his mind when he says he hopes to amend the Bill at some time. The Amendment brings this anomaly into proper relations with other anomalies, and it prevents the House of Commons from dealing with this single anomaly without remembering that it ought to solve the whole problem.
Mr. J. HOPE
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was present during the last discussion. If so, he would realise that there was a consideration of great importance, which hitherto had been entirely neglected by the Government, and that is that this Bill exercises an extraordinary effect upon the Government of Ireland Bill. It was pointed out, and by the silence of the Government was admitted, that if this Bill passed into law later than the Government of Ireland Bill it would nullify that Bill in one important particular. Clause 9 of the Irish Bill says that the Irish Parliament, after the expiration of three years, shall have power to make such franchise laws of itself, but if this Bill passes after the Government of Ireland Bill it will override that, because by a later Clause 41, it is provided that the Irish Parliament shall not have power to deal with the franchise so as to override the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and where there is concurrent legislation the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall prevail. Therefore, this Bill will 731 override the provisions of Clause 9, and exercise an effect which was certainly not intended by the Government, either in this Bill or in the Government of Ireland Bill, and it follows that there will be a necessity for revision after two years, and it will be far better that that necessity should be marked upon the face of the Bill. I take it that my interpretation of this Bill and of the Government of Ireland Bill is accepted by the Government, because no view has been expressed to the contrary.
As to the point of simplicity, does the right hon. Gentleman seriously think that the operation of this Bill will be simple? The first result will be that the party agents will put their heads together and make up a prodigious list of plural voters all over the United Kingdom. They will set up a sort of Clearing House; they will divide the constituencies into "safe," "hopeless," and "doubtful." They will then prepare a second list of plural voters in the doubtful districts, and having done that, they will devise a mass of elaborate machinery to concentrate the plural voters from the "safe" and "hopeless" upon the "doubtful" seats, and there will be enormous labour and considerable recrimination and internal heart-burning. Simplicity is the last thing that the Bill possibly can produce, and this state of things must of necessity be temporary. I look forward, though many of my Friends may not agree with me, to proportional representation as a solution of the problem. Whether that be so, or whether we still go on the single vote, this Bill must of necessity cause the greatest trouble and inconvenience, and its provisional character should be stamped upon it from the outset. I hope the Colonial Secretary will say whether or not he accepts my view of the effect upon the Government of Ireland Bill. If nothing more is said I will take it that my interpretation is the correct one, and that it will have an effect upon the Irish Bill that certainly was not intended by the Government.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
The principle for which we contend, and which we say justifies this Amendment is, broadly speaking, that you are by this Bill attempting to deal with one anomaly, and one only, of our electoral system, leaving larger and worse anomalies entirely undealt with, and that it is not right that a measure dealing with one anomaly only should be a permanent 732 measure. What answer does the Colonial Secretary give? He says, "We are extremely indulgent to the plural voter." I suppose the plural voter is such a sinner that he ought not to be allowed to vote at all, and therefore, if we allow him to vote once, we are extremely indulgent. I cannot see what indulgence the plural voter gets by this Bill. Then we have the brutal candour of the Under Secretary for India. He did not attempt to justify the Bill except from the point of view of flagrant party exigencies. "This Bill," he said in effect, "is going to improve the position of our party, and, therefore, it is quite right that we, having the power, should pass it into law." I think that is an argument which is not worthy of being put forward from that or any other bench. Then came the argument of the President of the Board of Education. He admits that this is a very partial dealing with the subject, but he says, "We intend, at some time or other"—a short time, someone said, in the history of the nation—" to bring in a Bill dealing with the matter more fully." I am afraid that we have some reason to believe that these statements of intention are not always successfully carried out. We want to give some effect to their statement of intention. Assuming it is an intention, let us stimulate them to carry out that intention. Let us make this Bill temporary and fix a limit to its operation, and then, perhaps you will be induced to carry out its intention and to bring in a larger measure dealing with the wider anomalies which are admitted. None of the reasons which have been given by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are in any degree adequate as reasons why this Amendment should not be passed.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have characterised the statement of the Colonial Secretary that some indulgence has been shown for the plural voter in this Bill as altogether beside the mark. At an earlier stage of the proceedings on this Bill I stated that I had a considerable sympathy with the proposal to limit its operation for a certain period, but the reason for my sympathy was that the Bill was altogether too indulgent to the plural voter. If you are going to deal with what we call the evil of the anomaly of the plural voter there is a right and a wrong way of doing it, and our objection is that the Government have selected the wrong way. We hold that so long as you leave the prin- 733 ciple of selection, and by that, to a certain extent allow gerrymandering in the constituencies, you are not dealing with this anomaly in the correct way. What do you do? You allow the pluralist to be registered, if he has ten or twenty qualifications, for the whole of them. This is no new evil in connection with electioneering, both for Parliamentary and municipal elections. Supposing a pluralist is registered for every qualification, and in one constituency more than another the party agent feels that it is a little bit near and short of votes, that it has so many registered for constituencies where the party is strong and so many registered for constituencies where the party is weak. All the agents have to do is to set to work to influence the elector to vote in the constituency where the party is short of votes. They may be short of a few score or a few hundred votes, and then by a concentration they may turn the election in a given direction. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I need not from any point of view argue why not. I am merely showing there is some consideration, and that was the point made in more than one speech criticising the statement made by the Colonial Secretary. I am merely showing—and I speak from experience as an old election agent —how it has worked in connection with municipal elections over and over again, and the results have been turned in a given direction by the mere process of getting the people who have the choice of recording their votes in one ward or another to vote in a given ward, and thus override the votes of the resident electors in that particular ward.
Moreover, I want to say that there is another great consideration, and this is another strong point against this Bill, and this consideration has been shown so far as by-elections are concerned. I think in by-elections there is one of the strongest possible objections to the method which the Government have chosen. I know the reason for it. I know it would have involved an entirely different measure, and a much more comprehensive and complicated Bill, to have dealt with that question, because it would have affected the question of registration, but it seems to me that we on these benches can only regard the Bill as one to exist only for a limited period, because we feel, first of all, that it will lead to the gerrymandering of constituencies; and, secondly, because of the difference that will obtain between a General Election and a by- 734 election. It seems to me that we ought certainly to try always to appeal as nearly as can be to the same electorate, and we are not going to do this by restricting the vote in the General Election and allowing the plural voters to vote just as they like in connection with a by-election. I have often wondered why it is that the Opposition are so anxious to put in this five-years' limitation. I suppose that they are getting a little tired of telling this House that when they come into power they will have thrown upon them the responsibility of repealing these measures. In more than one debate during the last few months hon. Members opposite have solemnly assured the House, and they have given the same assurances on public platforms, that they intend to repeal Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and the Parliament Act, and they have also talked about repealing the Trades Disputes Act and payment of Members. I suppose they are now getting a little bit tired of telling the House and the country that they are going to repeal these measures, and they now adopt a simpler method of trying to-limit the operation of the Plural Voting Bill to five years, and that relieves them of the necessity of saying that they are going to repeal this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire spoke about dealing with one part of the great electoral problem, but he said nothing in the event of this Amendment being carried, and his party coming into power with the right hon. Gentleman occupying a very important position in the Government, what they proposed to do.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
The hon. Baronet tells me to "wait and see," and he took the words out of my mouth, because I was going to say that probably the right hon. Gentleman would respond by saying, "We are not going to prescribe until we are called in." It does seem to some of us that when we are asked to vote for a proposal of this kind, we ought to be given some indication as to where hon. Members opposite are leading us, and that is exactly what they will not do. We want to deal with the question more fully than it is dealt with by this Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman opposite does not say that when his party comes into power he will give us any opportunity of going into the great question of electoral reform, which I am very 735 much interested in, and which I want to see dealt with. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to encourage in us the hope that we may expect something from his party if they come into power, they should give us some little encouragement when they are putting these proposals before the House.
§ Sir W. ANSON
I do not propose to enter into the large question which has been raised by the hon. Member who has just sat down, but I will deal with the short point as to whether this should be a temporary or a permanent measure. I think the contempt which the Colonial Secretary poured upon this new Clause is wholly unjustified. I will give my reasons why I think that there should be some limit put to the continuance of this measure in order to give Parliament a definite opportunity of considering it after a time. One is that on the admission of hon. Members on that side of the House and of the Government, our whole Parliamentary system needs to be overhauled. We have the Parliament Act which provides for a reform of the other House, a vision which continually recedes whenever we endeavour to approach it; and we have their own admission that Redistribution should follow before the conclusion, if possible, of this Parliament, and Redistribution means a tremendous change in the distribution of political power throughout the country. Then we have before us this little measure which touches one corner of the reforms of our Parliamentary system, and which, whenever they carry out their great schemes for the reform of this House and the redistribution of political power throughout the country, will have to be fitted into the whole system. It is very desirable that it should be brought home to the country that, whenever this great reform takes place, this measure will have to be adapted to the changed conditions of our Parliamentary system at that time. That is one reason why I think that it is most important to limit the continuance of this measure. Another is one to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. James Hope) referred. Anyone who looks at Clause 41 of the Home Rule Bill will see that this Plural Voting Bill, which must in the nature of things, if it ever becomes law, become law after the Home Rule Bill, if ever that becomes law, will govern the Irish Parliament. The Irish Parliament may desire to alter this Bill, and it is very 736 desirable that it should be limited so as to give the Irish Parliament the power to relax the conditions we are laying upon them by this Bill. There is a third reason which I really think the Colonial Secretary overlooked when he treated this new Clause with such contempt. It is in strict accordance with Parliamentary procedure that measures which concern electoral matters should be temporary. If he looks at the Expiring Laws Continuance Act he will see constant reference to Parliamentary procedure, and, amongst other things, the Ballot Act which has lasted now for forty-two years has been renewed from year to year under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. It is therefore in strict accordance with Parliamentary procedure, and I would suggest that it is in strict accordance with the convenience of this House and of the legislation of this House, that some time limit should be imposed upon the operations of this Bill and that the new Clause should be accepted by the Government.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I desire to add a few words to those which fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson) in opposition to this Amendment. The first reason given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that this ought to be temporary because the whole system of representation needs to be overhauled. Is that a reason? Within the five years proposed, either the whole system of representation will be overhauled, or it will not. If it is overhauled, this Bill will not stand in the way, if it is not overhauled is the fact of that unhappy circumstances to prevent the country having the advantage of this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Disadvantage."] That is a matter of opinion. Those of us who believe it to be quite inadequate, but good as far as it goes, can surely not be tempted either by the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken, or by the frank expression of opinion by the hon. and gallant Member opposite to support this Amendment, because, so far as it goes, we hold that the Bill redresses a grievance and brings us one step nearer proper representation.
The second argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was drawn from possible experience in Ireland, sufficient unto the day is the problem thereof in that particular. Hon. Members may interpret that in whichever way they choose. The third argument was that many 737 measures affecting Parliamentary procedure are now included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Yes, they are, but are methods as to the possession of a vote or not included in that Act?
§ Sir W. ANSON
This Bill does not affect the possession of the vote. It imposes a penalty for exercising it.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the most accurate, but, if I may venture to say so, verbal criticism. It affects the exercise of a vote, and therefore practically affects the franchise whereas the Ballot Act and other Acts included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill do not affect the number of votes more or less or the possession of the vote by the individual. They merely affect the particular way in which the agreed number, of votes are given. I venture to submit with the greatest possible deference to the high constitutional authority of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it would be a novelty to include a measure of this kind—which is essentially a Franchise Bill—in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. It is most desirable that the electors of this country should know without any kind of doubt or hesitation exactly what their powers are. For myself I agree very largely with what the hon. Member for Barnard Castle has said about the limitations of this Bill, and about its inadequacy and incompleteness. We all know the reasons of Parliamentary time and the exigencies of the Parliamentary position which have led to those defects. But there is this to be said in favour of the very limited character of the Bill: No one can say that this in itself is a final and complete settlement of the problem of the plural voter. If so, there is no danger in making it technically permanent. But there is no possibility of the matter being permanently left where the Bill leaves it, and therefore the argument that it should be made temporary really fails because of the character of the limitations in the Bill.
§ Mr HICKS BEACH
I fail to understand why the Hon. Member for Barnard Castle has congratulated the Government on the benevolence of its action. It is graciously allowing the plural voter to exercise the vote once in a General Election in exactly the same way as any other voter—and where the benevolence of that comes in I cannot see. It is an interest- 738 ing fact that on the Report stage the Labour party has discovered that the Bill will lead to a good deal of work on the part of the Parliamentary agent, and that it will necessitate a great deal of manipulation of votes among different constituencies. The hon. Member was also good enough to tell us that his party look upon this measure as a very undemocratic measure. In these circumstances I would venture to suggest that he should take his courage in his hands and, seeing that the majority at the back of the Government is fairly large, that he and some of his supporters might vote for the Amendment. It would do the Government no harm and it would show a little independence on their part.
§ Mr. GOLDSMITH
I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, and am not quite certain whether he is going to support the Clause or vote against it. He told us that there was a right way and a wrong way of approaching this subject, and that the Government had selected the wrong way. In that case the hon. Member ought to have voted against the Second Reading of this Bill, but, as he did not do so, he ought, at least, to vote for a Clause which is going to make the Bill temporary. He also said that the Bill was too indulgent to the plural voter. I have carefully looked through it, and am unable to find that any indulgence is shown to the plural voter. As a matter of fact, it is a Bill to disfranchise and punish the plural voter. The Colonial Secretary also told us that, in his opinion the plural voter was treated with great indulgence. May I remind him that he was responsible for a Plural Voting Bill in 1906, which, in one respect, at any rate, was far more indulgent to the plural voter than this Bill? I refer to the question of the penalty. Under this Bill no mercy is shown to the plural voter who inadvertently commits a breach of the Bill. In the Bill of 1906 the word "knowingly" was inserted. It is omitted from this Bill. In addition to that there was a Clause which gave the High Court power to remit the penalties in any case which came before them. Both these methods of protecting the plural voter are omitted from this Bill. I cannot see any part of it which shows indulgence to the plural voter, and I hope that the hon. Member for Barnard Castle will lead his party into the Lobby in favour of this Clause.
§ Mr. WATSON RUTHERFORD
We listened a few moments ago to a speech from the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, which from one end to the other was an argument in favour of making this Bill as temporary as possible. He pointed out that it would lead to a certain amount of manipulation in the constituencies. Of course it will. We have all had experience of a certain amount of necessary arrangement that has to be made and is made by all political parties, including the Labour party, in every municipal election where there is more than one ward or division in a city or town. The fact is that wherever there are electors who are qualified and are on the register in one or more divisions or wards it is obvious that the parties must try to arrange matters in such a way as for themselves to get the most advantage out of the fact that there are voters with more than one qualification. Why should they not? If the voters have a qualification, surely it is perfectly right that arrangements should be made that in a particular place where it is wanted, or if they choose to exercise it, if it is within their option to do so, they should be allowed to record their votes! That is a grave objection to the Bill being permanent. Anything in the nature of arrangement or manipulation of the voters in any given division to accomplish any given object is clearly. something which this House should avoid if possible, but if Parliamentary exigencies have caused us to resort, for the purpose of getting rid of the plural voter, to some extent to adopt a Bill of this description, surely the argument of the hon. Member (Mr. Arthur Henderson), which was to point out these grave defects in it, is the strongest possible argument which can be put forward to make the measure as temporary as possible. The hon. Member gave another reason. The plural voter can still vote in a number of by-elections whenever he likes, and the hon. Member pointed out that the effect of that would be that if you had a by-election, followed in a week or two by a General Election you would not be appealing to the same body of electors, although the elections were fought upon absolutely the same register. There is no doubt that that is a very grave defect. Those are two grave defects which really go to the merits of the whole measure as a remedial measure to accomplish the object which the Government have held out to the country, and which are apparent on the 740 face of it. We have never denied the two points which the hon. Member has made, but what we say is that amongst other reasons why this Bill should be made as temporary as possible, surely these two reasons are enough to bring it about.
There was another argument used just now from the other side in reference to other Acts of this kind being temporary. It was pointed out that the Ballot Act is exactly in the same position in which we should like to put this Bill. There is also the Corrupt Practices Act. It came as a surprise, no doubt, to a great many hon. Members when attention was called to that not many months ago. All the Corrupt Practices Acts require to be renewed from one year to another, or else they would entirely expire. If this Bill comes into any category at all it ought to be described as a sort of Corrupt Practices Act imposing a penalty, upon voting twice in a General Election. Therefore we have perhaps the most important precedent which could possibly be found for making this Act of a temporary character. I do not believe the plural voter is a criminal. It is rather suggested that the plural voter ought to be punished because he has got something or done something which is worthy of being held up to public opprobrium. Plural voters in a great many cases are working men who have saved a little money and got a qualification in the county or in the city as well as their residential qualifications. I do not see why those people should not have all the privileges which come from having saved and invested their money in a reasonable way. I agree that the proper principle that the House ought to go for and make permanent some day in a perfectly reasonable manner, is One Man One Vote. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, that is the principle that ought to be made permanent, but this Bill creates further difficulties, and does not solve the question. It leaves all the other anomalies alone, and even in dealing with this particular anomaly, it does it in a way which is going to cause confusion. It is going to lead to gerrymandering, and it is going to lead to the same constituency within two or three weeks having two sets of electors. After pointing out these difficulties the hon. Member declared himself in favour of the Bill being made permanent. We cannot expect anything else from the party to which he belongs. We have seen not only in this matter, but in a variety of others, that hon. Members go up and down the country laying down 741 principles, and then come here and vote a different way in order to support the Government, even where, as in this case, the arguments are strong in the opposite direction.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am sorry that the hon. Member for the Middleton Division of Lancashire (Sir Ryland Adkins) has left the House, as I wanted to say a few words upon the extraordinary arguments he brought forward against the Amendment. He advanced two arguments only against the acceptance of the new Clause. First of all, he said that the Bill was inadequate and insufficient, and would require amending. I should have thought that was one of the strongest possible arguments that could be brought forward for accepting the Clause. If the Bill is inadequate and insufficient, and will require amending, surely the best thing we could do is to make it a temporary measure, so that, at the expiration of the time fixed for its continuance, it could be amended and made adequate and sufficient. The other argument was that the voter would not know where he was if this Clause was passed, and if the Act went year by year into the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. I am not quite certain that the voter will know where he is if the Bill is passed, but I am quite sure if it was put in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act he would know whether it had been renewed or repealed It is perfectly evident that steps will be taken to inform people what they have to do, and what their powers are. I would have said that both of these arguments were in favour of the new Clause.
I am afraid I cannot congratulate the Secretary for the Colonies on the speech he made at the commencement of the Debate on this Clause or upon the soundness of the arguments which he advanced, as I did when he spoke on an Amendment earlier in the evening. The right hon. Gentleman brought forward the argument that the Bill was indulgent to the plural voter. I have not looked up the meaning of the word "indulgent" in the dictionary, but I understand that it means the giving of something to someone who has no right to what is given, and that it is given on the part of somebody as a gift to the recipient. If that is the right meaning, then I disagree with the Colonial Secretary, because there is no indulgence granted to the plural voter under this Bill. It is a right which the plural voter has in the constituency an which he is duly qualified, and there 742 fore that argument falls to the ground. Then we come to the other argument that the Bill would require Amendment and would be amended before five years had expired. If that is so, then why not accept the Amendment? In fact, every argument—except that of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson)—is an argument strongly in favour of the new Clause. The argument of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle was that the plural voter generally voted Conservative, and therefore he ought not to have any vote at all; it is an indulgence to allow him to have any vote, and the only people who ought to have votes are Members of the Independent Labour party. We do not agree with that. This is an experimental measure, and very strong arguments have been advanced in favour of making it a temporary measure, and to those arguments there has been no reply.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
May I point out to the hon. Baronet that there is granted to the plural voter no indulgence of which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Colonies, from his position, must be aware? The right hon. Gentleman doubtless knows the steps that have been taken in the Colonies in the abolition of the plural voter. In every case the qualification has been made residential. As an example I may give the case of the State of Victoria. They had in the city of Melbourne a Conservative representative. When plural voting was abolished they had in the city of Melbourne a majority consisting of caretakers and working-class people. The Mayor of Melbourne, perhaps the most extravagant labour man in Australia, was put up against the Conservative, and he was defeated by the votes of the caretakers and the working classes. The same thing might happen in the City of London. They made the qualification residential instead of giving the plural voter a choice, and in giving a choice in this case a great deal of indulgence has been given to the hon. Baronet. There is no expectation of this being made permanent, because if hon. Members opposite come into power they will make short work of it, and if the Liberal party are again returned they will make short work of it. In this question hon. Gentlemen are dealing with representation according to the property qualification, but that qualification must go sooner or later, and when you have manhood suffrage, then, necessarily, the qualification must be residential; a man must vote where he resides. 743 Then you will not have that opportunity of gerrymandering the constituencies of which the agents of the party opposite take the fullest advantage.
§ Mr. SANDERSON
I have listened to the arguments in this Debate with the greatest possible interest, and I am bound to say that if this Amendment is not carried it will cast a grave reflection upon this House. The proposal is that this measure should be a temporary one. Every hon. Member who has spoken in this Debate has put forward arguments to show that this is a temporary Bill. This side of the House looks upon it as temporary, first, because we think it is not a just measure and that it ought to be put right at the earliest possible moment, and, secondly, if for no other reason, that it is dealing with a matter that ought not to be dealt with by itself, but ought to be dealt with in connection with a large scheme of Redistribution. On the other hand, Members on that side of the House pointed out what a very inadequate measure this is. The arguments on both side of the House have been all one way—that this is a temporary measure. That being so, why should this House pass it? I was very much impressed with the arguments of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson.) I thought he was making up his mind to vote for this Amendment until the very end of his speech, and then it turned out that the reason which chiefly weighed with him was that he could not tell what would happen at the end of the period. He need not be anxious, because at the end of the period he might have become a plural voter himself—at all events he might have entirely changed his mind as to the position of the plural voter They say it takes a strong man to change his mind, and the hon. Member might perhaps change his at the end of the period. If that is the only reason which prevents him from voting for the Amendment, be need not be in any doubt. At the end of five years, if it ever becomes law, this Bill will not be in existence. For these reasons I submit that the Amendment ought to be carried.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I was very much interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite). It appears to me that the Colonial precedent in legislation is one which cannot be driven too far in this House. We all know 744 that various projects may suit the Dominions Overseas, being comparatively new countries, which do not necessarily conform to the conditions and ideas of politics which have been handed down to-us in this House. But I think, if we may judge by the speech of the hon. Member, we might claim him as being in favour of the plural vote, because he put forward one of the strongest arguments in favour of retaining the plural vote that has yet been advanced. He referred to the City of Melbourne, and he seemed rather to regret the abolition of the plural vote there, stating that the Mayor of Melbourne had been rejected by the caretakers and others to whom the City vote was confined. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has so far paid attention to the arguments on this side of the House. That is exactly what we have been urging will happen in the case of the City of London. Therefore, such an arrangement will not, as a matter of fact, be as truly representative as it is at the present moment. The hon. Member speaks of the indulgence of choice which is allowed but that seems to be wholly illusory. The inevitable and intended result of this Bill will be that residence will tend more and more to be the qualification of the vote, and that automatically the tendency will be to vote in the place of residence. So that in spite of this indulgence we shall arrive at the situation which the hon. Member deplored as regards Melbourne.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I fail to fathom the mind of the hon. Member if he still thinks that the business interests of the city are better represented by the views of the caretakers than of those who are carrying on the undertakings. It does appear to me that there is a great deal to be said for carrying this Amendment, and for revising the whole question at the end of the period suggested. Circumstances in these islands may be considerably different, and a good many hon. Members opposite who now think that this Bill will be an advantage may by that time quite conceivably change their views.
The hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) said that in Melbourne, using Australia as an illustration, there is no plural voting and that every man there has one vote. That is an absolutely intelligible proposition if they have, as they have in Australia and 745 in Canada, one vote one value. In this case the Government are trying to introduce one man one vote—a perfectly legitimate scheme—but are absolutely failing to introduce one vote one value, because they realise that it would be absolute wreckage to all their present schemes. Therefore when the hon. Member quoted Australia he should also, I think, have informed the House that they have the corresponding and perfectly understandable system whereby those votes are each of them of the same value, and not like the system, here, whereby votes for Members below the Gangway count twice as much as English votes. That is the chief objection to this Bill. That is why every Member on this side, and I
§ hope some opposite, can get up and support this particular Clause. As soon as the Government bring in one vote one value they will find on this side all Members will be ready to support their one man one vote. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite cheer at that proposition, but over and over again it has been said, and has been proved by everybody, that we are perfectly ready to accept the doctrine of one man one vote, provided you accept the similar doctrine of one vote one value
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 147; Noes, 253.747
|Division No. 194.]||AYES.||[10.54 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Fleming, Valentine||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Fletcher, John Samuel||Mount, William Arthur|
|Ashley, W. W.||Forster, Henry William||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Astor, Waldorf||Gardner, Ernest||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gibbs, G. A.||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Banbury, Sir Fredrick George||Grant, J. A.||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Greene, W. R.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Gretton, John||Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Guinness, Hon.W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Haddock, George Bahr||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Pryce-Jones, Col. E. (Mt'gomy B'ghs.)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Blair, Reginald||Harris, Henry Percy||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Helmsley, Viscount||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Boyton, James||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hills, John Waller||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Burn, Coolonel C. R.||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Sassoon, Sir Philip|
|Butcher, John George||Hoare, S. J. G.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Campion, W. R.||Hohler, G. F.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Cassel, Felix||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Starkey, John R.|
|Cator, John||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Cautley, H. S.||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Cave, George||Horner, Andrew Long||Swift, Rigby|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Houston, Robert Paterson||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Hunt, Rowland||Terrell, H. (Gloucester)|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Ingleby, Holcombe||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Clyde, J. Avon||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Kerry, Earl of||Touche, George Alexander|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Tryon, Capt. George Clement|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Tuillbardine, Marquess of|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Lewisham, Viscount||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Denison-Pender, J. C.||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Dickson, Rt Hon. C. Scott||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Mackinder, Halford J.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Macmaster, Donald||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Falle, B. G.||M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Fell, Arthur||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Malcolm, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Newman and Major Morrison-Bell.|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Alden, Percy|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Agnew, Sir George William||Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Ainsworth, John Stirling||Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)|
|Armitage, R.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Arnold, Sydney||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Hayden, John Patrick||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Hazleton, Richard||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Barnes, George N.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick)||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Higham, John Sharp||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Barton, William||Hinds, John||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Hodge, John||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hogge, James Myles||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Bentham, G. J.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Boland, John Plus||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Radford, G. H.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Illingworth, Percy H.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Brace, William||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Reddy, M.|
|Brady, P. J.||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Jowett, Frederick William||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Joyce, Michael||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Keating, Matthew||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Kellaway, Frederick George||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk)||Kelly, Edward||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Kilbride, Denis||Robinson, Sidney|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||King, J.||Roch, walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon,S.Molton)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Lardner, James C. R.||Rowlands, James|
|Clough, William||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Leach, Charles||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E.|
|Cotton, William Francis||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lundon. T.||Sheehy, David|
|Crooks, William||Lyell, Charles Henry||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lynch, A. A.||Shortt, Edward|
|Cullinan, John||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||McGhee, Richard||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Dawes, J. A.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|De Forest, Baron||M'Curdy, C. A.||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Delany, William||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Sutton, J. E.|
|Devlin, Joseph||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Dillon, John||M'Laren, Hon.F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Tennant, Harold John|
|Doris, William||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Thomas, J. H.|
|Duffy, William J.||Meagher, Michael||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Millar, James Duncan||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Molloy, Michael||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Wadsworth, J.|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Wardle, George J.|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Mooney, John J.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Morrell, Philip||Webb, H.|
|Ffrench, Peter||Morison, Hector||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Field, William||Muldoon. John||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Munro, R.||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Murphy, Martin J.||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Wiles, Thomas|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Needham, Christopher Thomas||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Ginnell, L.||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Nolan, Joseph||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Glanville, H. J.||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Nuttall, Harry||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N)|
|Goldstone, Frank||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||O'Doherty, Philip||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Gulland, John William||O'Donnell, Thomas||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||O'Dowd, John||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Hackett, J.||O'Malley, William|
|Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Hancock, John George||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. W. Benn and Mr. W. Jones.|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||O'Shee, James John|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
§ It being Eleven of the clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered to-morrow (Friday).