HC Deb 01 May 1913 vol 52 cc1409-539

Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [30th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time,"

Which Amendment was to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words "this House is not prepared to accept a Bill which professes to remove one only of the anomalies affecting electoral law."—[Mr. F. E. Smith.]

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." Debate resumed.


In continuing the discussion and concluding my speech I am in an awkward position, and the House is also in an awkward position, in that it had not listened, except in the case of a very few Members, to the argument, as I thought a very valuable one, which I was addressing to the House when 8.15 came yesterday. That is a disadvantage to the House and to me, and yet there is a compensation. I have been able since then to read carefully the whole of yesterday's discussion, and to reconsider my position. The result is that I am more determined than ever to support the Second Reading of this Bill. I do so for this reason: Though I sympathise with the Amendment and view with regret that the Bill will only deal with one anomaly out of many, yet, having considered well the speeches that were delivered, I find that the Amendment is not serious, and is not sincerely supported. The Amendment is to the effect that this Bill will only deal with one of several anomalies. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith), who moved it in a particularly calm and argumentative speech, said on more than one occasion that by universal consent the present state of things is anomalous. We all agree with him. He went so far as to speak of plural voting itself as an anomaly, and in that he received much more support and sympathy from this side than from the other side of the House. He mentioned certain other anomalies which we desire most earnestly to see remedied at the earliest possible opportunity. He spoke of the pledges to women that were still unredeemed. I hope we shall have his assistance in redeeming those pledges next week. He spoke also of the case of absent voters, and in that connection let me point out that Bills have been introduced from both sides of the House to remedy this evil, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite will not block our Bill, and we shall not block their Bill, there is no reason why the two Bills should not be passed this Session to remedy that complaint. The right hon. Gentleman referred to returning officers' expenses, and we were glad to have it from the Front Opposition Bench that they ought to be borne by the State. Lastly, he spoke of the inequalities in the distribution of seats. I see no reason, after the expression of sympathy which he has given, why all those anomalies should not be swept away during the next two years, and before the next General Election.

I shall repeatedly turn for consolation and support to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which acknowledged the evils of the present electoral system. But when I come to consider calmly the speeches which were delivered afterwards, I find a very marked feature. I find that five Members of the Opposition supported the right hon. Gentleman with speeches. Every one of those hon. Gentlemen denied that plural voting was an anomaly at all. It seems to me a very remarkable instance—a proof, if, indeed, such were wanted—that the Front Opposition Bench is totally out of sympathy with the views of hon. Members sitting behind them. We have known that, and it has been proved on several occasions. When right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench say, "Food taxes," hon. Members behind say, "No food taxes." When the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench say, "Plural voting is an anomaly," hon. Members behind them get up and with unanimous voice declare, "It is no anomaly." To my mind, if hon. Members who spoke against this Amendment go into the Lobby in favour of it, I shall cease to believe that there is any consistency or sense of logic at all in the party opposite. Let me call attention to some of the speeches which were delivered yesterday. We had, first, the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave), who denied that plural voting was an anomaly at all, because, he maintained, that it was a principle of the British Constitution that Parliament represents localities, and that if a man has influence and interest in any locality he has a right to vote there. From that, of course, he deduces easily enough that plural voting is no anomaly at all. Then we had the speech of the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Lawson). He was very bold and even aggressive in his language. He very often is. He said he was not at all ashamed to defend anywhere the principle of plural voting. He stated that the British Constitution depends upon the representation of "communitates," and that we were destroying the last vestiges of the communitates. I had always known that the hon. Member for Mile End was a learned historical student when he was at Oxford University, and we are glad to have such reminiscences of his learning purveyed to the House in these latter days, but really I think the time has passed when we ought to treat this Bill as destroying the last vestige of the British Constitution. We have been told over and over again that the Constitution is in the melting pot. If so, why bother about the last vestiges?

4.0 P.M.

Next we had the hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Sandys), to whom I listened with great gratification, and I would like to thank him for the bold and sprightly manner in which he always addresses this House. It was delightful to hear him quote Mr. Gladstone. He said that in 1884 Mr. Gladstone stood up for plural votes, and requested in this House that an Amendment to the Franchise Bill of that year on the subject should be withdrawn. It should be remembered that the Franchise Bill of 1884 was not a Liberal measure so much as an agreed measure. It had to be passed, in face of the House of Lords undiminished power, by grave concessions; and never for one single moment, from even before that time up to this, has the Liberal party as a whole, and certainly not the Radical party, for which I like to speak, hesitated to say that plural voting in all its forms was unjust and ought to be abolished. The hon. Member added—and this is very interesting—that it would be unfair to the more prosperous classes of the community to take away plural voting. That has a very respectable ring about it, but I would suggest that it is a phrase which will receive more commendation among the villa residents of Weston-super-Mare than among the working classes in his constituency. It was plain, from the speech of the hon. Member, that he was opposed-to the abolition of the plural vote in any form. The same attitude was taken up by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Mackinder). He also appealed to the British Constitution, and declared the very interesting fact that if this Bill were to pass there would be in the next Parliament three fewer Unionist Members for Scotland than at present. That shows that those who are opposing this Bill so inconsistently are doing so from purely electioneering motives, not from any sense of justice, but simply because they are thinking how many seats they can get out of their opposition. He also made this observation, which struck me, that it would be very unjust to abolish plural voting until we had first established proportional representation, because otherwise you would immediately lessen considerably in this House the representation of minorities. That gives away the whole case. This House is based on the principle of representation of majorities, and not on representation of minorities. That may be a right or wrong principle, but undoubtedly the principle of the House is that when a man has a majority of the votes he is elected, and in no case, except under some peculiar result of an election petition, is a man who receives a minority of the votes sent to this House to represent a constituency.

There was another speech from the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull), who is an out-and-out defender of plural voting. He called attention to the Belgian system, which of all others seems to receive his fatal commendation. It seems to him particularly appropriate that a man who had additional property ought to have a vote for that, and the man who had educational qualifications should have an additional vote for that, and if he had a large or budding family he should have an additional vote for that. He seems to be quite oblivious of the fact that this system of plural voting in Belgium has very recently led to a universal strike, which has been allayed only by a promise made by the Prime Minister, who was opposing any change, to consider the whole system of electoral law in that country. The Debate reveals two very remarkable facts. The first is: so entirely out of touch is the Front Bench opposite with the rank and file of its supporters that I should advise it on a future occasion, whenever it wants to oppose one of our Bills, to allow one of the back benches to introduce the Motion. The other fact, which is even more important, is that those who vote against this Bill and in favour of this Amendment do not admit that plural voting is an anomaly at all. They stand by plural voting and stick to it as long as they can, and, if it disappears, the probability is that several of them will disappear also. I have said enough I think to show how insincere and unnecessary this Amendment is. In conclusion, I would remind the House that this is the 1st May, which is a day sacred to all the countries of Europe, though less observed in this Island than in any other, to the labour and democratic movement. It will be a great thing if this Bill passes its Second Reading on that day. It may be an even greater thing if two years hence it passes into law in spite of the prejudice and opposition of those in another place. I hope that it may pass into law by the good sense of those who are in power elsewhere, but, if it does not, I trust that the Government will persist with their policy and pass this Bill before the next General Election by means of the Parliament Act.


I was one of the very few who had the privilege of listening to the whole of the hon. Member's speech last night as well as his concluding remarks to-day. I can only say, with all deference, that I have never heard a speech which said less for the Bill which it professed to support. The hon. Member brought forward one argument only, and that of the most extraordinary kind, in support of the Bill, and I hope to deal with that a little later on. Meanwhile the President of the Board of Education was so conciliatory and so amiable in his remarks with regard to the Bill that it seems almost ungracious to question the statements or arguments that he brought forward except for just two reasons. We have been asked to deal with the Bill on its merits, and the arguments that have been brought forward on behalf of it. There is another reason. In this country we have had autocracies of various kinds—the autocracy of a sovereign like Henry VIII. or the autocracy of a Cabinet like the present Cabinet—and whenever an autocracy wants to bring forward some measure that is peculiarly unjust or objectionable the introduction or preamble is always instinct with amiability and professions of good intentions. For that reason I do think it all the more necessary to go a little behind the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman has used, whether conciliatory or not. There was one thing which the right hon. Gentleman did not do. My right hon. Friend we know put one question to him distinctly which he asked him to answer. That was whether this Bill is or is not based on any principle, and, if he says that it is, can he substantiate that statement? The position with which we are faced is that this Bill constitutes a complete reversion of the whole basis on which our electoral system rests. I have heard one or two hon. Members on the opposite side deny that our electoral system is based on local franchise and local representation. Going into the authorities, I have found the best definition which I think has yet been given:— We go now upon the principle of local representation. Our counties are large groups of communities and by the association of our whole history they have acquired a certain species of reality in the minds of men So also with regard to our boroughs, our cities and our universities. In each case there is a living body politic which is the seat and local centre of representation. The whole of our present system is founded upon it, and our present franchises are all local franchises. That description of the present system was given by one of the most eminent colleagues of Mr. Gladstone. It was assented to by Mr. Gladstone and acquiesced in by his other colleagues and nothing has happened from that day to this either in subsequent Acts or in subsequent administration to derogate from it for a moment. That being so we are faced here with a complete reversal of the whole basis of our representation. Surely, we have a right to expect a definite answer as to the principles which are going to underlie the new system, and that the basis of the new system should be put before us; and a little more even than that. It may quite well be that we have got new needs at the present moment, new changes of circumstances, which may demand that our representation should for the future be based on a different principle, and if that is so surely the new proposals ought to be made really intelligible. We have a right to ask that these new proposals should be completely outlined in their whole form, at least in outline, as an organic system. But at the present moment the Government appear to be going almost entirely upon the instalment system. They are furnishing the Constitution by instalments. We all know that such a process is so "simple," but that instalments may lay up trouble in the future for those who unwittingly adopt this system at the start. But even if the Government go upon the instalment system, there is only one justification for the present Bill—that it should remedy the most serious anomalies of the present system, or if it does not do that that it should be an approved and indisputable preliminary to the system that is to follow. If that is the case may I just for a moment examine the Bill of the Government and the arguments by which it is supported. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education, made the inevitable statement that he was going to meet the most urgent of our present anomalies. He said:— Even if plural voting is not the greatest, at any rate it is one of the greatest anomalies. I believe it is as urgent as the other anomalies to which reference has been made. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is above the needs of consistency. Bismarck thought consistency was the greatest of crimes, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman and Bismarck go hand in hand in these matters. But we lesser people are sometimes inclined to ask for consistency in the statements of the right hon. Gentleman. We are now told, on the introduction of this Bill, that plural voting is possibly the greatest of anomalies, and certainly it is as urgent as any. We then turn back to the argument by which the Bill of last Session was supported. Is there the authority of the Prime Minister to support that? Is that the opinion of the Prime Minister? In the opinion of the Prime Minister, if there was going to be a reform, the foundation of any reform was that— A man who was a bonâ fide resident or the inhabitant of a locality should automatically, without any evidence, be invested with the full power of the franchise. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."] I am delighted to have that cheer from right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members opposite, because I can hardly imagine that they will vote for this Bill when it comes to a Division. The Prime Minister described that requisite as The most essential reform of the simplification of our franchise laws. So that, in the Prime Minister's opinion, what is the most essential reform is that the bonâ fide resident should be invested with the full power of the franchise, that it should be given automatically, and given without any evidence. Under this Bill, will anyone, just because he is a bonâ fide resident be given the franchise automatically and without the production of any evidence. I take the same type of argument, but used at greater length, by the Solicitor-General, who was in favour of the Bill introduced last Session for three reasons, the third and last of which was the abolition of plural voting. What apparently appealed most to the Solicitor-General were quite other reforms, which were needed in priority to plural voting. He said— In the first place, the Bill endeavours to secure that the man who has a vote has it given to bins for simple qualification which anyone can understand. In other words, in the mind of the Solicitor-General, the anomaly which most needed reform was the lack of simplicity. He said:— It endeavours to get rid of a system by which one man has a vote because he has a latch-key, and another man has not got a vote because his landlord lives in the same house. But, in this Bill, what is the result? Is there any of the simplification which appealed to the Solicitor-General as a primary reason for supporting the Bill of last Session? In the second place, the Solicitor-General expresses the belief that a man should be able to get his vote quite simply and easily:— We secure that a man shall not lose his vote merely because he changes his address. If he changes his address the rate collector will follow him; if he changes his address the tax collector will follow him; and if he changes his address, and there is cause for it, the policeman will follow him. Only his vote does not follow him, But under the Bill will his vote follow him any the more? The only justification for this Bill is that it meets the most pressing urgency. Does it do any more than the provisions in the previous measure? But my authority does not rest with the Solicitor-General alone; it is also that of the President of the Board of Education. The right hon. Gentleman himself dealt with the Bill introduced by his hon. Friend sitting beside him on the Front Bench (Mr. Harold Baker). He said he could not give the Bill facilities; he could not try to get it carried into law. The right hon. Gentleman gave his reasons. He said it was only a Plural Voting Bill and that he could not support it. May I read his own words on the matter?— If this Parliament permits the present registration system to continue without a real effort, it would be a lasting reflection upon the intelligence and common sense of Members in this House. Why on earth did not right hon. Gentlemen opposite introduce a Bill which does deal with the registration system? The right hon. Gentleman has given facilities for this Bill, but for the Plural Voting Bill of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Harold Baker) he did not do so because it was not complete. Is this Bill any more complete than the Bill of last year? What is the reason for supporting the Bill of this year? They say it is because it is an instalment to be followed by a Registration Bill. Are they sincere? Did not the instalment argument apply with even greater strength to the Bill of last year than it does to the Bill of this year? There was more time last year, and there were opportunities for a Registration Bill to be brought in. If the criticism applied to the Plural Voting Bill of last year, it applies with much greater strength to the Bill of this year. This Bill not only does not simplify the present election law, but, as a matter of fact, it increases the anomalies. There is one anomaly with which it does not deal, an anomaly which we on this side of the House, as well as hon. Members on the other side of the House, are anxious to see dealt with, namely, that the expenses of returning officers at elections should be reduced from the present scale at which they are fixed. If you abolish plural voting without altering the register, you will still have a higher scale of expenditure than in proportion to the number of people exercising the franchise, and as a consequence the measure is in direct opposition to the principle which every Member on the other side applauds on every occasion whenever they get the opportunity of doing so.

What other real argument has the right hon. Gentleman brought forward? He told us that the Colonies had not got the plural vote. I wonder whether he really believed in that argument, or did he only use it as verbiage to pad out too scanty and shrunken a brief? Does he believe that one of the reasons for abolishing the plural vote is that the Colonies do not possess it at the present time? If the right hon. Gentleman does set store by the example of the Colonies, then why on earth did the Government of which he is a Member ever bring in such a hybrid and mongrel measure as the Parliament Act, which exists in no Colony whatever, and probably would be condemned by anyone if proposed?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. J. A. Pease)

It was the House of Lords.


But this is an anomaly which the right hon. Gentleman wants to remedy on Colonial lines. The House of Lords, according to him, is another anomaly. Why did he not remedy that on Colonial lines? The right hon. Gentleman's interruption is not applicable from his own point of view. There was one serious argument brought forward, and it is the one argument which was contained in the whole of the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. King). He said he disliked the Bill; he thought it was not a great measure such as they ought to propose; that it was so incomplete and so unsatisfactory that he regarded it only as a lever for getting something more. What a magnificent reason for supporting the Bill. It is so bad that it would create a state of things so intolerable as to need remedy afterwards. I am bound to say that, apart from the mad tea party in "Alice in Wonderland," one could hardly imagine such an argument coming front any other source. Here you have the distinct proposal that we should pass a bad measure in order that a good Act may come. I think the hon. Member and I are, probably, both of us Nonconformists. We both go down to our respective bodies; but I must say that I should hardly like to meet my kirk session and say, "Here am I a Presbyterian, but when I get into politics, then I adopt quite a different principle. When I get into politics I have to deal with legislation. I do evil that good may come of it, and I support an Act which I believe to be thoroughly bad in order that the state of things may grow so intolerable that other Acts must necessarily follow." That seems to be grotesque. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes; and if hon. Members will read the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down they will find that I have not travestied the arguments which appear in that speech. What is more, the same argument in substance was treated at rather greater length by the President of the Board of Education. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the expenditure which would be incurred in the constituencies would be considerable, and he went on to say:— It is really absurd that at the General Election a Member should he returned by a certain electorate, and then having afterwards taken office, he should appeal, not to the same individuals, but to another electorate. In other words, he admitted it was absurd, and that we should have a different system for General elections and for by-elections. It was absurd that the plural voter should have any preference over the poorer voter. All these absurdities he admitted himself, yet he said that the justification for bringing in a Bill which contains all these absurdities, in his judgment, was that a Franchise Reform Bill ought to be passed before the next General Election. The right hon. Gentleman gave that as his reason, and he put himself, to my mind, in a most amazing dilemma. If the Franchise Reform Bill should not be passed before the next General Election, will then the next General Election take place with all the absurdities which he himself admits are contained in this Bill. If the Franchase Bill is introduced and passed before the next General Election, all those reforms so far as they are not contained in the present Bill, could equally well be introduced in the Franchise Reform Bill, and there is no reason whatsoever for introducing an earlier and separate Bill. Lastly, the whole hypothesis of the right hon. Gentleman is almost entirely without foundation. His whole hypothesis is based on the statement that he has not got time this Session to pass a larger measure. I do not wish for a moment to repeat the argument of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), but summed up it comes to this: That the measure of last Session up to the end of the Committee stage would have taken twelve days of Parliamentary time. As far as anyone can see, on a conservative estimate, the two measures to be brought in this Session and considered now, would up to the end of the Committee stage take nine or ten days of Parliamentary time. The only difference between the whole time that could be given would be three additional days, or at the utmost four days. That is the whole reason of the right hon. Gentleman for bringing in a Bill full of absurd anomalies, as he himself admits, instead of a more reasonable and comprehensive measure.

What is more, let him just consider the difference between the state of the two Sessions. The larger Bill was brought in comparatively early, but the whole of its Committee stage was deferred to a late date in a Session crammed full with two great measures like the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. Even so it was found possible to introduce the more comprehensive measure in a Session of that character. Now we are in a Session in which no doubt we will have a second dealing with the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Bill, but in which there are very few other measures of anything like first-rate or even second rate importance, and yet the right hon. Gentleman says that there is not time to pass a Bill of that kind in the Session. Why? Because, he says, the House ought to rise in August, and that is his final argument on the point of time. So in altering the whole basis of representation the reason why they have brought in a measure full of absurdities instead of producing a decent comprehensive Bill is to gain three days of holiday time.

But the right hon. Gentleman has advanced the other argument in favour of bringing in this measure, that it is quite a necessary preliminary to a measure of Redistribution. The right hon. Gentleman perpetrated some jokes, but, without repeating what has already been said, I am bound to say that this talk of pious intentions and pious hopes of measures which are going to appear afterwards has long since ceased to carry conviction, and does not now even convey the amusement which it did at one time. Is there any test of the sincerity of his intention? Mr. Gladstone gave such a test in 1884, because when he produced a Franchise Bill he gave an outline, though not the details, of the Redistribution Bill with which it was to go as part of one organic scheme. The President of the Board of Education has not got a notion in his head of any Redistribution Bill. He adduces the argument that a Franchise Bill of this kind, a Plural Voting Bill of this kind, ought to precede a Redistribution Bill which ought to be carried later. What is the reason underlying it? It was given perfectly clearly by Mr. Gladstone:— We have also pointed out that a knowledge of the manner in which the new franchise will distribute themselves is almost essential to determining prudently the details of the plan of Redistribution. The right hon. Gentleman opposite is his own witness. He says Redistribution is to be carried later and this is to be preliminary, and why? Last year he gave us the answer:— One man one vote must, I think, precede Redistribution, and I shall try to give one or two reasons for that proposition. If we are going to abolish plural voting and to simplify the franchise, we ought to see how the electors in the constituencies are going to be created before we proceed with any system of Redistribution. Now you have got a Plural Voting Bill which not only does not show how the electors will be created, but it makes the matter infinitely more uncertain than ever before. Is this Bill to be followed by a Franchise Bill, and then a Redistribution Bill? Time does not admit that. The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to believe that statement, but let him consider the question and the bringing in of a Franchise Bill next year, and does he really think that the Government are going to press it through with all the forces at their command and get it passed into an Act? Even if they did, which we have every reason to doubt from past experience, when are they going to get the new register, or how are they going to get that in time to have a Redistribution Bill in the Session subsequent to that? All that is to be done before the possibility of a General Election. The right hon. Gentleman may say so, but I am sure he does not believe for a single moment that it is possible in the time at his command. Consequently his one single argument that this Bill ought to precede a Redistribution Bill snaps into two in his hands, and it is a much greater argument against the passing of this Bill than ever it, was in its favour.

I wish to compare this Bill, even on its own merits, with the other two Plural Voting Bills that have been before the House. There was a Plural Voting Bill brought in by the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Baker) last year. He is, I believe, going to speak after me, and it is really very pathetic that he is going to do so, and in favour of this Bill, after the fate that overtook his own last year. He had an infant of his own last Session, but it died of exposure, and now he is turning up to speak on behalf of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, who was principally responsible for the death of his own. What is the com- parison between these two Bills? The hon. Member's Bill of last year, we were told, had one or two great advantages. One great advantage was that the names on the register corresponded with those who were entitled to vote. The President of the Board of Education told us that that Bill of the hon. Member for Accrington was an improvement owing to the fact that the names on the register under his Bill corresponded with those who had the right to vote. There was another great improvement which we were told was effected in the Bill of the hon. Member last year:— No new questions under the provisions of this Bill can be put to the voter. Yet here we get the President of the Board of Education saying, at the end of his speech, that the Government are very seriously prepared to consider whether a question ought not to be put by the presiding officer to each elector as he comes to the polling booth—to ask him whether he is really a plural voter and is possibly contravening the Act or not. It really is a little absurd to contemplate this possibility for anyone who has a practical knowledge of elections. Conceive of all the electors who come in between, say, six and eight o'clock at night, and the presiding officer taking each of them gently in turn and asking them whether they are really contravening the Act or not. The whole proposition is absurd, and the abolition of it was one of the good features, in the right hon. Gentleman's own judgment, in the Bill which he was instrumental in getting killed last Session. Lastly, we had a third great merit in the hon. Member's Bill of last year:— Another advantage is that no new offence is created under the provisions of this Bill. It was praised by the right hon. Gentleman because no new offence was created under its provisions. And this year's Bill creates just such an offence. When you take all the three items in it, which the right hon. Gentleman said were good, we find that the right hon. Gentleman has taken the utmost pains in drawing the provisions of the present Bill to avoid incorporating any of them. Let me mention just one other item. Last year's Plural Voting Bill was, we were told, better than the Plural Voting Bill of 1906, yet the "in and out" system was too absurd to incorporate even in the Bill of 1906. It was discussed in 1906 and the right hon Gentleman who is now Colonial Secretary said then that it was an unreasonable and absurd proposition, and that he would not dream of incorporating it in his Bill. What has happened in this Bill which we are asked to consider on its own merits? It has left out of it all the advantages in its immediate predecessors, and it has incorporated as a fundamental part of it the one thing that the Colonial Secretary said was absurd and unreasonable in the Bill of 1906. Yet this is the Bill we are asked to vote for on its own merits this afternoon.

It has therefore really no other merit except the question of party advantage. At least of that there is no question of their need. Let us take what happened yesterday. Hon. Members opposite cheered the return of the present Member for Whitchapel. I wonder whether they realise what happened in White-chapel. It was not at all favourable in circumstances for the Opposition. They had as the candidate against them a Gentleman who was Member, and was known for his generosity in the locality, and yet perhaps the right hon. Gentleman opposite would consider how his majority dropped. If there was the same proportionate drop in the majorities over the country, 147 seats at present tenanted by hon. Gentlemen opposite would be lost to their Government at a General Election. So that there is some need to buttress up a tottering side.

No one doubts that the majority of the plural voters in most constituencies are Unionists. The hon. Gentleman who was going to speak is the one shining exception. He gets up with a clear conscience, the only man on his side, saying, "I have a majority of plural voters in my Division," and yet after all the virtue is not so very great. He has a majority of fifty plural voters, but like me he is in the happy position of having a majority of the electors of about 3,000, and therefore the sacrifice of fifty voters out of a majority of 3,000 does not really prejudice him so greatly. There is the need. In the second place, no one doubts, from past experience, that Members opposite have no scruple whatsoever as to either disfranchising, or refusing to enfranchise, if it suits their purpose. No one who considers the circumstances of the last General Election in December on the stalest register that ever existed, will question the readiness as well as the need of hon. Members opposite to take every advantage without question as to whether they are disfranchising voters or not. Once again the proof is out of their own mouths. The Bill of last year, we were told, was not at all certain in its result. The Prime Minister cautioned us and said, while it was quite true the abolition of plural voting would benefit the Liberal side, yet taking that Bill of last Session as a whole, a person would be very chary indeed to make a prediction as to which side would have the balance of advantage. The right hon. Gentleman opposite as usual, in his stout North-country fashion, went a little further, and crossed the t's and dotted the i's. He said:— If we gain by the abolition of the plural vote, hon. Members opposite may very likely think they will gain to a large extent by the addition of a certain number of classes of voters who will be added to the register under the operation of the Bill. For instance, I am told that a very large number of male domestic servants will become qualified for the first time. They take the Bill away and consider it by themselves, and anyone can imagine the scene. They say to themselves. "Here is a very dangerous state of affairs. We find that we have really told the truth in Parliament. There is going to be a portion of this Bill which we introduced in 1912 which is going seriously to benefit the opposite side," and so they take the Bill away and recast it and bring it forward without the portion which could benefit the Opposition, while they include the whole of that portion which can benefit themselves. Under those circumstances, is there anyone who really can think, in the circumstances as they would be judged by any independent witness, that there is the smallest doubt in the minds of hon. Members opposite that they are bringing forward this Bill simply in order to benefit themselves. The President of the Board of Education in his heart of hearts knows it perfectly well, and, what is more, every hon. Member behind him in his heart of hearts knows perfectly well that it is brought in for this purpose. The whole thing is the sort of fiction which reflects no credit on the honesty or intelligence of the opposite side. We are sometimes told that in this matter of opposition the same retort can be made to us. But the special onus lies on those who want to make a change. If you are going to put new writing upon the slate there is a special onus that the new writing should be good; otherwise you will merely cumber the ground for the future, and prevent a better reform from being carried.

Yet the present is peculiarly a time in which, if there was any statesmanship on the opposite side at all, they would be careful to introduce a better, more organic, and more complete measure, instead of proceeding in the way they are doing. Here you have three parts of the main problem—the organisation and constitution of the Second Chamber, the organisation and constitution of the First Chamber, and the relations between the two. They are dealing with this subject exactly as they are dealing with the relations between the different parts of the United Kingdom. They are tinkering at one portion of it, knowing perfectly well that the way in which they are dealing with that one portion is not an instalment of an organic measure, but really prejudices and makes impossible an organic measure on better lines. They are doing that at a time when there is a special need to behave differently. Everyone who knows the country at this particular moment knows that an entirely new phase of conditions is growing up. They know that the existing unrest is not merely a matter of discontent. The present unrest, if it means anything, means that there is a new leaven, a new stirring in the minds of the people throughout the country. Anyone who is at all sympathetic with the new movement knows that right through there are new ambitions, a new desire for knowledge, and—to my mind a phenomenon for good and not for bad—an entirely new disposition in the mass of the electorate throughout the country. Yet the time in which we are living is a time of transition and as every Member on the Labour Benches particularly knows, is an extremely difficult one. It is a time in which peculiar pains should be taken to see that troubles do not arise which could be avoided by wise statesmanship. Yet, just at this time, when there is every need for a really wise statesmanship to see that the real spirit of the people and their wiser judgment are properly expressed—and that, if need be, you should not simply organise on the old lines, but do your best to provide sonic proper expression for them, instead of bringing forward either ordinary reorganisation on the old lines, still less any on newer lines better suited to the times—you have this silly, fragmentary, half-baked measure, in which not a single Member opposite really believes, and which condemns either the honesty or the intellect of those who propose it or vote for it.


The hon. Member opposite concluded a very eloquent peroration by referring to the leaven of unrest which he said was spreading amongst the people of this country. If that meant anything at all, it meant that that new movement was, in some way, to be dealt with by maintaining on the register some few thousands of plural voters. If I might make a comment on that, the difficulty is that the leaven to which the hon. Member refers is not amongst the plural voters at all. In the larger part of his speech the hon. Member was at great pains to show that this was a bad Bill compared with certain other Bills dealing with the same subject. During the Debate yesterday, and, indeed, in the speech of the hon. Member himself, it has been plain that the main attack against the Bill is that it is of such a limited character, that it attempts to deal with a large problem piecemeal, and leaves unredressed for the moment certain other great anomalies in our electoral system. That objection has taken several shapes; it has been inspired by different motives and founded on very different arguments. For instance, there was the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) yesterday, who rather than see women without votes would see men continuing to have several votes. There were the speeches of hon. Members opposite who, as the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) has shown, are apparently divided between the two alternatives of brains and wealth as the criterion of a man's fitness to exercise the franchise. All those who have objected to this Bill agree in complaining that it is a small measure and has not a wider scope, so as to cover the other anomalies to which reference has been made. Certainly it is a very formidable catalogue that we have had recited. All on this side will admit that the anomalies are serious and ought to be redressed.

It is true that this Bill deals with one and one only, but that one is not nearly so unimportant as the Opposition would have us believe. It is perfectly true that the Bill does not touch the framework of the franchise or the complications of the registration law, and that it does not mention Redistribution in express terms. The hon. Member ended his speech with a renewed imputation on the honesty of the Government in this matter. There is really nothing more to be said on that than that the House has before it, and must judge, the expressed intention of the Government to deal with the whole question of the franchise and Redistribution in the course of this Parliament. The hon. Member did not go so far as some other hon. Members, who have suggested that the Bill was not an instalment, but was intended in some way to be a substitute for the larger measure. He quite rightly described it as an instalment, and that is precisely what it is. The only difficulty which prevents it assuming a larger shape is the practical difficulty of time in the present Session. I was very much surprised that the hon. Member, who speaks with great authority and knowledge in these matters, should have ventured to compile a time-table and to make an arithmetical calculation on that subject. He estimated that the only difference that would be rendered necessary by such a Bill would be the addition of some three days. I think, however, that he refuted himself in almost his next sentence by admitting that when next year the Franchise Bill is introduced, it will meet with the unexpected hazards and unforeseen obstacles which are always put in the way of such a measure by the Opposition. He asked, and it is a pertinent question, "What is the justification for dealing with this subject alone at this moment?" I admit freely that this Bill must not be considered solely as it stands. If you are going to consider its ultimate and not its immediate effects, it must be read as one with the Franchise Bill, which we have been told will not be dissimilar from the measure introduced last year.

But even, apart from that, this Bill can very well stand on its own merits. Not one of the speeches made from the benches opposite has done anything to impugn those merits. The problem of plural voting is a perfectly simple one, and one which can be quite well dealt with without reference to any other part of the field of electoral reform. This Bill aims at redressing one specific grievance; it will create no other grievance and retard no other reform. But there is something else even more important which differentiates this Bill from any other Bill dealing with electoral reform which might be introduced. The whole subject of the abolition of plural voting has become so familiar to the House by this time that Members may be rather tired of it. The reason is that we have had Debate after Debate upon the subject, and the principle is freely admitted by everybody on this side and by a great majority of Members on the other side of the House. It was confirmed by the House of Commons in 1906 and even as late as last year, and it would at this moment have been the law of the land if it had not been for the action of the House of Lords. That is a very important consideration which justifies us in bringing in this Bill by itself, with its limited scope, and attempting to pass it into law without dealing with or explicitly referring to any other measure which may be necessary to achieve extensive reforms in our electoral system. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Steel-Maitland) laid great stress on the argument as to locality. He said that by this measure, short, simple, and limited in scope as it is, we were altering the whole basis of our representative system. He quoted a comparatively early authority for the doctrine that our representative system is based upon the conception of localities and communities. I cannot help thinking, in spite of that early authority, that the growth of that doctrine is of rather more recent date. I think Members will find that it is really one of those casual but fruitful suggestions which the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) throws out when he makes a speech in this House. I think it was the mention of it in 1906, and not before, which first sowed the seed which has now borne such a plentiful crop in the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT. I do not deny that, from the historical point of view, that theory has a good deal of justification, but, as my right hon. Friend showed yesterday, it has no justification whatever under modern conditions. He pointed out that modern science, means of locomotion, modern education, and the spread of knowledge have broken the bounds of locality.

The hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) introduced into his speech a special form of argument on that point. Not only was locality to be conceived of as the unit, but a particular individual might have a diversity of interests in different localities, and he quoted the familiar case of the business man who lives in one place and has his works in another. Yes, but he excluded altogether from his view the case, equally important in that connection, of those masses of working men who travel to their work by train or bicycle, or walk miles along the roads, who live in one place and work in another, and who, equally with the business man, may be said to have double interests. Every Member in this House has a double duty. He has a duty to his constituents and a duty to the nation. When those two duties conflict, which is not often, it is undoubtedly the national duty which predominates in the mind of every Member who seeks to do his duty rightly. Once he is elected, he is a Member of Parliament for the whole country, and not for a particular constituency. The point was very well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby) yesterday, when he said that a locality for this purpose consists, not of a certain number of shops, buildings, and fields, but of persons, and of persons only. If this theory is to be accepted, this Bill will do something to assist—not so much as it might, but it will actually promote the practical application of that theory. Every time you take away even one plural voter you do something to prevent that influx of alien voters from other places, who come down to a locality and swamp the resident voters in the constituency. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Steel-Maitland) spoke about Whitechapel, and the small consolation that we might derive from the dwindling majority there. I thought it was a very rash statement on his part, because, although it is not capable of proof, there is a very strong presumption that the drop in the majority may be attributed in part to the fact that at a by-election voters who otherwise could not be brought up come to the constituency and vote.


May I ask the hon. Gentleman—it is not a point to which I alluded—why he does not redress the particular anomaly to which he refers?

5.0 P.M.


It will be redressed in the Franchise Bill which is promised. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members scoff at that promise, but they can hardly expect that Redistribution and other similar matters can be dealt with in a Plural Voting Bill. The hon. Member is oven more venturesome I think in his remarks on what I may call the party argument in this matter of plural voting. We are always told by the other side of the House—we were told several times yesterday—that Redistribution is in some logical fashion indissolubly connected with the abolition of plural voting. That is very difficult to prove, and it never has been proved. The only connection between the two really is the casual connection which comes from constant repetition by hon. Members opposite. I would point this out: the claim that Redistribution should accompany any measure for the abolition of plural voting throws a very curious light indeed upon the honesty of hon. Members opposite in this matter of party argument. That argument apparently is that we on this side of the House are to gain by the abolition of plural voting, and therefore that hon. Members on the other side are to gain by Redistribution. I do not think, speaking for myself, that they will gain in the least. It really comes to this: and precisely the same thing happened in 1884. Now, just as then, hon. Members opposite who set up this high standard of honesty really wish to make the franchise a matter of bargaining and huckstering across the floor of the House, instead of treating it on its merits.

This habit of imputing motives has been very freely used in the course of this Debate. We were further challenged by the hon. Member to justify ourselves and to clear ourselves of the imputation which they have put upon us. No one on this side defends plural voting, and the actual Amendment before the House at this moment is an admission that it is an anomaly. Therefore, by attempting to remove it, we are doing something to remove an injustice, and to remove an admitted evil. Where we are taking a positive step, therefore, I may fairly claim that if you are going to strike a balance in this delicate matter of political virtue and principle it rests entirely on our side, and not on the side of those who are resisting. The hon. Member compared this Bill with other Bills which have been introduced. He endeavoured to show that it was much less effective in achieving its purpose than those earlier Bills of last year and of 1906 I quite admit that this Bill—and this is a matter which rankles in the minds of some of my hon. Friends behind me—does show an almost tender, if an entirely temporary, consideration for the interests of the plural voter. So long as this Bill lasts the plural voter will be better off than in many other respects he ought to be. He will be better off than the man of one vote, who has no option as to where he will vote. He will be better off than the unfortunate lodger, who has to go every year and claim his vote. Certainly he will be better off than the plural voter was in the earlier Bills, because he has no active step to take, but only to refrain from exercising more than one vote, and he is hardly likely to forget whether or not he has previously voted. It is quite true he will still be capable of making flights across the country to record votes, but, at any rate, by this Bill we have ensured that his wings will be effectively clipped so that he will not be capable of doing so very much harm. Other hon. Members have suggested that this Bill opens the door to gerrymandering the constituencies and manipulating the votes.

The hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Harry Lawson) in his speech yesterday put before the House a vision in which there would be a vast clearing house set up and arrangements made to have groups of plural voters concentrated upon a constituency. That course is possible, but I very much doubt if anything of the sort is likely to happen. Men are not really so wanting in independence as all that. As everybody who has had to do with elections knows, men are very apt to resent canvassers, and very apt to put their votes—and that applies in this particular case, for there will be every inducement, I think, for a man to vote as we wish him to vote—in the place where they reside and not elsewhere, partly because it will be easier and partly because that is the place where their main interest lies. I do not want to speak much longer, for other hon. Members desire to speak, and the subject has been discussed very fully, and I only wish to point out quite briefly that the principle on which this Bill is founded is that of political personality. Political personality should not be multiplied, and one person should be equal in power to any other person. The purpose of this Bill is that the House of Commons should, if possible, be made a more accurate mirror of public opinion. We have been told over and over again that plural voting has no other resting place in this country except in the Parliamentary franchise. It has been deliberately excluded from all other legislative measures where it might have been expected to be found. It found no place in the Local Government Act of 1888. It found no place in the Transvaal Constitution. It found no place in the proposals for the Referendum. It is branded as an anomaly, even in the Amendment which we are discussing at the present time. Its abolition has been pressed for by the Liberal party for more than a generation. It is more urgent now than ever. The principle of this Bill, I say, was affirmed as lately as last year by the House of Commons. It has behind it the united opinion of the Liberal party, and the admission, the very frank admission, of many hon. Members opposite. It has undoubtedly behind it the common sense of the nation.


I listened with great interest to the very lucid speech—admirable in its lucidity as well as in its brevity with which it dealt with the matter—which has just been delivered to the House. For the hon. Member dealt, as I think the President of the Board of Education did not deal, with the underlying principle of this Bill. But he did not seem to feel the full force of the argument which he was endeavouring to meet. On both sides of the House we speak of anomalies. It is a word which is used by both sides in respect to this matter, but an anomaly is not merely—I speak in the presence of persons much better able to determine such a point than myself—but I believe I am right in saying that "anomaly" is not merely a word synonymous with "defect," it is a particular sort of defect. It indicates inconsistency with the general principle which is adopted. We do not say that a thing is anomalous merely as a longer way of saying it is wrong. We say it is anomalous because it is inconsistent with some general principle that you adopt. I am obliged to say that neither the Government nor the Front Opposition Bench have had proper regard to that distinction in the language they have used, because I do not think that plural voting is an anomaly on the existing theory of representative Government. It certainly is an anomaly on a different theory of representative Government—a point which I will meet in a moment—but on the existing, the old theory, that different communities have a right to select their representatives to the Commons of England, that theory, of course, makes plural voting the natural thing. It is quite true that, even so, there is a sort of plural voting which may be properly called anomalous—that is the faggot vote, which is artificially created. Had this Bill been confined to destroy that I dare say it would have had a different reception.

The common case of plural voting, having two votes in two constituencies, in both of which the elector has a real participation, and in both of which he is a citizen and may be called upon to support any local effort as a ratepayer, and in which he might be called upon to take part in the local life of the community; that anomaly in the way of voting is not inconsistent with the principle I have mentioned. The old principle of the representative system was reformed in 1832, again in 1867, and again in 1885; and the reform of 1885, which like most things done with the consent of both Front Benches, was by far the most revolutionary Reform Bill ever passed in this country. One of the most remarkable things is that we constantly hear as to the revolution of 1832. People hardly seemed to be aware that the Act of 1885, both in its disfranchisement, and in its enfranchisement Clauses, it enumerated a much larger number of constituencies and schedules than was the case in 1832. It went much further, and partially did adopt a new principle by which the electoral system was no longer to be representative of classes, but in future was to be the direct mirror of the electorate, every representative corresponding to a certain number of electors, speaking their minds on the same lines. I will not go into that. We have often gone into this matter before, but there is a very great difficulty in carrying out the mirror principle, because of the immense difficulty that men never represent the minority who vote against them in any constituency.

I do say this: If you are going to adopt this new principle on which this Bill really rests, this new principle of making every representative the mouthpiece of so many electors, you are bound to have proportional representation. Even supposing we believe—and I am afraid I do not believe—that the Government will have both the will and the power—both things are necessary—to carry out their promise in respect of Redistribution and a larger franchise; supposing we accepted that, it would not be sufficient to justify this Bill, because no franchise ever proposed, no Redistribution Bill ever foreshadowed, would effect complete proportional representation. Nothing less than proportional representation would carry out the logical theory upon which this Bill is founded; therefore this Bill will remain an anomaly. The Government talk about removing an anomaly. This Bill will create an anomaly—and will remain so unless you create proportional representation. It is frequently affirmed as a theory that every one voter ought to have an equal voice in the representative system and in the establishment of the laws of the country. Unless we have proportional representation everyone does not have an equal voice. Therefore, you are doing a thing which is, as it were, consciously inconsistent. You are not drifting into this anomaly. You are deliberately setting up one. That appears to me to be an absurd thing to do. Observe what is really being done from party point of view. Hon. Members say: "Well, if we are animated by partisan motives so are you." You might as well say that a pickpocket might reply to his victim, "If I am animated by mercenary motives so are you." If anyone picks my pocket and takes my purse I feel the loss of the money. If anyone gerrymanders my votes by an electoral measure then it is the loss of votes that I resent. There is no doubt about that. Observe how unfair is the proceeding. You are professing to correct one difficulty in the representative system. You are professing to do better in one respect, and the consequence is that all the rest of the difficulties have more intense power than they had before. You are doing precisely what a fraudulent accountant would do in making a correction on one side of his accounts when he does not make it on the other. Let me explain that in some detail. If you had this House elected by proportional representation, you would have in the present Parliament a Liberal majority or coalition majority of thirty-eight votes. You actually had 136. If the plural vote was abolished, you would have a majority of 146 or 150, and therefore you would make this House still more unrepresentative than it is now with that reform by altering one part of the machinery and leaving the other part as it was before.


It would he very much more representative of the actual citizens if such an event took place.


Does not the hon. Gentleman see the unfair working of the rule by which minorities are not represented already makes this House very unrepresentative, so that the Liberal party to-day have 136 majority instead of thirty-six, which would make a very great deal of difference in the legislation passed by this House? Yet you are carrying a Bill which would actually make this House more unrepresentative and would make the legislation still more different from what the people want. You are doing exactly what you would do if in the case of a Redistribution and Franchise Bill you said, "Let us disfranchise all boroughs below a certain level and enfranchise others, but we will begin by striking off all the small constituencies that returned Conservatives and leaving in all the small constituencies that return Liberals." Would anyone think that it was a correct description of that measure to say it is only an instalment? You begin by getting rid of the small constituencies which had been undiscerning enough to return Conservatives and you promised that before Parliament ends you will bring in another Bill to disfranchise the other half. The fact that you were doing a thing verbally justifiable would not be a real defence at all. You would be corrupting the Legislature, and you would not be reforming it at all. Let me draw the attention of the House to the opinion of Mill on another part of this subject. Mill did not treat plural voting as intolerable; he was, indeed, opposed to the property qualification for the plural vote, but he considers strongly and vehemently that there ought to be a plural vote in respect to education. He writes at great length upon the subject, and it is most difficult to quote from his writings, which are long connected arguments, only a single sentence. It does not sufficiently represent his meaning. However, I quote one of his statements. He says:— The liberal professions, when nominally practised, imply more real instruction than any other walks of life, and whenever a set examination or any serious condition of education is required before entering a profession, its members should be admitted generally to the plurality of votes. That is one of the things he suggested, and he also suggested that the plural vote should be founded on an education basis, and he said undoubtedly that was very much better than a property test, but he also said he would not abolish it wherever it existed, since, until the pure test of education is adopted, he said, it would be unwise to dispense with so imperfect a one as that afforded by pecuniary circumstances. So he was in favour of the plural vote founded upon property until we had in its place an educational test. The Government come along and wish to abolish, not only the plural vote founded upon property, but also the few founded upon education.

The university vote is one founded upon education. I am very far from saying that the system of university representation does not admit of reform. I should like to see several changes, and I am sufficiently open-minded to recognise the legitimate irritation caused by the fact that all university Members are Conservatives. I should like to see university representation such as to secure minority representa- tion, so that not only Conservative but Liberal opinion would be represented, and I do not think it would be difficult to bring about that change. I should also like to see the educational franchise made more liberal by the enfranchisement of Bachelors of Art as well as Masters of Art. A change of that character could be perfectly easily introduced, and would give university representation a more substantial voice in the deliberations of this House than the very limited and small voice it has at present. But you are destroying that, or, rather, you are saying that an educated man is to have no advantage in respect to his vote if he has a university degree. I want to know why we are spending so many millions of money upon education. Why does the Lord Chancellor use all the time he can snatch from praising the Territorial Forces in urging the need for improved education? If, when you educate people, they do not become better politicians, what becomes of the argument for education [An HON. MEMBER; "They become better men."] Yes, but they may become better men without becoming worse voters. Voting is not wholly an educated pursuit, and therefore on the ground of moral superiority you can make out a case for giving people the second vote. I say let us be logical and consistent.

If it is a good thing to give education to the whole population, and if you think as I do that it is most important to open the higher branches of education to poor men, so that they, if they have real ability, can go to the very top, you ought to see that this great benefit of education makes men better politicians, as of course, it does. They develop constitutionally; you are better able to deal with them when they have a good education, and you ought to be frank and say, "We will give those who have this education not such a vote as will enable them to outvote the other classes, but such a limited voice as will make educated opinion clear, so that you might have the advantage of educated judgment in the deliberations of the Senate. I cannot conceive anybody attaching importance to education as a national responsibility who does not also value the special representation of those who attain a certain level of education. So I urge upon the Government that the abolition of plural voting, which depends upon University Degree is altogether reactionary and retrogressive; it is opposed to all forms of progress. The Government may wish to reform university representation, and if they do I shall be very glad to place my ideas at the disposal of the Government if they like to call me into counsel. I think I should be able to frame a scheme that would return at least three Liberal representatives either for new universities or for universities that have been reformed, to the five or six Conservatives, which would make the existing preponderance decidedly smaller. Of course it is not my fault that the Liberal party and the Labour party profess principles which cannot find educated support. I am willing to do my best to secure representation of educated opinion if they will furnish the opinion which educated people can support. This Bill is reactionary in so far as it destroys the advantages properly belonging to education.


It does not destroy education.


It destroys university representation. The last observation I would venture to make is one foreshadowed by the able and lucid speech made by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) yesterday, and that is in reference to the extreme impropriety of pressing this Bill when the Government nave failed to redeem their solemn promises in respect to Women Suffrage. I cannot help feeling a certain sense of what in less grave circumstances might be called amusement that they adopted methods which twenty-five years ago my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) in greater provocation was so severely censured for having adopted in Ireland. I am very glad the Government should become coercionists even so late in life and are using this extraordinary method of enforcing the law, but I think it is a pity that they should engage in it when their position is open to such serious charges of disingenuousness, when they promised over and over again, through the mouths of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they would give Women Suffrage an opportunity of becoming a Government Bill. I do not think that they should ever have made that promise, but I think when they did make it, if they were not able to keep it, they had only one honourable alternative, and that was to resign. They should not, I think, after breaking their promise to carry that particular branch of franchise reform, endeavour to pass this particular branch of that reform. I say that is to approach the subject in a spirit seriously provocative of the indignation of those who feel deeply and warmly upon this subject. It is the most unfortunate possible ground on which to enforce the law by strict penalties and by unusual powers given to the police and the magistrates.

When entering upon a campaign of this kind the Executive Government ought to have its hands absolutely clean. No one could say the Government's hands are clean; they have incurred, and properly, imputations of double dealing in respect to Women Suffrage. I believe, therefore, they are in that respect most unwise and that they are acting most improperly in pressing forward this measure. They are also acting improperly when there is no Second Chamber, when the Constitution is not reformed, as they say it ought to be, because if there is one subject more than another for which a Second Chamber's power is necessary it is in respect to the constitution of the First Chamber. There is a certain indecency in a Chamber reforming its own constitution without any check. Of course, it lends itself to every sort of gerrymandering and misuse. On these two grounds this Bill, in addition to the serious defects which lie in itself, is inopportune and inexpedient. I shall vote against the words of the Second Reading. I should have preferred other words in the Amendment; I should have preferred stronger words; but as the Question will be put, I shall vote against the words of the Second Reading, and I shall not be in any difficulty in consequence. I protest against the Bill, because it depraves the suffrage and does not reform it, because it is inexpedient, and because it will give offence to many persons who are feeling very deeply upon a burning and urgent question.


The Noble Lord always charms the House, and, indeed, on most occasions there is a great deal to be learned from the speeches which he delivers, but on this occasion, although I have listened to him, as every Member has, with very great interest and, indeed, delight, I have failed to find one single observation that can be said to be a genuine argument against the Bill which is under discussion. He says that if under another condition of things, if perhaps proportional representation had been in existence, then there might have been, by the abolition of plural voting, a greater inequality of parties than took place in 1906. But we are dealing with the condition of things now. What is the use of talking to this House about what Mill said fifty years ago? The Noble Lord knows perfectly well, as well as every Member of the House knows, that all these fancy franchises which he speaks about to-day were brought forward forty-seven years ago, and that the educational franchise of which he speaks was laughed out of court. Property itself and wealth were to confer additional votes; holders of so much in the Post Office Savings Bank, holders of Consols and other public securities were all to be given increased voting power because of their wealth; and the educated classes also were to be given increased voting power, against the rest of the citizens of the country. What took place? Both Conservatives and Liberals at that time, in perhaps a better educated House of Commons — because on the Labour Benches we are not supposed to be educated; we do not understand politics at all; we cannot take anything like the broad and cultured view which is confined very largely to hon. Members like the Noble Lord. Not having had a university education, how can we really aspire to understand political questions? The whole theory was laughed out of this House forty-seven years ago, and laughed out of the country with even greater derision, and it is now too late to reopen that question. Mill's authority is very great, but I believe it has been stated that the worst of those great thinkers is that they nearly always think wrongly. [An HON. MEMBER: "Was that true of Mill?"] Of course it was. Something has been said about a franchise based upon localities, and the Noble Lord has reproduced the specious arguments in favour of such a proposal. The first great Reform Bill of 1832 put an end to that. Have hon. Members ever heard of localities such as Old Sarum, Grampound, Gatton, and Newton-le-Willows (the last of which is to-day represented by a Noble Lord whom everyone respects)? These places were localities, and some of them were very wealthy localities. Newton-le-Willows now send us two Members. Gatton did not possess a single brick, yet it sent Members to this House. Grampound did not possess a single house, and it also sent Members. Old Sarum was simply a locality representing in a very high antiquarian degree a glorious and long vanished past. These were localities.


They were localities, but not communities.


I am referring to the phrase used by the Noble Lord himself. They were localities which still exist. They were very thriving, lovely parts of the country. They did possess wealth, at least in its essentials. But the House on that occasion decided that these localities should no longer send Members here, and their very names are now almost unknown. It is not true that since 1832 localities have been the basis of representation in this House. The Act of 1832 almost entirely put an effective end to that. It is perfectly true, however, that property has been looked upon as qualifying people for voting. Not merely their residential claim, but their property also, has been held to qualify them. We believe that is wrong. We believe the needs of the poor are really a test for the exercise of the right of citizenship, much more so than wealthy men can put forward in this or any other country. We believe that the needs of the poor are a stronger claim for the exercise of citizenship, because the wealthy can always talk sometimes a great deal too loudly. I believe that there are hundreds of thousands of wealthy men who are equally good citizens with the poor man, and do not desire to exercise an unfair proportion of the voting power of this country, and that they would be perfectly willing to rest upon their claims as citizens and upon the authority which they could honourably exert, but to load the dice against the poor is really what the present system means.

It is said that because all those other anomalies cannot be taken away; now, therefore, this anomaly ought also to continue to exist, and that, if this anomaly is removed, it will throw the other anomalies into great disproportion. That really was the effect of the Noble Lord's creed. I cannot understand that at all. The only comparison to it I can find is furnished by the Irishman in a story, which I read many years ago. He made a wager with a Dutchman that he would swallow him, and a little later he began with his big toe. The Dutchman screamed with pain, and said, "Oh, you are biting me," whereupon the Irishman replied, "Do you think I am going to swallow you whole?" Because we cannot swallow those anomalies whole, no anomaly is to be redressed or taken away at all. Surely there is no genuine argument in that. If you take away one anomaly, that at least is one less. I do not believe that any genuine Conservative who is really anxious for the well-being of this country desires to perpetuate a sense of grievance and injustice in any citizen of the country; because it is true Conservatism to remedy grievances, it is not true Conservatism to perpetuate them. True Conservatism is to remove from the minds of citizens any rankling sense of injustice that may exist. There cannot be any doubt that by proceeding upon those lines this House is acting in the interest of genuine Conservatism. I do not believe that this is an attack on property; not at all. Property will still be able to exercise all its power. The holders of property will be able, in their legitimate sphere, to exercise their power in that part of the country where they own their property. Surely it is not right to say that where an election has to be decided it should be decided by people from outside. Here, I believe, the Bill has one fault. There is an omission in the Bill, that it does not apply to by-elections. I would like to see it do that, but because I cannot get that I am not going to vote against what I can get.

When you find people being brought from Australia and from Canada, as was recently the case in two or three hotly contested elections, to vote at Houghton-le-Spring, or Derry, how can it be claimed that locality after all is the real basis upon which the franchise is exerted? There is really no argument for that. One of the hon. Gentlemen who spoke, representing Birmingham, I think, referred to the great unrest which exists in the country. It is perfectly true that great unrest exists from a variety of causes, but one cause we are bound to assume has been the great delay of Parliament in seeking to solve the many problems with which the nation is at present oppressed. We desire that Parliament shall be a more faithful index of the opinion of the country as a whole, and that the working people, or the middle classes, or whoever they may be, who make up a constituency, and who live there, and who take a keen and continuous interest in the affairs of that neighbourhood, when they record their votes shall not be swamped by scores, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of people who live miles away, and whose only claim to vote is the property which they possess in that particular locality. This House will be a more faithful reflex of the opinion of the citizens of the country; there will be at least something done to remove the unrest and the sense of dissatisfaction which at present prevails if this Bill is passed. It is on these grounds mainly that I, and I believe a considerable number of my Friends on these benches, will vote in favour of the Bill.


Before this Debate comes to a conclusion, I hope we shall have a speech from the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for North Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), because in the course of his somewhat varied and interesting career I believe he moved practically a similar Amendment to that which has been moved from the Front Bench on this side to this Bill. Possibly he may take part in this discussion, and if he does, he may explain what is the reason which has led him to change his views. He might also tell us whether there is any principle which he ever held which he was not prepared to contradict while he sits upon that bench. The hon. Member who has just sat down always interests the House, but in this case he very wisely, I think, spoke on absolutely general lines, and did not in any way touch upon the details and absurdities of the Bill. May I draw the attention of the House to some of those absurdities in order that Members may see how absurd its provisions are? Let us imagine that the Bill is now law, and was passed five years ago. An hon. Member who sits on the back benches opposite is made a Whip. I notice that in the last year or two, hon. Members on that side who have been made Whips always happen to have rather big majorities. An hon. Member is made a Whip, and then he would have to appeal to his constituents on a different franchise to that on which he had been elected a very short time before. That is an obvious absurdity. I believe that during the last sixteen months we have had something like thirty by-elections in the country. In every three or four years we have something like 100 by-elections, and is it not absurd that 500 Members in this House are to be elected by one franchise and 100 by another franchise? I do not doubt that anybody who carefully studies the Bill will be able to produce many absurdities of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pease), in his speech yesterday, promised us that he would be perfectly frank, and in one sentence I think he gave us the whole object, reason and principle of the Bill. He said:— I freely admit, front a party point of view, that this Bill is going to be an advantage to us. Really, I think we might at this time of day drop all cant and humbug and not talk about this Bill having been brought forward to improve our voting conditions. Let the party opposite freely and honestly admit that this Bill is what we all know it is—nothing more nor less than a Radical Agent's Bill, a Bill brought forward to gerrymander the constituencies, and a Bill which is a mere party manœuvre to prop themselves up when next they have to go to the country. I think that is borne out by almost any provincial Radical paper you read in the country. We all of us, in whatever quarter of the House we sit, get a certain amount of quiet fun by reading the paper that is opposed to us in the country. One never realises until one reads the local opposition paper what a double-dyed villain he is. One is almost proud of one's reputation. If you read any Radical provincial paper now you will see that they do not talk about freeing the democracy and doing away with inequalities. They all rejoice that this Bill is going to give them thirty or forty seats, and that Mr. Radical Smith or Mr. Radical Jones, who only got in by a small majority at the last election, is going to get in by a bigger majority next time. I think the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education (Mr. J. A. Pease) is in charge of this Bill proves my contention. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith) said that the right hon. Gentleman had been chosen because he was so very respectable. Far be it from me to discredit the respectability of the right hon. Gentleman. We all recognise that to-day he is one of the most popular Members of the House of Commons, but I do not believe that he was chosen merely because he was respectable. The right hon. Gentleman was, I understand, a very successful Whip of his party, in those days when the Party Whips did not need that large covey of amateurs who are assisting them now, and in that position he undoubtedly gained the experience to know what would be of great advantage to them as regards voting. I believe that is why he was chosen.

I say quite candidly to the House, and I have spoken very often quite candidly on this subject to my Constituents, that I am absolutely opposed to this Bill and to the principle of one man one vote. We all admit that there are many absurdities in our voting system to-day. It should obviously be cheap and it should obviously be easy for a man to get on to the register, and as far as possible it should be automatic. I do not mean to say that I am opposed to doing away with the plural vote in the case of a man who has the smallest bit of property in one division and the smallest bit of property in another, but where a man has a place in the country and pays rates there and employs labour there and subscribes probably to the local charities—


No bribery.


I was not suggesting that there was any bribery. I was merely suggesting that he might do what every one should do, help the charities of the place in which he lives. Probably that man goes three or four miles to his business, and there again employs a great deal of labour, pays rates, and again may take an interest in the local affairs of the town or borough, and may probably have been Mayor of the place. It would be a gross and ranking injustice, in my humble judgment, if that man, who has absolutely real and different interests in the two constituencies, had not a vote in both of them. There is another objection I have to this Bill. It is true it does not wholly do away with university representation, but it is undoubtedly a great blow to university representation, and I am sure hon. Members opposite are very glad that is so. I would suggest to them, not in any offensive spirit, it is rather a reflection on the great Radical party that the whole mass or the great preponderance of educated opinion in England, Scotland, and Ireland is at the present time almost entirely opposed to them. Surely it is rather absurd, after the eloquent speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer a fortnight ago about the advantages of education, for the Government now to try and deprive the educated people of the country of their vote in this way.

There is another advantage in university representation. You do get in this House a class of man who probably you would not get if you had not university representation—a class of man who, I think, is of great advantage to this House and indirectly to the country. It would be invidious to mention anyone at present, but I would suggest that a man like the late Mr. Lecky, whose writings most of us have had the privilege of reading, must be of great advantage to the whole tone and proceedings of this House, and must indirectly be of great advantage to the country at large. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Baker) seemed rather to resent the fact that we should not at this time of day entirely believe the promises of the Government. Can anyone expect us at this time of day to believe the promises that are made from that Front Bench? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. A. Pease) told us that in the dim and distant figure he is going to introduce some scheme of Redistribution. He has not in any way said when. It is a sort of "wait and see" problem. It has not even been put in the Preamble. It has not even become a debt of honour, and I do not think anybody on this side of the House will be surprised if we never see the scheme at all. Surely any honest Government, anxious to get a fair voting system, would have first attended to the greatest absurdity and anomaly of all, the fact that you have in one division 57,000 electors and in another only 2,000! I look upon this Bill as a mere miserable party manœuvre dictated by partisan motive. It is simply brought forward to support and help the party opposite at the next General Election, and I think it will take a great deal more to save them when that time comes.

6.0 P.M.


The speeches that have been made from the back benches of the Opposition would lead one to suppose that the Government have shown more than ordinary wisdom in their procedure. I remember, when the Bill of 1906 got to the House of Lords, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords certainly led us to suppose that if on some future occasion a Plural Voting Bill was sent to them coupled with Redistribution they would look upon it with a friendly eye. During this Debate there has hardly been a single speech made from the Opposition Benches which has not shown a rooted objection to the very principle of the abolition of the plural vote. I feel pretty confident, having listened to this Debate, that, if the Government had waited until next year and had then sent to the House of Lords a complete Bill dealing with the question of Redistribution and the abolition of the plural vote, it would not meet with a friendly reception at all, although we were assured in 1906 that such a Bill would. I am a convinced supporter of manhood and womanhood suffrage. I have considerable distrust of what is called educated opinion, and I would appeal to the House to remember that a great many more distinguished people have sat in this House for ordinary constituencies than for universities. I do not regard the universities as any such depositories of human wisdom. On the contrary, I think the performances of the universities during the last few troublous years upon the question of Free Trade and Tariff Reform have been most pathetic instances of how so-called educated people can simply turn their whole views topsy turvy at the mere bidding of the party wire-pullers. Nothing could have been more deplorable than the performances of all the universities on this question. A few years ago they were all convinced Free Traders, but suddenly at the bidding of party they became convinced Tariff Reformers. We have been told a good many interesting things in this Debate, but I am bound to say that the attitude of the present Opposition as guardians of constitutional and legislative purity is more than ordinarily delightful. A great man has told us:— Assume a virtue if you have it not, and they seem to have acted on that principle. I want, in examining this measure, just to say a few words about their tender regard for anomalies only a few years ago. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved this Amendment (Mr. F. E. Smith) pointed to the very real hardship that soldiers and sailors undergo, and said that was the first anomaly with which we ought to deal. His Friends were in office for nearly twenty-one years. They sometimes claim to be the special guardians of soldiers and sailors, but they forgot them for the whole of that time. He then alluded to the great hardship of the returning officers' charges. I cannot remember any time during the twenty years that his Friends were in office when they found it any hardship at all, though I can remember that on a more or less recent occasion a Resolution dealing with this question received the unanimous assent of the House. Then, again, there is the question of registration. He said that it ought to be dealt with. I quite agree. I find that some twenty years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) was saying the same thing. He said:— Is there a single Conservative who does not admit now, and who has not admitted for years, that our registration laws require reform. That was in June, 1892, but, although the anomaly existed, they never took the trouble to deal with it because there was no particular party advantage to be got out of it. Then, although certain allusions have been made to the subject of Redistribution during this Debate, I do not think anyone has really pointed out the exact nature of the amazing proposals that were made in 1905, because we are dealing here with people who claim that we are endeavouring to gerrymander the electorate in our own interests, and that we ought not to abolish plural voting merely, but should remember that Restribution and the abolition of plural voting must go hand in hand. They did not remember it themselves in 1905. At that time they only considered the question of Redistribution—and such a Redistribution! One speaker to-day said the Government had not suggested in any way what their Redistribution proposals would be. I cannot imagine anybody at this time of the day who is ignorant of what is known practically by all politicians on the question of Redistribution. I cannot imagine that the Government, when they do bring in their proposals, will do anything else than base their Redistribution proposals on equal electoral areas. The idea that they are going to keep a few old boroughs for fancy historical reasons, and to set up more anomalies, I should imagine to be quite impossible. The Government Redistribution proposals we may be sure will not be like the proposals of 1905. The House will remember what those proposals were. In 1900, and I mention this because sometimes it is pointed out in this House how Ireland is over represented, we had this remarkable state of things. There were 103 Members for Ireland—eighty-four Nationalists and nineteen Conservatives, and they represented an electorate of 766,000. At the same time there were 103 Conservative Members returned for British seats who represented an electorate of 643,000. We talk about the over-representation of Ireland. What I want to know is why we never, during the twenty years these political purists were in office, ever heard anything about the over-representation of the small boroughs which they keep in their pockets.

The position is exactly the same to-day. The Irish anomaly is only one of many anomalies, but it is the only one that can be defended, and it can be defended, because under the Act of Union, rightly or wrongly, it can be argued that we gave the Irish a certain proportion of representation in this House. Let us consider the position to-day. There are eighty-four Irish Members in the House—Nationalist Members—and they represent 532,000 electors, giving an average of 6,336 electors per Member. There are eighty-four Members in the Unionist party at present in this House who represent 535,000 electors, practically the same number. What becomes of the talk of the over-representation of Ireland when these little pocket boroughs were simply guarded for something like twenty years in the interests of gerrymandering the constituencies. Consider how the right hon. Gentleman who used to lead the Opposition treated this matter when he came to deal with it. We find ourselves face to face with this condition of things. In Ireland there is undoubtedly over-representation; in England there is also over-representation. The idea in 1905 was to devise some method of disfranchising Ireland without disfranchising the borough seats in England. That might have puzzled many hon. Members. It did not baffle the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London and his Cabinet, who now pose to us as political purists doing everything in the light of political morality. They devised a scheme not that we should have equal electoral distribution with one vote one value, as they term it, but that all boroughs with populations of less than 18,500 should lose their Members. They therefore carefully preserved a number of small boroughs with Tory Members, such as Salisbury, King's Lynn, Boston, and Winchester. But in Ireland, as the small constituencies are largely counties, they devised a scheme for disfranchising the counties rather than their boroughs, and they reduced the Irish representation thereby, while they left their own preserves untouched. It is interesting to notice what was the reception of that proposal. We have heard a good deal in the course of this Debate about the dishonesty of the Government. What about these proposals which, I suppose, we must regard as honest proposals, which were brought in in 1905—these honest proposals to keep every small Tory seat in existence, and to disfranchise a number of Irish seats for which there was, at any rate, some defence. I am bound to say that the proposals of this very honest party did not altogether meet with enthusiasm from their own side. There was an excellent description of it in the "Pall Mall Gazette." Mr. Gerald Balfour had claimed protection for these small seats from considerations of history, and a Tory writer on that occasion said:— A limit of 30,000, which is the lowest that any thorough and consistent scheme would have admitted, would dispose, in addition, of Boston, Hereford, Kidderminster, King's Lynn, Pontefract, Salisbury, Shrewsbury, Stafford, Taunton, Whitehaven, Winchester, and Windsor. These are among the seats presumably for which Mr. Gerald Balfour claims the protection of other considerations connected with history and prescription, and the character of the communities represented. We are afraid that cynicism will make sad havoe of these sacrosanct defences. There are other and more logical methods of honouring history and prescription than by giving their possessors five or six times their due share of electoral power, while the character of the communities represented is sinisterly advertised by the fact that they have nearly all at one time or another extended their hospitality to the Bribery Commissioners. These are the proposals that we had from the present Opposition. At the end of twenty years' cogitation, they came before the House knowing of all the anomalies which my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out yesterday in his speech, yet prepared to redress none, after nearly twenty years of office and on the eve of an election, when they met with the greatest electoral reverse ever known—a reverse which they probably anticipate this time. What they were prepared to do was to take a few seats away from Ireland and preserve all these rotten boroughs exactly as they were before. And now they come and talk about our political morality! I stand here as a supporter of the abolition of plural voting. I would stand here as a supporter of plural voting if any method could be devised by which it would represent the intelligence of the country. But so long as it only represents the wealth of the country, which is a totally different thing, I will have nothing to do with it. It has been assumed that we are acting merely from the point of view of electoral advantage, and my right hon. and learned Friend in stating that put this dilemma. After pointing out that plural voters were about four to one Unionist, he asked, "Does anyone suppose that if that proportion were reversed, and if it were four Liberals to one Unionist, that the Government would bring in a Bill of this nature?" I can give a perfectly simple answer to that question. No one could believe that, if that had been the case, the last Government would not have abolished it. It is clear that the last Government and the present Opposition can, least of all, point the finger of scorn at any party that looks after its own interests from an electoral point of view.

Here you have a measure that has been before the country for twenty or thirty years at least, a measure which has its sole defenders in the House of Lords. Of course there are individual defenders like the last speaker; I know his division so well that I can feel full sympathy with him in the speech he made. Looking at those anxious faces opposite, I say that, as my electioneering experience has taken me into many districts, and as I know how the plural vote figures in many constituencies, I can sympathise thoroughly with any personal disappointment that may be in store for them at the next election. I congratulate the Government on having put these questions beyond all doubt at the next election. I am not troubled in the least because by-elections are for the moment left untouched. If I may say so, I think that is a very wise choice. We want to have a very simple measure that will get rid of this anomaly altogether, so as to clear the way for Redistribution next year. I have never heard of any of the pledges which my Leaders are supposed to have broken. When a Minister gets up in this House and pledges his word that Redistribution and franchise reform will follow this Bill, I, for one, accept that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Women Suffrage."] Although I do not suppose anybody in this House is a more convinced advocate of Women Suffrage than I am, I do not accuse the Government of any double dealing in that matter. I accept their pledge that they propose to deal with these other two questions after this Bill. I am content that they should put this measure out of the reach of the destructive powers of a partisan Upper Chamber. I am glad to see they have brought it in this year. I believe the partisan Upper Chamber will be prepared to accept our Redistribution and registration proposals next year in the interests of the only party they represent, and I think we shall have a much easier time next year with those proposals if we have put this measure out of harm's way. It may take two years to put it on the Statute Book, but that will be in plenty of time. By the time the other measures are passed we shall not be bothered by this question of by-elections, because the Franchise Bill could easily put that matter right.

I am grateful to the Government for dealing with this question and for seeing that there is no risk run at all in regard to this measure. It is perfectly preposterous that we should have people summoned up from all parts of the country to see how many votes they can exercise at an election. I have known people exercise as many as twenty votes, and I am bound to say that they have not been amongst the most intelligent people. It is just as ridiculous at a by-election, but I am prepared to put up with that, as I am also prepared to put up with the suggestion that there is something in the result of the Whitechapel election. A year ago I was fighting an election myself. We had out-voters swoop down upon the constituency, and nobody knew where they came from. The actual Liberal poll was rather higher than at any previous election, but the Opposition poll naturally, as a result of the appearance of these out-voters from all over the country, went up to a rather flattering figure. That will happen, and it is bound to happen. Let the Opposition draw whatever comfort they can from it. We know that these flattering figures invariably disappear at the election that follows. I rely on the Government dealing with this matter in a whole-hearted and thorough way, and I would urge upon them, in conclusion, when they do come to deal with the other questions, to do so on broad lines, on lines which will give absolutely no chance for anyone to suggest that there is party bias in them. Let us have equal electoral constituencies; let us by all means have a democratic franchise and registration laws that will enable as many as possible to vote with the utmost facility. We want that everyone should have a fair chance of voting, and I am sure every hon. Member, on whatever side of the House he may range himself, wants to see the register as fully representative of the people as possible, and that when we have got a register thus representative every Member in this House shall be representative of a fair proportion of that register.


There were two most remarkable features in the speech of the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down. The first was that he avowed himself a supporter of plural voting. At first he said that he was a supporter of plural voting; then he went on to make it clear that he was in favour of it on the condition that the plural voter represented the intelligence of the country. From other parts of his speech I gathered that the test of intelligence which would satisfy the hon. and learned Member is a very simple one. If a candidate came up for examination in intelligence before him the question would be put to him, "What are your politics?" If he said, "I am a Liberal," he would pass. If he said, "I am a Radical," he would pass with honours. If that satisfies the hon. Member's idea of the intelligence of the country I think he will have to wait for some time. The second remarkable feature in his speech was that a very great part of it was devoted to the subject of Redistribution. If anyone had come into the House while he was speaking he would have supposed that this Bill dealt with the subject of Redistribution. The reason for going into so much detail as the hon. and learned Gentleman did in regard to Redistribution is that in this Bill Redistribution is conspicuous by its absence. It is one feature it has in common with the Bill introduced by the Government last year. We then had a big and ambitious Bill, professing to put our representative system upon a new basis. Indeed, the authors of that Bill seemed to think that they had been a little too ambitious, because, in answer to a question about the occupier's franchise, which was embodied in the Bill, they announced their intention of dropping it. Misgivings seem to have attacked them as to that particular part of their scheme. That big Bill is now replaced by a very small Bill dealing with one isolated point, so small that I venture to say it is unique in the history of so-called Reform Bills. Though the point be small, though it is isolated from all that surrounds it and more nearly affects it, I venture to think it was the point in the Bill of last year which was most valued by the supporters of the Government opposite—that is, the crippling and abolition of the plural vote. The feature which both Bills have in common is that both ignore the question of Redistribution. We have heard about anomalies until I am sure the House is almost bored with the term. Many hon. Gentlemen seem to think that they have only to label a thing as an anomaly to put an end to debate with regard to it.

You profess to be dealing with an anomaly. Then why do you leave untouched the greatest anomaly of all, the inequality of the way in which voting power is distributed through the country? No defence is possible for such a course, and we have not had any serious defence attempted. The House is treated to excuses for the course which the Government has taken, which are mere excuses and nothing more. We are told that the question of Redistribution is a complicated one which might take time, and that if we take it in hand we might even have an Autumn Session. That would be a deplorable calamity, although it would be a very good reason for not dealing with one part of the subject in the way this Bill deals with it, but it is no reason whatever for taking up that one part and leaving out the other part, which should be an essential feature in any satisfactory Bill dealing with reform, namely, the adjustment of those enormous anomalies which exist in regard to voting power in the country. We have Redistribution dangled before us as an airy and unsubstantial vision of a possible Redistribution measure, but we have not even got a Preamble stating that the subject of Redistribution is to be taken up at an early date, and that it is a debt of honour. What security have we when this Bill has passed that we shall have Redistribution? It will have served its purpose if, without any Redistribution at all, it is in force when the next General Election comes upon us. The odds are ten to one that if this Bill passes we shall have the next General Election under the operation of this Bill without any redress of the inequalities in the voting power that exists throughout the country. The moral of all this is that it will be grossly unfair to pass this Bill, brought in as it is without other features which would be essential to any honest Bill dealing with the great question of the franchise. The truth is that this Bill has all the features of an emergency measure, brought into serve a particular purpose, and, when it has discharged that purpose, the Government may hold out the prospect of passing on to something further. I protest against this House passing a Bill which is obviously intended to be a mere stop-gap, and intended to serve the purposes of the next appeal to the country, which cannot be very long delayed,

My objection to this Bill goes very much deeper. I believe that the proposal to abolish the plural vote is vicious in principle. I certainly should not be in favour of the abolition of the plural vote, even if it were accompanied by what in all fairness it ought to be accompanied, adequate proposals with regard to Redistribution. My reason for holding that view is that our electoral system is based upon the representation of the communities in particular localities, which are chosen as convenient constituencies. An hon. Member below the Gangway opposite cast ridicule upon the idea that our Parliamentary system was based upon representation of the localities. He said that it might have been so before the Reform Bill of 1832, when you had constituencies with no population, and the locality re- turned one or perhaps two Members to Parliament. If the hon. Gentleman will reflect upon the history of the matter he will recognise that in early times those rotten boroughs, as they were called, were in fact great communities. They got their Members then on the principle that you select to serve in the House of Commons those who represent the communities in different constituencies in the country. But although the population fell away and the representation remained, the theory of returning Members to the House of Commons was never ended. If you have a system based upon that principle, it must be obvious to every one that you ought to make a return of the representative as truly typical of the character of the constituency as may be, and that you ought not to prevent from voting anyone who is really and genuinely a member of that constituency, whose presence would be missed at any meetings intended to represent the feeling of the constituency. It is a complete mistake to say that, because he is also a representative constituent in another district, he is to be deprived of the right of voting in each of the districts, in regard to each of which he has substantial and vital interests. One ease is that of a man who spends half a year in one constituency and the other half of the year in the other. If he resided in only one constituency no one would dispute that he is entitled to his vote. If for half of the year he resided abroad he would keep his vote. If he happens to reside for half of the year in a second constituency, what reason is there why he should not have a vote in that as well as in the other constituency, if he is a genuine resident and takes an active part in the life of the constituency?

The most common case is that of a merchant who has his offices in a great town or city, but who has his residence some way out in the country or, it may be, within a comparatively short distance of the town or city where he carries on his business. That merchant is a member, it may be a very important member, in the aggregate he may form the bulk of the city constituency. As a resident in the country he takes an active part in all the life of the countryside, and why is it to be said that he is only to vote in one of these two constituencies? The cry of faggot voters is raised. One hon. Gentleman opposite yesterday spoke of— The stage army of faggot voters and the fugitive voters who appear in constituencies at the time of election. The men of whom I am speaking are neither one nor the other. They are not faggot voters; they are real voters. They are not fugitive; they are much more permanently connected with the constituency than many of the electors whose cause hon. Gentleman opposite seem to think they are espousing. The cry about faggot voters is a mere pretext. If faggot voting at one time greatly existed it has been largely reduced by legislation, and if any remains, by all means do away with it. If a man has genuine interests in more than one constituency he ought to be allowed to vote in each of those constituencies. The Bill of last year professed to be a Bill to enfranchise all bonâ fide residents. This is a Bill to disfranchise a great number of bonâ fide residents. The whole case made is this: The majority of voters have votes in only one constituency because they have interests in only one constituency. It is asked because they have only one vote why should any man, although he has interest in more than one constituency, have more than one vote. It is said it is an anomaly. An anomaly is an inequality. It is a much great anomaly that the man who happens to possess the necessary qualifications should not have a vote than that a man who does not possess the qualifications should not possess any vote at all. Because a man having an interest in two localities has two votes you say it is an anomaly, and that every man should only have one vote because he has an interest in only one locality. On the same principle, if one may use the word "principle" in such a connection, the man who has a qualification in one constituency has a vote, and another man who has no qualification at all has no vote. The truth is that on the sort of logic on which this Bill has embarked, you must end in introducing manhood suffrage in its crudest form into this country.

There are two specific objections to this Bill which, I think, emphasise its makeshift and emergency character. The qualification remains in both constituencies, but the right to vote is given only in one. Have the promoters of the Bill considered what an element of jerkiness they would introduce into all elections where there are a good many plural voters? It would be a matter of the nicest calculation as to where the vote of a plural voter should be used. A fresh element of uncertainty and a fresh element of manipulation will be introduced into every contest in a constituency of that kind, and it would require very great tactical and almost strategic skill to preside at the council which settles how voters having more than one vote should be advised to exercise their vote. Anything which, as this Bill undoubtedly does, would introduce an element of jerkiness into the results of our electoral system is greatly to be deprecated. There is a second feature about the Bill. The results of by-elections might be absolutely different, and in many cases will be different, from those of General Elections. There is no disqualification as regards exercising both votes at a by-election. It applies only at a General Election. Can a measure he regarded as satisfactory which introduces a state of things under which to-day a constituency returns, say, a Unionist, and to-morrow returns a Radical, according as the election is a by-election or a General Election? That feature of this Bill marks the fact that it is really a Bill of a purely temporary measure and intended for a purely temporary purpose.

But then it is said, "Look at the Referendum. Have you not given up the whole principle of plural voting by proposing a Referendum in which the plural vote was not to be exercised?" This, of course, is not the time nor the occasion to discuss the question of the Referendum, but be the Referendum right or wrong, anything that has been said or done with regard to it has not the slightest bearing upon the present controversy. With the Referendum you are taking the sense of the whole country upon a specific question, "Are you in favour of a particular Bill or are you not? Yes or No." On that question and on no other. With our present electoral system in returning Members to the House of Commons you are doing nothing of the kind. You are choosing representatives who are to look after the local interests of their constituency and also to look after the national interests, and your object must be to get men as thoroughly representative of the constituency as you can. How can you hope to improve the representative character of the return to the House of Commons if you eliminate from a considerable number of constituencies the voters who are eminently qualified to lead the opinion of those constituencies, and are certainly entitled to vote along with the other electors, merely on the ground that they have a qualification in another constituency, which, if it stood alone, no one would think of saying was not sufficient to entitle them to exercise the vote? The truth is this: This Bill retains the principle of representation according to localities, which is the only principle on which the House of Commons can very well be returned. Unless you are prepared to make a tremendous new departure, if you abandon the principle of localities for the return of your Members, you will need to have greater constituencies with some system of proportional representation. What I complain of is that while retaining the principle of representation according to locality, you are rendering the machinery in use in these localities less efficient for the purpose of representation than it is at present. The truth is that the plural voter is suspected of Unionist principles. I think there is only one hon. Member opposite who has indicated that he is disposed to hold the opposite view and to think that the plural voter may after all be preponderatingly Liberal or Radical. But the general opinion, and certainly the general opinion on the Government Bench, is that the plural voter is predominantly Unionist. Of course, a great many people have been uncharitable enough to suspect that that is the true reason for this Bill. The Government are very angry indeed if anyone says that.


We are proud of it.


I think the pride in the Bill proceeds from the back benches. From the Front Benches there has been a great deal of indignation expressed at the idea that they could be influenced by such party feeling. [An HON. MEMBER: "We are."] We now have an avowal from the bulk of the party opposite that this is a party measure, intended to promote their party interest at the next General Election. It is the first time the great question of the franchise has been dealt with in this country upon such principles. They talk of anomalies. This Bill itself is the greatest anomaly of all, and I hope the Government will consider well before it gives its sanction by reading it a second time.


I had not the slightest intention of intervening but for the speech of the Noble Lord, and it arose out of an interjection as to where the Labour Members would come in, to which he promptly replied, "If you can convert the educated masses of the people to their opinion all the situation would be changed." It was more or less a compliment to our lack of education. Not for the first time I have to get up and admit that what we lack is a cultured intellect. That is what we are suffering from.


I intended to make no personal imputation on the educational standard of the Labour party. My point was that their opinions did not commend themselves to educated opinion.


No; and there is no earthly chance of my getting a seat for a university. Even if I avowed myself a Tariff Reformer or a Free Trader, I am still out of it. Perhaps to my shame, and perhaps not to my shame, I have never been to school since I was ten years old. I cannot expect to take this wide and historic view of things that the cultured classes and those trained in the law can take, but we are under the impression that this House was created centuries ago to protect the interest of the people who are unable to protect themselves: that is to say, it was created to adjust total inequalities. I may be wrong. I have been told it is a deliberative Assembly. What is it going to deliberate? Is it going to deliberate that one man is ever so much better than any half a dozen? It is trying to say so this afternoon. When the ordinary labour man gets on the public platform the first thing asked of him is what has he ever done? Has he done anything at the university? Has he taken a double first, or done this or the other? No, he has no qualification whatever except, if you notice the ranks with which I am associated, there is not a single man amongst them but has had to serve the locality in which he lived for a very long time. He has had to do good, hard service. He could not come along with a degree from a university as a recommendation to become a candidate for Parliament. I once heard an hon. Member say that if the Old Age Pensions Act was passed, the pensioner might take his 5s. a week and go abroad. I looked, and wondered whether that gentleman represented the brains of the country or the property of the country. I said to him afterwards, "Surely it takes money to go abroad. The Bill before the House gives pensions to persons when they arrive at seventy, but the first thing they have to do is to get to seventy, and not having been artful enough to become rich they put a penny in the slot and get 5s., but I do not know that it will take them abroad." The answer I got back was that it was a good debating point.

There was another marvellous thing when we had a Bill before the House in which we asked for equality of opportunity and equality of power, and actually an hon. Member opposite got up and said, "If this Bill becomes law in its present form it will be possible for 300 working men to gather on the doorstep of another working man and compel him to accept terms and conditions against which his mind would revolt." I looked around in my innocence and said, "I do not think they could." He said, "These ignorant interruptions by the hon. Member for Woolwich prove conclusively that he knows nothing about it." I had to admit that I did not. How you can get 300 men on a doorstep I am trying to find out, and I am still at it. The intelligence of the nation which is represented by the plural voter exhibited itself on both these occasions. The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) moved an Amendment one night excluding people from getting pensions if they were guilty of drunkenness, idleness, and gambling. Of course, I asked him for a definition. I asked him what the definition of drunkenness was. I tried to describe drunkenness. Of course, I had not a cultured intellect, and I could not make them understand exactly what I meant. I have seen hon. Members who have gone to dinner at half-past seven and come back at nine walking up the floor of the House. They walked pretty steadily. You would not say they were the worse for drink. I asked what idleness was, and what gambling was, and we got no definition. I was called upon to give evidence in the other House, and this question was put to me: "You seem a fairly self-reliant man?" When you are flattered like that, you wonder what is coming next. The question was put to me as to whether it was not right and fit and proper that a working man should save up £5 to bury his children when they die, instead of passing the hat round for a collection. "Will you tell me," I asked, "how much self-reliance a man wants to gather up £5?" The very learned Gentleman who put the question replied, "I do not understand." And I said, "Do you not understand that the average working man goes to work to keep his children alive, and not to save up to bury them when they die?" The Gentleman who put the question to me was perhaps an intellectual giant, but whether he was so or not, he said, "I never heard of that before." I would ask, "What is there so wonderful in the wealth and the intelligence of a man that he should be able to command two votes or twenty-five votes to my one?" I had the intense satisfaction of directing to my own interest on one occasion the eighth vote of a man. He came and asked me what candidate he should vote for, and I told him, and after he had voted he said he was very glad to meet me, but from that day to this I am not sure that he knows for whom he voted. You argue that because a man is particularly fortunate, particularly lucky, he should have more than one vote. I have seen many a wealthy man in this country who could not pass an ordinary examination, and who had not intelligence and capacity for the administration of affairs. He could make money. That does not always display intelligence. To argue that a man who lives in a locality should have one vote there, and that he should be able to go to another locality in which he has property and vote there also, is to say that you should give him political influence because he possesses more than somebody else. I would describe the circumstances in this way: Bill has got a house and a vote. His brother Dick has got a donkey, and therefore he possesses property—is he to have a vote because he possesses that donkey? Do you give the vote to the donkey or to the man? Would you set a pile of gold on one side, and say that because a man possesses it he ought to have two votes? You may say that is stretching it too far, but that is your argument from start to finish.

When you talk of gerrymandering the register, I would remind the House what happened on a previous occasion. I remember there was a £10 franchise carried, and it was called "dishing the Whigs." Have hon. Gentlemen opposite forgotten that? We argue that a man should have a vote because he is a man, and that a woman should have a vote because she is a woman, and not because a person possesses the necessary capital to purchase property here and there. They ought to be jolly glad that they have got money to do so without making themselves more important than they are by getting votes. Let me take the most intelligent man in this House. I have my own opinion as to who he is. [Laughter.] Oh, it is not myself. I know perfectly well that if I was as clever as some people, I should get my living very easy. Let us take the case of a man with the greatest intellect the world has ever known, and contrast him with a man who does not lack intelligence. Do you think that he has twice the brains of the other man, and that he ought to have three or four times more votes? When one of them says that his votes are to be cast in favour of the party to which the other belongs he says that it would not be wrong to vote in that way. If you take the nation as a whole, it is the majority which rules. The right hon. Gentleman says that it would mean the manipulation of votes if we pass this Bill. I would ask you to look at the last county council election. In London you have "one man one vote" for the county council. An hon. Gentleman opposite is secretary of the Municipal Association, and only two or three nights ago a great dinner was held to celebrate that great and glorious victory. You yourselves sent out circulars saying, "Your votes will not be wanted in the City, go down to the East-End where they will be useful." The City man has influence in the East-End to keep us in poverty and need and without better conditions. Now surely that is not true representation, but it is done. You can go on doing it. We are going to vote for this Bill in spite of the fact that some people feel a little sore that you have not included women in it. The Government could not do that. I would like to know who could introduce and carry through as a Government measure a Bill which proposed to give votes to women. You could not do it. You must remember that there are some hundreds of Members who do not want to come back to the House any more, and they will use their votes as they like. I know so about election pledges. I have seen how they are carried out. The fact of the matter is this Government are trying to help themselves. Is that wrong? When the other side was in power, when did they not try to help themselves? There is an honoured Member in this House who declares that when his party was in power, not only was it their duty to look after themselves, but to take care that they passed such laws that they would not be injured while out of office. That is an immoral doctrine if you like after what we have heard this afternoon, but I am going to vote for the Bill


The House always listens with great pleasure to any personal reminiscences of the hon. Member (Mr. Crooks). I wish to ask the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Baker) a question which I put to him when I moved an Amendment to the Bill he brought forward last Session. He said—and I think he speaks for the Government—that the Government intend to bring in a Bill for the Redistribution of Seats before this Parliament closes. The question I wish to ask is, if that is the intention of the Government, will he add a short Clause to this Bill saying that it shall not come into operation until the Redistribution has taken place? I got an answer from him last time, and I do not know whether he will answer this time.


I am afraid it is not for me to decide what the Government will do, but I can give the hon. Gentleman the answer that I consider the two subjects are totally disconnected.


I do not think the hon. Gentleman understood my question. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education can give me an answer. He has pledged the Government to introduce a Redistribution Bill before this Parliament closes. I respectfully ask him, will he add a Clause to this Bill making it inoperative until Redistribution has taken place?


My answer is, "No."

7.0 P.M.


I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me that answer, and I must say I rather expected it. T think the Government have given so many pledges, and have at the present moment so many debts of honour to carry out, that it would have been a very good thing to have got rid of this one. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why I do not think the pledge he has given is good enough. I am sure he intends to introduce a Redistribution Bill, hut will he be in a position to do so? It has been suggested in the papers that the Opposition should accept this Bill because the Government are going to deal with the question of the Redistribution of seats. My answer to that is that with all the good intention in the world, the Government be able to deliver the goods. They might might be "caught short." They might not get the Plural Voting Bill, but it is quite possible that a General Election, which Lord Haldane said is apt to come like a thief in the night, might be on us before the Government can carry a Redistribution Bill. That is the reason why I think we ought to have a Clause in this Bill, and not merely the pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Mr. Hemmerde) referred to an anomaly in our present distribution of seats, but I think it is a mistake when dealing with this question to pick out only the points which suit your own side and to emphasise matters which belong to your opponent's side. I do not think it is fair to contrast Romford with certain small Conservative constituencies, because it is a fact that the anomalies on both sides as regards the numerical strength of constituencies more or less balance themselves as between party and party. There is only one anomaly which you cannot get over in this House, and I will refer to it shortly. The hon. Member for Romford sits for the largest constituency in the country. The candidate who fought that hon. Member in the Romford Division polled many more votes than the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Haldane, as he was then. These four Cabinet Ministers put together did not get as many votes as the unsuccessful candidate at Romford. You could quote that and say, "How unfair it is!" But to show how easy it is to quote it on the other side I may mention that the hon. Member for Romford polled in that particular election 23,000 votes. He polled 726 more votes than twelve Tory Members sitting on these benches, and his vote counts one and these twelve votes count twelve, so that it is perfectly easy by taking a little trouble to quote anomalies one against the other.

I have never in dealing with this subject picked out certain cases and tried to score a party point, but there is one anomaly, which I will call a master anomaly, in this House. It is that to which I refer, because my real objection in this Plural Voting Bill is this: You are trying to get rid of plural voting, a proceeding which you think will help you in the country, and you are making use of, and for two years you intend to go on making use of, by far the largest anomaly in this House—that is the anomaly of the over-representation of Ireland as compared with England. There will come up before this House shortly a Bill which may have most vital consequences on this country's history—the Home Rule Bill. You are using that overrepresentation, which is two to one in favour of every Irish Member—every Irish Member has twice the power in this House that every English Member has from this point, that the average electorate is 6,000, while the average electorate in England is 12,000—but the Government intend to use this anomaly, which gives to Irish Members twice the power in the Lobbies of this House that English Members have, and they intend to use it not only for the Home Rule Bill, as to which you might say, though I do not agree with it, that every Irish Member ought to have special powers, but you intend to use it at the same time to deprive the Welsh Church of their property. You are using that anomaly and intend to go on using that anomaly. That is the real objection to this Bill, that you do not in the least have any qualms of conscience about staying in office by the help of these Irish votes, but you intend, if you can, to hurt your opponents by taking away plural voting and winning some seats from the other side. I believe that the real solution of this question may be and ought to be a redistribution of seats, but a Redistribution before the Home Rule Bill is put to the country. It will settle nothing even if you do go to a General Election on the Home Rule Bill before a Redistribution. The Ulster Members will be entitled to say, and the Unionist party will be entitled to back them up in saying, "We will not take your solution of a question in which England is as vitally interested as is Ireland, if the power that every Irish Member has in the House of Commons is twice the power of an English Member." That is a fact which we have got to face later on next Session. It does not in the least follow that, if you adopt the proper course and have a General Election after Redistribution you will lose Home Rule, because if the country wants Home Rule, it will get it.

The proper course is to have an absolutely fair and equal redistribution of Members and parties in this House, to put all countries on a right footing, and give all the exact number to which they were entitled in proportion to their population. That is the only possible way of doing it. If you do that you will then have an absolute and inalienable right, if the country gives a mandate, to pass the Home Rule or any other Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has said that there was one voter out of every sixteen a plural voter. I will give another figure which is equally striking. Of the electors, who return those Irish Members, who have twice the power of English Members in the Division Lobbies, one in nine is an illiterate. That is a far more striking figure than the one plural voter out of sixteen. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to make a very simple reply to the question that I put, that he should assure us that this Bill will not come into force until Redistribution has taken place. But even if he promises a Redistribution in two years, speaking for myself, I would say that that does not deal with the real anomaly in this House. The Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) spoke earlier in the Debate from a democratic point of view. I am sure that I shall have his support in this, that on the democratic principle itself, if you are to deal with these enormous questions affecting different interests and these great constitutional questions, then each part of the country, being equally affected, should, on the democratic principle, have an equal electoral value in this House. I take it that I shall have his support there, and I am perfectly certain that if hon. Members would only for one moment look at this question, not only from the party point of view, but from the point of view of absolute fair play in the Lobby for every man in this House of Commons, and fair play between the four countries that form the United Kingdom, they would agree with the course which I suggest. For the reasons which I have given I shall vote against this Bill.


The hon. Member who has just sat down has come back to the refrain which we heard with almost unbroken continuity yesterday. We had a pleasant change to-day. We had persons who dealt with plural voting on its merits. The hon. Member has conic back to the long string, unbroken yesterday, of Gentlemen who dealt with this matter because of collateral matters which have nothing to do with plural voting as such. I express my own profound gratification at the fact that two Members of the Labour party to-day have made it perfectly clear that they are not going to follow the policy of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) and my colleague the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Heir Hardie), and I understand another Gentleman or two. It is, however, worth putting on record that the hon. Member for Blackburn ran away from his own words. In view of his criticism on this Bill, I think that it is necessary to put on record exactly what the hon. Member for Blackburn did. Everybody knows, and has known for a long time through the public Press that the hon. Member for Blackburn and the Gentlemen who think with him have decided that there should be no improvement at all in the franchise for working men until women had the vote. That is what they decided to do a considerable time ago. They converted their own particular Socialist organisation to adopt that attitude. They failed this year to convert the Labour party. That has been made clear here to-night. One would have expected that the hon. Member for Blackburn would have got up and said frankly and honestly, "My real genuine opposition to this Plural Voting Bill is simply and solely my disappointment at the fact that the Government will not give votes to women, and I am determined to prevent men from getting any further advantage." But it is nothing of the kind. The women's organisations, I dare say, expected him to do so, but he only alluded to the thing perfunctorily at the end of his speech and proceeded to advance arguments against plural voting in principle and against this particular Bill the same as we have heard from speaker after speaker on the other side.

I do not accuse the hon. Member of any insincerity. He put forward all the old Tory arguments, simply because he is as good an old Tory on certain topics as any hon. Member in the House. I want to put one point to him and to the Noble Lord who is a keen advocate of Women Suffrage. If the policy of recrimination be adopted much longer for pushing forward Women Suffrage, it will be pushed into its grave for a quarter of a century. The policy of recrimination is one that can be adopted by two parties, and it will not be for the hon. Member for Blackburn and those who support him to complain if hon. Members on this side, who in the past have been giving their approval to the principle of Women Suffrage adopt a similar recriminating policy in the coming Division. For myself, I deplore all tactics of this kind, and I protest, as a supporter of Women Suffrage, against hon. Members who are keen leaders of that movement, getting up in this House and adopting such a position as that which I have indicated. There were two very distinct attitudes shown by the Opposition yesterday and to-day, one affecting the majority of the speeches, beginning with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith) yesterday, dealing with collateral matters, and the other the two speeches of the Noble Lord the Member for the University of Oxford and the learned Gentleman opposite dealing with the merits of the question. As to this argument about the "fringe," I am quite prepared to be frank about the matter as, indeed, was the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Hemmerde) before me. We have a difficulty in dealing with the House of Lords, and I believe that by making clear to the House of Lords that plural voting must go before the next General Election, the way will be made very much easier, and we shall be more certain to realise the aspirations that have been ventilated by hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to Redistribution and reform of the franchise and registration. It is because we feel that the passing of this Bill clears the way for a real wide Franchise and Redistribution Bill that we thank the Government for proceeding with this particular item, which is the one danger spot that divides the parties so very seriously and would militate against any Bill on the Second Reading if this were any part of it.

With regard to the other arguments, I was very much interested in an omission from these Debates this time. On the last occasion we were told that it was not the proper time to bring two million or three million new voters on the register. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton developed this. He opened with a very grave tone and assumed a very serious mien and said to us, "What a time for you to choose this particular occasion to make this sudden reform when there is anxiety at home and much more serious anxiety abroad." He did not do it in one sentence. He laboured the thing. He said, "Here is war abroad, there is great anxiety. The democracy has never been tested in a great war yet in the world. Why therefore should you hurry this sudden addition to the register by giving the suffrage in the way you do?" I do not know whether it happened in this way, but I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman, like any of the others of us, found himself sitting down of an evening trying to cogitate on the points of his speech which he had not prepared and then he saw in an evening paper "Bulgarian Crisis," and said to himself, "Here is the very thing. This is the old trick of my party. Let the ever moving West put the squeeze on the ever boiling East, and do nothing in this House." To-day the complaint is "Why do they not give votes to all these people who are disfranchised?" We say to him, "What about the ever moving West and the ever boiling East?" and the answer is, "Bother the East and the West. I am looking after the interests of my party the same as you are on the opposite side." First I say we have disposed of one. I am sure when hon. Members opposite look back upon it they will be surprised to find how far they have gone in seeking reasons for opposing the franchise proposal of the Government. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) on a previous occasion, saw in the sudden addition of a large number to the register another danger to property. He said it would depreciate securities, and that was a great danger. I do not know where the hon. Member stands this time. I wonder whether this Bill is regarded by him as a danger to property, or one that would depreciate securities. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford, who is a sort of soothsayer, sees in this proposal misfortunes which will affect property in this country.

I desire to bring the House back to the real situation. I go to constituencies and I find this state of things: There are two sets of people, both very keen, both equally earnest, and both fighting out a long-drawn battle with absolute sincerity. Each side hopes that it may win; they come to the day of the poll, knowing the people of the constituency, and aware that victory or defeat is only a matter of ten or a dozen votes on one side or the other. And there they are on the day of the poll, at the end of the fight, standing around the polling booths, or in the square of the market town. Near the end of the fight they see strange vehicles being driven up, and horns and whistles being sounded; they see a series of comings and goings on one side, and all with a glee that degrades their political activity, and they know that some outsiders are coming in to aid their opponents, and that they are being unjustly and unfairly deprived of the fruits of a victory. That is a position we have known in Wales for centuries. There we had two contending chieftains, until at last one was weak enough to accept the help of the Normans who fought and defeated both chieftains; and the successors of those Normans to-day are still able to keep the yoke on many parts of the country. In Wales historical traditions remain rankling deep in the hearts of the people, and, that is one reason why they feel upon this question, as upon other questions, that they are not being fairly treated.

I have been to meetings all over the country at different elections during the last year or two, and I can assure hon. Members that at none of the gatherings which I have addressed has any topic aroused such instant approval and enthusiasm as the removal of this grievance of the plural vote. Hon. Members opposite have given certain reasons for opposing this Bill, and the position they put to us is this: They say, "There is such a thing as superiority of opinion." The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University and the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite said that there are certain persons in this country who ought to have more than one vote because of certain educational qualifications which they possess, and that the opinion of one man may be better than that of another. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite also utilised several arguments dealing with individuals, but I beg to submit to him and the Noble Lord that they are arguing upon an idea of the constitution and of this House, and of the meaning of votes at elections, which is fundamentally opposed, at any rate to my view, a very plain and simple view, of what is being done. That is why I say the discussion of such a question as proportional representation is not germane to this particular Bill. My view of what happens at an election is this, though I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite will accept it: The elector is asked two things—he is asked one general question and one local question. I will take the general and national question first, and take the General Election, which this Bill deals with. The electors are asked throughout the country one broad, single question, "Do you support the Government that is in power now as a whole and are you in favour of its continuing, or are you in favour of a change of Government?" That, obviously, is the main general question that is put to the constituencies at every election.

Taking that as the main general question, why should one man be allowed to say whether or not he is for continuing the Government six times or twenty times, while another man is allowed to say it only once? That is a principle which I submit you cannot defend at all. No man can fairly be allowed to say more than once whether he wants a Government changed or not. Then you come to the question of the individual, and the subordinate or secondary question is, "Are you in favour of this candidate, who because of his character and his views on questions directly affecting the locality, should be returned in order to also carry out the general policy represented by the Govern- ment?" Why should some people be allowed to answer that question in respect of half a dozen candidates here and there, whereas others are only allowed to answer it in regard to one individual? I absolutely repudiate the idea that education as such gives the right. The fact that a man reads more books, or is capable of conjugating Greek verbs or working out an, equation in mathematics, does not of itself imply that he is better educated than another in the sense of being better informed about political matters. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have treated commercial men and manufacturers from the very beginning of this Debate as men deserving of more votes than one. As a matter of fact, commercial men and manufacturers, as a rule, are so busy and preoccupied with their own affairs that they pay very little attention to politics. It is very rarely that you can get them to attend political meetings. But if you go down to my Constituency, or to constituencies like mine, you will find that the miners are informed on topics to an extent that I myself have not been able to attain because of the calls upon my time in this House. They follow political events keenly, and they assemble at the blacksmith's forge just as much as they over did to discuss them; and I defy hon. Gentlemen opposite to put against 10,000 miners 10,000 plural voters in the City of London, or anywhere else, that they can get together, and show that the latter have the political knowledge and information possessed by the former.

The view taken by the average commercial man or the average manufacturer about politics is a very cynical one. He is a man who thinks that politicians are merely interfering and meddling with him. There are thousands of plural voters who go to constituencies absolutely without bothering themselves for one moment about the local affairs and the local interests of the people themselves. On the other hand, the masses of working men take a deep interest in all these national and local questions. It is not a cynical matter with them, and they are very real and very earnest in what they do. They appreciate to the full the importance of those questions, and anyone who visits those constituencies will see how keen is the interest they take, and how great is their intelligence and information upon current topics. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Mackinder) said that men ought not to have the franchise because of property, but because of their responsibilities, and he instanced the manufacturer, observing that if something went wrong with the Government of the country it might cause the failure of his works, and that, of course, would bring down hundreds of workmen along with him. But I would put it that the failure of the works is a much more serious matter to the workmen, as a rule, than to the particular manufacturer, who may have other eggs in his basket. To the workmen thrown out through the failure it is an absolute disaster, not a relative disaster; it is the loss of subsistence; it is the throwing of the family down into the pit from which they may not be dug for many years. Working men realise all that, and if there be a sense of responsibility at all it is felt amongst the working classes.

It is because of their knowing and realising the full import of political questions that they are better informed and educated upon those topics than the man with a university education, and who is occupied for a considerable part of his time by various interests. This doctrine about opinion and education advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite does not bear examination for a moment. The hon. Member for Camlachie said that this House came together originally to give advice to the Sovereign, and therefore, he said, let us get the men best educated to give advice. The hon. Member's history was a little bit too old; it did not come far enough down. It is true that this House was once only an advisory body, and that, while it was in that position, it had no power in the State; but since it began to exercise power as distinct from an advisory capacity, it has represented the grievances of the people, and that has been the conception of this House of Commons through centuries. This House is assembled to protect the poor, the helpless, and the weak against the administrative elements, the executive element, and against the strong and the powerful; and I submit that this is more necessary to-day than ever it was before. The perfection of our constitutional machinery, in our local authorities, in our great Departments of State, constitute a huge organisation which from its very perfection and complexity may be grinding down in silent corners some of the most poor and the most helpless, who, therefore, have all the greater right to say who shall come to this House to represent the grievances of the people who suffer most from oppression. I compliment the Government upon the step they have taken, and am very pleased on this occasion that we have the great majority of the Labour party behind us in endeavouring to secure for the lowest and poorest a right measure of political influence that has been very long delayed.


The hon. Gentleman has made a very eloquent speech, and as is customary with him he has given us a little insight into the history of his country. What surprises me is that the hon. Gentleman, holding such views as he does about his fellow workmen, can possibly support this Bill. To judge by their speeches hon. Members opposite apparently consider the plural voter as nothing more nor less than a pest. We are given harrowing descriptions of the avalanches of plural voters that descend at various elections and affect the decision in innumerable contests. When is it that those avalanches really go down to swamp the various divisions throughout the country? Is it not at by-elections which this particular Bill does not deal with at all, but only with the General Election? I think the right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday that there were 450,000 plural voters in England and Wales; 55,000 in Scotland, and about 20,000 in Ireland, making a total of 525,000 plural voters. I should very much like to know if the Government have any statistics as to how many of those plural voters exercised their franchise at by-elections and at General Elections. I suggest that the comparative number of plural voters who exercise their privilege at General Elections is really very small. I have no doubt there are a certain number of people who have a large number of votes, but does the House really believe that the man who has twenty votes, if there be such a man, or who has twenty or fifteen votes, can really exercise all those votes at a General Election? I myself happen to have three or four votes, but I have never yet found myself in the position to exercise all those votes at one General Election, and I cannot conceive, even with the assistance given by motor cars, that the large plural voter can do so. If it is the plural voters at General Elections and not at by-elections the Government want to get at they could do that by a simple remedy of having all the elections in the country on one day.

Though personally I should be sorry to see any plural voter deprived of his votes, yet I should be glad to see the elections held on one day, because I think every- body recognises that although in the last constituency such a large number of voters are so highly educated in political matters, yet in less favoured parts of the country there are a very large number of voters whose knowledge of political affairs is very small indeed, and their votes at a General Election are usually influenced by the way in which they see the other contests are going. In 1906 a very large number of votes were given by people on the Liberal side simply because they wanted to be on the winning side, and I have no doubt that on other occasions when the Unionist party got into power they received a large number of votes from people who supported them for the same reason. Therefore, I think the present system of polling over such a long period does not reflect the real judgment of the people of the country on political matters. All the elections on one day would, I think, automatically kill the plural voter. As regards this particular Bill, I do not think it is necessary to go into the merits. But I would ask, what do hon. Members opposite really think the plural voter consists of? Do they think all the plural voters are large merchants, or men in the city of London, or territorial magnates with a London house and a Scottish house, and so on? The fact is that an enormous number of plural voters in this country are men of very small means, and men who have obtained their plural qualifications simply and solely from the industry and thrift they have exercised in the early years of life. There are a very large number of men of the working class who have invested some of their savings in house property and bought a field or two in the country. Many of those men live in a small house in the town in which they work while they own the field in the country. Naturally, they exercise the plural qualifications whenever they are given the opportunity of doing so.

Therefore, I say, in destroying this vote you are hitting not only the rich man and the man who is supposed to have gone to a university, but also, to a very large extent, at some of the better class of the working-men who have spent a great part of their lives in industrious employment, and who have had the additional merit of putting by some of their weekly wages and investing it in small property. I have not the smallest desire to take away that extra privilege which those men have obtained by their own industry. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) led the House to believe that the man of many goods ought to have less power of voting, and that, in fact, the man who ought to be given plural qualifications, if anyone was given them, was the poorest man in the country. If you follow that logically, it means that the hon. Member for Ince would give the preponderance of voting power to the tramps on the road. They are the people who are the poorest in the country, and they are the people, therefore, to whom the hon. Member would give a great majority of the voting power of the country. I do not think that even this House would be prepared to do that, and I think the working classes would very strongly object to have votes given at all to the actual tramp on the road, or to anybody who has not property of any kind, either in clothes on his back or cash in his pocket. Personally, I strongly support the principle of a man, who, by his own industry and thrift, has got various interests in different parts of the country, having more than one vote. It is quite true that in the plural voting system a great many anomalies exist. As the President of the Board of Education mentioned, a man may have enormous holdings in stocks of various kinds in the City of London and only one vote, and a man may own the best part of a county and have only one vote, while a man may have a small farm which abuts on three counties, and that man may have three votes. Though you have those anomalies in plural voting, just as in any other kind, yet I venture to say, taking it all round, one anomaly is pretty well balanced by another, and you are simply reduced to the principle as to whether you support any system of plural voting or not.

I have always held that this House in its elections does represent a locality rather than a certain number of heads, and as long as a man has an interest of any sort or kind in that locality, I have always held, and still hold, he should have a voice in the election of the Member to represent that locality. The Bill does not deal with by-elections, which takes away the ground from under the feet of those who thought about avalanches of plural voters as those to send particularly at by-elections. What effect will this Bill have on registration? I think all sides are agreed that the expenses of registration are quite enough already. If this Bill becomes law, it seems to me that the work of the party agents will be enormously increased, and there will be tremendous bargaining between the various agents all over the country to induce the owners of plural votes to exercise the vote in a particular division. I tremble to think of the enormous correspondence which will ensue between the various party agents in their efforts to secure the plural voter. I do not know how the Government are going to get over that difficulty, but I think it is a very real difficulty. Although this is a very short Bill in the number of lines and Clauses, yet I venture to say that in actual practice it will prove to be a Bill of very great difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman opposite is a great genius at registration law. When the present Colonial Secretary introduced his Bill to abolish plural voting it was about 121 lines in length, and by the time it left Committee it had been increased to about 242 lines. If this Bill is going to be satisfactory, from the point of view of the Government and of the plural voter and of the various party agents, it will have to be very largely increased in length.

I do hope the Government will pay attention to the Penal Clause in the first Sub-section, because, surely, it is a very tall order to say that a man who only asks for a ballot paper in more than one constituency is to be subjected to very grievous penalties. You are not abolishing plural voting in by-elections, and you may very well have a number of not very well-educated voters who do not study the Debates in this House at any length, and who will very likely have exercised their privilege at a by-election, and, when the general election comes, will probably have no knowledge at all that their qualification has been removed, and who will innocently and honestly go in and ask for a paper in the belief that they are still entitled to their second vote. I think it is very hard that in a case of that kind a man should be subjected to these penalties. I should like to ask an explanation as to the real effect of Sub-section (2). I have been informed that it may be interpreted in this way: It says that if any person acts in contravention of it he shall be guilty of a corrupt practice, other than personation, within the meaning of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act. Does that mean, if a plural voter goes and exercises the plural vote in a second division, and his vote being a corrupt practice, that that will automatically disfranchise the man who represents that division. I believe it is a fact that there are certain corrupt practices which automatically render a Member liable to be unseated. I think it is rather hard on a Member that he should be unseated if a poor ignorant plural voter happens merely to ask for a second voting paper. I shall certainly record my vote against the Bill, because I believe in the soundness of the plural voting system, and also because I believe that in picking out this one anomaly, as the Government choose to call it, though I do not think it is an anomaly myself, they are picking out one which is really much the smallest, and leaving untouched a great many anomalies which Members on both sides are quite prepared to rectify if a reasonable measure is introduced for that purpose.


The hon. Member who has just spoken has suggested that if all elections were held on the same day that might afford a proper settlement of the question we are now discussing. I agree that such a course would be extremely desirable, but I do not agree that it would have the result of abolishing plural voting. The hon. Member must have forgotten that in these days of motorcars it is possible for many votes to be recorded within a very short space of time over a very large area, and it would be possible in almost every case for those who possess two or more votes in adjoining county or borough constituencies to record them, although the elections were held on the same day. I do not think that the hon. Member's experience as to plural voters not generally recording their votes is shared by many other Members. Certainly it is not the case in Scotland, because we have evidence that in every district where plural voters can record their votes they are always in evidence in large numbers when the time comes to do so. I think there is more substance in the criticism with regard to the expense and trouble which might be caused through the uncertainty as to where a plural voter should record his vote. I should very much prefer to have the constituency asterisked, so that we might know exactly how many persons were to constitute the electors in one constituency. I hope that it may be possible in Committee to deal with some of the questions connected with this difficulty caused by the proposal as it now stands.

This matter has been discussed so often that it is very difficult indeed to introduce any fresh argument. But one advantage of the frequent debates is that they have shown that in recent years there has been a growing general recognition in all quarters that the plural vote is an anomaly and entirely indefensible. I should like to congratulate the right bon. Gentleman who moved the official Amendment (Mr. F. E. Smith) upon his consistency in the terms in which the Amendment is framed. Consistent he is with the view which he formerly expressed that the cause of plural voting, examined simpliciter solely with reference to its own merits, appears to be a lost cause. I am glad to think that that should be his view, and I believe it is the view of many other hon. Members on that side. But I do not see the same anxiety to discuss the question upon its merits in many quarters of the House. So far as the merits of the subject are concerned, I think the terms of the Amendment really ought to preclude us from dealing with them, because it is frankly admitted that the plural vote is an anomaly similar to the other anomalies with which hon. Members opposite would have us deal at the the same time. The right hon. Gentleman referred to "a universal and regularly understood rule or principle based on an unbroken practice of centuries that votes should be given in reference to the locality and the stake which the individual possessed in that particular locality." That argument has been emphasised again and again by hon. Members opposite, who have charged the Government with seeking to destroy this old principle.

But where do we find a precedent for departing from this principle? It is to be found not in anything done by a Liberal Government, but in the action of the Conservative Government who, in 1888, openly departed from the principle in the Local Government Act of that year. In the forefront of that Act they placed the condition that there should be no plural voting. Every argument which has been used in reference to localities and the interest of individuals in connection with localities recording their votes in different districts applies with equal, if not greater force, to county and municipal council elections. In those elections the interest is a very distinct one, because there is a special rating interest on the part of different individuals who own property in different districts within the county council area. Take the City man who has a house in Chelsea and business premises in the City. His case is exactly on all fours with the case put forward on the other side in regard to Parliamentary representation. I think we also had a precedent in favour of this pro- posal in the action of the Unionists in connection with the proposed Constitution for the Transvaal in 1905, and in their subsequent attitude in connection with Colonial institutions. The right hon. Gentleman complained somewhat angrily that the Government were hustling the House with this Bill at this period of the Session in order to rehabilitate their shattered fortunes when they go to the country. Surely his memory is very short indeed. Why is it necessary for the House to consider this question at all at the present time? Why is it necessary that this Bill should be introduced? It is entirely due to the action taken in another place with regard to the Bill of 1906. It is only right that we should keep in view that in 1906 this House passed the Second Reading of a Plural Voting Bill by a majority of 308, only ninety-five voting against it, while on the Third Reading we had a majority of well over 200. The matter was discussed ad nauseam at that time, and everything possible was done to carry the measure into law.

It is also worth keeping in mind, when we are charged with having introduced this measure at this particular period of the Session, that last Session a genuine attempt was made to deal with the question again. Various insinuations have been made that that was not a genuine attempt. Such a charge is, I believe, absolutely unfounded. I think that nothing has redounded more to the credit of the present Government than their endeavour to carry out their pledge with regard to franchise reform. The fact that they had to abandon the Bill was due to circumstances over which they had absolutely no control. It was due, in one sense, to their appreciation of a pledge of honour to the women of the country, and in that respect they deserve the credit of all men, and of the women themselves in whose interests the pledge was given. The main argument against this Bill has been that it removes only one of the anomalies in the electoral law. I am very much impressed by the urgent insistence with which hon. Members opposite suggest that the Bill is brought forward purely for party advantage. But every time that argument has been brought forward with strength and eloquence, it has cut the other way. It has made it perfectly plain that hon. Members who are opposing the Bill are doing so frankly on the ground of maintaining a privilege to which they would not be entitled under other circumstances. Is it possible to deal with all the anomalies of our registration and franchise laws in one Bill? I think that hon. Members opposite will admit that it is not. It has been suggested that there would be less opposition if other questions were dealt with at the same time. What was the case with regard to the Franchise Bill? There we dealt with other anomalies, but the opposition was certainly not less bitter or less determined. When other questions affecting in any degree the position of hon. Members opposite in the constituencies were being dealt with, however many anomalies were included in the measure, we should experience the same opposition.

8.0 P.M.

The disqualification of absent voters has been referred to as one of the most crying anomalies of the present system. That refers to sailors, soldiers, commercial travellers, and fishermen, who are prevented by their calling from recording their votes. I had an opportunity on one occasion of introducing a Bill dealing with that subject. I am glad to see that two hon. Members opposite have introduced similar Bills in the present Session. Would either of those hon. Members for a moment support the proposition that that matter should not be dealt with unless other anomalies were removed at the same time? Is there any reason why the hon. Member for York or the hon. Member for Devonport should not get his Bill—which I should be glad to support and to see the Government support—through without dealing at the same time with other sections of this important question? The same would apply to many other anomalies. The fact of the matter is that the abolition of plural voting is a necessary preliminary step to the wider question of Redistribution. It would be impossible to deal wisely with Redistribution until you knew the number of electors which the various constituencies were to include, and the system upon which you would proceed. It is perfectly dear that we are all agreed that there are anomalies in regard to Redistribution which require to be dealt with at an early moment, and we have the pledge of the Government that they will be dealt with. Hon. Members opposite are occasionally inclined to treat that pledge with some degree of suspicion. Having regard to their attitude upon this question of Redistribution, does it become them to cast any taunts at the present Government in connection with the matter? May I remind the House that that plea comes with very little force from the Members of a party who cynically repudiated their own principle of one vote one value when they had to deal with this question in 1905. The matter has been referred to in this Debate already, so I do not want to go into it in detail, but I should like to quote to the House, from one of the leading Unionist organs, a very short passage with regard to the attitude of the Unionist Government. In the issue of 1st November, 1906, the "Pall Mall Gazette" said:—

It cannot be forgotten tint when Mr. Balfour had an opportunity of proposing a revision of the constituencies he shrank from dealing with the subject on equable and equitable lines, and conjured with figures so as to reduce the Irish anomaly, and to save the most wretched little privileged boroughs in Great Britain. The manipulation was too flagrant and too outstanding to pass inspection, and the proposals of the late Government were doomed from the firs, moment tint they saw the light. It is owing to their lamentable failure of courage that the Unionist attack on the Plural Voting Bill has lost half its force. I hope the House to-day will remember that for many years the opposite party was in power, that they had many opportunities of dealing with this matter, and that they only dealt with it on one occasion, and that was in a manner which received the scorn even of their own supporters. I only desire to deal with one other point, and that is to make reference to the criticism of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Camlachie Division (Mr. Mackinder) as to the position of the Scottish representatives in this House. We in Scotland have a very strong claim for the abolition of plural voting. I could refer to the manufacture of faggot votes in the county of Peebleshire and elsewhere. It has been notorious. It is so glaring an injustice that at times it has been necessary to invoke the aid of the police to protect those individuals who come into the district to record their votes. The question is a very acute one in Scotland to-day. The hon. Member for Camlachie when he dealt with this matter made a frank admission that so far as Scotland was concerned the Unionist party did advantage very greatly from the existence of plural voting. He put this advantage at three Members. I should have put it at a great deal higher, because there are twelve out of the seventy-two Members front Scotland sitting on the other side of the House, and in ten elections there was a contest, and in the ten cases where there was a contest there was only one hon. Member who had a majority of over a thousand, only four who had a majority of over 300; practically in all the other cases it was the effect of the plural vote that secured the seat for the Unionist candidate. The hon. Member for Camlachie said his view was that at the present time each of the Unionist Members for Scotland represented a very much larger number of Unionist voters than each of the Liberal Members represented of Liberal voters. That may be perfectly true, but that is not a fair argument, because to separate Scotland in a matter of this kind from the whole of the United Kingdom would not be right. If you take the figures, under the present system you will find that the Liberals suffer to a greater extent in the South of England than Unionists suffer in Scotland, or you will find that at any rate the situation is very nearly balanced. But is the hon. Member for Camlachie right in thinking that redistribution would be in his case, or would be in the case of the Scottish Unionist Members from their own point of view, a step which would lead to their further representation in this House? I do not believe it. If you refer to the constituencies in Scotland, and to the accepted and strongly indicated Radical views—which I am glad to think prevail to such an extent north of the Tweed—you will find that most of the constituencies, if broken up into smaller sections, would still have a predominating Radical majority.

Let me take as an illustration my own Constituency, simply because it happens to be a constituency with the largest population of any constituency in Scotland, and that population industrial in character. I refer to North-East Lanark. The population there is over 140,000. At the last election 17,621 votes were cast. Of these 6,776 were Unionist votes. That left a considerable majority cast in favour of the Liberal and Labour candidates. What is the position, if you were to cut down constituencies of that kind and divide them into several single-Member districts? The chances are that in almost every case you would have a preponderating majority in favour of the Progressive candidate, as at the present time. Let me pass to the further question which was raised by the hon. Member for Camlachie as to the other real drawbacks attaching to the present system of representation in Scotland. I entirely share his view that we should have all the anomalies removed, and I trust, and I believe, that a serious effort again will be made to do this. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Scott Dickson) smiles. May I remind him that it is not the fault of the Government that a considerable number of these anomalies were not dealt with last Session, and that the Government have given a pledge—which we have every reason to believe will be carried out, and which, judging from their attitude on other pledges they have given the country, will be abundantly carried out at the earliest possible moment—to deal with the matter. It is certainly a pledge which we might not be quite so certain about at the hands of the other party, as witness their attitude in respect to old age pensions. We shall be certain to see some definite results at the earliest opportunity which may be afforded.

The question of plural voting in Scotland has excited a great and very deep interest. There was considerable disappointment that the Bill of last Session was not able to be carried into law owing to circumstances over which the Government have no control. I do hope that this House will by an overwhelming expression of opinion support the view put forward by the Government in introducing the Bill, which the Government are very properly anxious to get at once carried, and they are prepared to go a great deal further at a later period. I think any hon. Member who is not prepared to accept the view that this Session it would be impossible to deal with a larger measure is not facing the facts fairly and squarely. We are all agreed that the work of the Session, strenuous as it is, should not be carried over a period longer than the beginning or middle of August, and I am quite sure that hon. Members opposite are satisfied that to undertake a larger measure would, from their point of view, create opposition which would be likely to carry us to a much later period of the year. I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this Bill. I hope they will consider any criticisms which may legitimately be made in Committee on certain points which may be suggested to make it work smoothly, and I trust that they will see the Bill carried into law at a very early period.


I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken that the Government are very anxious, as he said, that this Bill should be carried because, as I think, they recognise, or at least they believe, that the effect of this Bill being carried would he to their party advantage. I do not think there is any other reason to make them wish to have this Bill carried in preference to a more generous and comprehensive measure. The hon. Gentleman stated that the Government had given pledges that they would carry further measures dealing with the franchise question—if they could. I hope he will pardon me for saying that we on this side of the House do not attach the same importance to Government pledges as he seems to do. We regard them to a large extent as, well, not very much worth consideration. I should like to deal with two points. So far as plural voting is concerned I do not know whether I am benefited or disadvantaged by it. There are provisions at the present time as to residents within so many miles of a constituency which tell enormously against those who sit on this side of the House. There may be advantages that I do not know. But I have a right to ask hon. Members opposite when they have got their Home Rule schemes all carried out, their federal systems given effect to; when we have a Parliament for Scotland, a Parliament for Ireland, a Parliament for Wales, and, according to the First Lord of the Admiralty, I do not know how many Parliaments in England, what about plural voting then? As I understand it in some of the schemes of Home Rule the Members who are elected for the local Parliaments are to be entitled to sit in this Parliament. If I am not misinformed so far as Scotland is concerned all the Members of the Scottish Home Rule Parliament are also to be Members at Westminster. What about plural voting then? Suppose a man is an Irishman, or has an Irish qualification, or a Scottish qualification, or a Welsh qualification, or a Lancastrian qualification, and all the rest of it, is he only to have one vote, or how is the matter to be arranged?

The truth of the matter is that the Government and the supporters of this scheme have not thought out the problem and all that is meant by the various questions of Parliament and sub-Parliaments. Therefore it is out of the question at the present time to deal with this comparatively small matter unless you deal with the matter as a whole. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that you can deal with this matter in a separate Bill. I think if we have to deal with the franchise question you must deal with the franchise question and the registration question in one measure, which will simplify the whole matter, and give equal representation or equal rights to the several electors all over the country, so that you will not have the vote of one man in one district counting as equal to ten, twenty, or thirty men. That is plural voting of the very worst kind, and there has never been any proposal by the Government for dealing with that! With all respect to what the hon. Gentleman has said about the pledges of the Government, I do not think there ever will be any honest and genuine attempt to deal with this matter so long as this Government is in power. It is because of that, and because the Government are only endeavouring to deal with a small part of the question which they think they can snatch a party advantage from, that they have brought in this Bill proposing to deal with this part of the question. It is because of that, and because they are not dealing fairly and honestly with all the anomalies, and all the questions that arouse controversy between us on party grounds, that I, for my part, shall have no hesitation in voting against this Bill.


I should like to say a few words with reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Central Division of Glasgow who has just sat down. All Scottish Members are glad to see him in this House, and whatever the result of this proposal may be, we shall always be glad to have him with us until he is transferred to higher spheres of usefulness. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman should take up the line he did. He seems to wish that every detail of the Scottish, Irish, and Welsh Parliaments should be introduced merely to deal with business that concerns this country, but if he wishes to bring in a Bill that deals with all these subjects, I am afraid it will be a long time before we can satisfy him with such a measure. I would remind him of the saying of a great leader of his party, a man perhaps more frequently quoted than any other politician that ever existed, the late Lord Beaconsfield. When someone called his attention to the fact that a certain proposal was not strictly logical, he replied, "This country is not governed by logic; it is governed by Parliament." This question has come before us now in order that it may be settled, and I think there cannot be any question that it should be settled. We heard from hon. Members that there were a great many items in the Government Bill of last year that they were quite prepared to accept. What distresses them is that the Government are not dealing at the present moment with everything at the same time. The House and the country understand that the only reason we are not dealing with all these matters now is that time does not permit. If anyone with authority on the other side could rise and say, "All these anomalies should be dealt with and we will agree to them," but this is the only contentious one and we are prepared to deal with it also, then it might be that the larger measure should be introduced. We want to deal with the present anomaly now and to get rid of the only contentious point. An hon. Member opposite said he was prepared to have all elections in one day. If you did that you would practically get rid of the plural voter altogether. Therefore what is the good of talking about the plural voter now if he is honestly not worth keeping?

We heard something to-night from the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford as to the advantages of education, and he quoted from the late John Stuart Mill, referring to the qualification of education, and that it should be made a test of electoral fitness. I am afraid to make that an electoral qualification is out of the question. We must take things as they are. I should like to refer to how things are in Scotland, and nobody knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. Education in Scotland, as some of us know, has reached a higher point than exists in other parts of the United Kingdom, and we have already in our Scottish programme a very high educational standard. I should like to tell the House a little anecdote which happened to a friend of mine who was a candidate for a county in Scotland which was almost entirely agricultural. He was riding along the country—it was before the days of the motor cars or before they were as common as now—in one of the Midland counties, and he said to his driver, "This is a rather scattered part of the country, and I suppose there are not many people here except the farmers and the shepherds, and I suppose the man who is most educated is the minister?" and the driver replied, "The minister is very good, but the profoundest thinking man in the parish is the blacksmith." When he came across the blacksmith afterwards he told me he had no hesitation in saying that he had a perfect knowledge of all the public events, and knew thoroughly well how to talk upon any subject. I appeal to any Scottish Member here, especially those who know the country districts of Scotland, if that is not perfectly true. I know that Scottish Members will agree at once that not only the farmer—they are always educated—but even the ploughman and the shepherd, the agricultural servants, the residents of the cottages, and the crofters get the papers, read the papers, and are thoroughly posted in all the questions of the day. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman on the other side, is it fair that the votes of these men—they may be poor, but they are strong and healthy and well educated, and they bear their part and their share in the work of the country—and is it fair that these men in opinions which they hold strongly, either as Liberals or Conservatives, should be swamped by a number of plural voters who sweep down upon them on the polling day?

I think everyone will agree with me that it is not surprising that Scottish opinion is against the plural vote. If anybody cares to test this question for himself and to find out the opinion of the average Scottish voter in the various constituencies, he will find that it is against plural voting. I can assure hon. Members in Scotland we have no use for the plural voter; he is a nuisance. I do not wish to say that in any bad sense, but he is a nuisance to the Parliamentary agent and to the candidate. They have to send telegrams and to arrange for motor cars for his accommodation, and I am sure both parties will be glad to be done with him. I sincerely hope this Bill will be passed, and I think public opinion, certainly Scottish public opinion, is in its favour and I think we may accept the statement of the Government that if time allows—there is of course always the "if"—all these other questions are certain to be dealt with before the next General Election, and we shall go to the country under fair conditions. With reference to the Irish question, I would refer to the arguments of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who represents one of the Divisions of Devonshire (Major Morrison-Bell), and who, I am sure, has acquired the respect of the House for the way in which he presents his views. He laid figures before the House on this question of the reduction of the Irish representation which is produced by the Government of Ireland Bill. He complained that as at present constituted, the representation of Ireland was an anomaly. I would like to remind him that Irish representation stands now as it was settled by the Act of Union in 1800. That Act put an end to the Irish Parliament contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people of Ireland of all classes, rich men and poor men, proprietor and tenant, everybody. That bargain was struck at that time without the consent, practically speaking, of the people of Ireland, and it was settled that the representation of Ireland in this Parliament should be 101 for all time or until that treaty was altered. Hon. Members have often said on the other side that the treaty was altered at the time of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. Certainly the Disestablishment of the Irish Church was a breach of the Act of Union, but it was a breach made with the consent of the Irish people, and it is recognised as just that when the poorer and weaker partner to a contract agrees that it is to be altered he has a right to claim that the remainder of the contract should stand as it was.

Therefore, the alteration of the Act of Union, by the Irish Church Act, cannot be quoted as a proof that we may break the Act of Union on our side, whenever we wish to do so. That will not stand for a moment. Anyone, who will refer to the speeches which were made at the time, will find the view I am now expressing stated by Mr. John Bright. We are bound consequently by the Act of Union as it exists, until the Irish people agree to give up a part of the representation which they have in this House now. I would like to remind the House that the present Government, by their Home Rule Bill, are voluntarily reducing the Irish representation in this House, and I ask hon. Members opposite—if we are prepared to give away as an act of justice and of high policy more than half of our proportion of the Irish representatives in the present Parliament, can they not for once believe that the motives of the Government may be trusted? We are all in favour of the Home Rule Bill, and we are prepared to see, under that Bill, the proportion of our Irish supporters reduced. I would also like to remind hon. Members that many of us on this side have always been supporters of the proposal that women should be admitted to the franchise based upon property ownership and occupation qualifications, the same as men enjoy at the present moment. We have always been prepared to vote for giving to women the franchise on the same terms as men hold it. Everybody knows that would increase the Unionist vote at a General Election to an enormous extent. When we are prepared to proceed with measures of that kind, can it be said that we have not an equally fair motive in supporting the Bill which is now before the Horse? With regard to Scotland, I would like to ask my right hon. Friend who is in charge of this Bill (Mr. Pease) if he has not received an enormous number of letters, petitions, and remonstrances from Scotland, asking him why he is not prepared to do all these things in the present Bill? He has explained why the Government do it, and I ask the House now to take his word and to pass this Bill as it is. It is the only controversial point in these proposals for electoral reform, and I trust that, when this Bill is passed, the whole House before the end of the present Parliament will join in carrying whatever further reforms may be wanted.


This Bill has, certainly one charm. It has the charm of extreme simplicity. It is the only Bill which I know of since I have been in this House which is frankly and cheerfully received by the Liberal party as a Bill designed to give them a party advantage. There have been cases in which we have suspected that the Bils introduced by the present Government might possibly have the same object. Extreme party politicians, have gone so far as to suggest that the Home Rule Bill was introduced so as to procure the support of the Irish Members. There have been even those who, in their more extreme political moments, have suggested that the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales was a scheme not wholly unconnected with the support which the Government desired to obtain in this House from the representatives of the Principality. But, so far as I know, this is the only Bill that has been openly and cheerfully and unblushingly introduced as a Bill the result of which will be to give a party advantage to those who introduce it. When we comment upon that fact—and I do not see why we should not—the answer is either "you would do the same if you had the chance," which a mere to quoque, or else, "You criticise and object to it, and therefore, because you are objecting to our receiving a party advantage, you are really as bad as we are." The arguments by which the Bill is supported have the same charm as the Bill. They are as simple as the Bill itself. I confess I am disposed to think that the system of plural voting, which obtains in this country, although it requires alteration in some respects, is founded upon justice, and that it is—I do not expect Members opposite to receive this with favour—in the interests of the democracy of the country. I did not expect any uproarious approval for that from Members below the Gangway. Let me say why I think so. The whole tendency of modern alterations which have been made in the franchise law is to recognise more and more the claim to have a vote made by the man who contributes to the rates. It is true that there are still a few anomalies like the freehold vote, the occupation vote, and the lodger vote, but all these extensions of the franchise have been based upon whether or no the man who claims the vote does or does not contribute to the locality where he lives towards the payment of the rates. It is true that in the case of the lodger voter his contribution is only indirect, but the test applied by those who settle the revision of the lists of voters is always, "Does he, in some form or another contribute to the payment of the rates?" All our modern extensions of the franchise have been in that direction. What are you going to do by this Bill? You are going to depart from that altogether. You are going to ignore the fact that a man is contributing to the rates. At the present time, if he makes that contribution in two different places, because he makes that contribution he receives the right to vote in each of the places to the expense of which he is contributing. You are going to put an end to that. Let me give an example of the real injustice that I suggest may result from the adoption of this scheme. We have heard a good deal of the injury to the large manufacturer who might, as the result of this Bill, if he does not live in the place where his works are situated, lose his vote in respect of the industry in which he is engaged.

Let me put it from the other point of view. I could give a great number of instances within my own knowledge of men who carry on a large and important trade in Sheffield, but whose homes are in my own Constituency. You would not, in fairness, say that they ought to be deprived of the chance of determining the policy of their representatives on matters which affect their livelihood and the interests of the country at large. But take their homes. I know men whose homes are in my constituency who are the life and soul of the place. I know a man who has not a very large house but a substantial one, who is largely interested in all the local endeavours made for the social well-being of the people, who is connected with the local club, with the cricket club, and with the football club. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That has its advantage in the social well-being of the people. Surely a man who is interested in all the things that interest the place where his home is should have a vote there as much as the intelligent blacksmith of whom the last speaker drew such a moving picture. You are going to leave him with this unfortunate choice. He is either not to have any determining vote in the choice of the representative of the place where his whole social life is spent, or in the choice of the representative of the place where he earns his livelihood. Is that logical? I submit that it is not. A man sits in this House in respect of a particular place, and I submit that all the modern tendency has been to give a man a vote where he makes contribution towards the expenses of the locality. That is a just and democratic tendency, and one which ought not to be interfered with. I recognise the heroism of Gentlemen like the last speaker, whom I strongly suspect to be among the plural voters, who come forward and say, "We are perfectly willing to give up some of our votes," but my submission is that you are moving in the wrong direction, because you are depriving places "A" or "B" of having among them a man who will help them.


Yes, playing football.


Why should he not play football? I have yet to learn that because a man plays football he is disqualified for a vote. The most extreme men in this House have not yet proposed to disfranchise men because they play football. I will point out one anomaly which presses for solution much more than the granted anomaly which is dealt with in this Bill. At the present time hon. Members who are returned to this House are left to pay the returning officer's expenses. I think that is the most ridiculous anomaly of all. It is said, I dare say very properly, that in order to secure the purity of elections certain officers ought to be appointed. That is done in the interests of the community and for the protection of the State, and, that being so, what logical reason can there be for placing the expenses on the shoulders of the candidates? You are going to leave that anomaly. There has been no suggestion from the opposite side of the House that that anomaly is going to be remedied either contemporaneously with this Bill or contemporaneously with the Redistribution scheme which has been promised.


I said yesterday that we would be quite prepared to propose a measure of that kind if the Opposition would accept the proposal.


I am very glad to hear it, and I only hope the Government will soon exercise the opportunities they have of introducing such a Bill. Speaking for myself, it certainly will have my hearty support. I feel considerable apprehension as to what the intentions of the Government are with regard to the other promise they have made to introduce a Redistribution scheme. I accept their pledge. I accept their word that such a scheme will be introduced, but I observe with some apprehensions that they limit their undertaking to the word "introduction." [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, no."] Some hon. Member says, "Oh, no," but I would remind him that a short time ago the right hon. Gentleman was asked whether he would insert a Clause in this Bill providing that it should not become operative unless a Redistribution scheme was also operative at the next election, and he refused. I therefore repeat that the Government have given no pledge that they will pass a Redistribution Bill and that it shall be operative before the next election. The Government may perfectly well fulfil their pledge by introducing a scheme at such a time that it cannot possibly become law or by introducing it under such conditions that they cannot hope to get it passed. They would then be within the absolute letter of their undertaking, and they would be able to get up and say, "All we said was that we would introduce a scheme; we have, and we regret very much that it has not passed." Meanwhile this Bill will have been passed, and the next election will take place with the glaring anomaly of misrepresentation in this House unremedied and untouched. All that will have been touched is the anomaly from which Liberals think they suffer and the abolition of which is admittedly going to give them a party advantage. I would like to ask another question: When that Redistribution scheme is introduced, is it going to be purely a scheme of Redistribution or is it going to be compli- cated with other alleged reforms of the franchise?

If it is going to be a Redistribution scheme pure and simple which we can consider, I cannot suppose it will meet with substantial opposition from any quarter, but if, when introduced, it is going to be only part of a Bill which contains a lot of highly controversial matter, then again the Government will be able to fulfil their pledge according to the letter, although not to the spirit, by saying, "We have introduced a scheme of Redistribution. It is true there are other things in the Bill, but, unless you accept it as a whole, it cannot pass, and we shall have fulfilled our pledge." Consequently, the election may take place without any Redistribution scheme. I hope that whoever replies on behalf of the Government will be good enough to state clearly if their Redistribution scheme is to be Redistribution pure and simple, or if it is to be complicated with other reforms which may prevent its passing into law. I really feel very sorry for the owner of plural votes in the future, and I cannot help thinking that the hon. Gentleman who last spoke will also be sorry for him. Just consider the way in which the poor man is going to be worried and harassed. Why should he not have the votes at a General Election which he is to be allowed to exercise at by-elections? That, as Lord Dundreary says, "is one of those things no fellow can understand."

Everybody can understand how the election agent will worry the unfortunate owner of plural votes. He will literally be afraid of the election agent. I remember a very distinguished friend of mine, who was of great age, telling me of the old days when elections took place at the hustings. At one election the voting was equal and an unfortunate elector had been brought all the way back from France to register his vote. In those days the elections lasted a long time. He arrived on the field where the bands were playing, and the partisans of both candidates immediately rushed at him, dragged him out of his carriage, and bore him triumphantly to the polling booth. The result was that the poor old gentleman got so flurried that he voted for the wrong candidate, and the man for whom he voted secured a seat in Parliament for seven years. The fate of that old gentleman will be as nothing compared with that of the unfortunate plural voter in the future, and I hope that, in his interests, as well as in the public interests generally, there will be some modification of this Bill by the Government before it passes into law. I hope, too, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us the pledge for which I have asked, that the Redistribution scheme will be one which can be accepted by all parties.


I welcome this opportunity of saying a few words in support of this Bill and of thanking the Government, on my own behalf, as well as for my Constituents, for having announced their intention to press forward at the earliest possible moment the completion of this much needed and long overdue measure of reform. I welcome the Bill and shall vote for it, although it does not go so far as we could wish. It is a very small Bill. Its operative Clause is practically contained within four lines. But it will do good, and it certainly is a step in the right direction. It will not eliminate the plural voter altogether, but it will mitigate the evil. The hon. Gentleman who last spoke drew a lurid picture of the difficulties of the plural voter of the future. I do not think that in practice his trouble will be so great after all. Like the hon. Gentleman, I am a plural voter. I am qualified to vote in five divisions, and, in order to be perfectly certain of voting for a good man, I may be driven to the extreme necessity of voting for myself. I do not think that the fact that the voter has to choose is a great evil. For my own part I am willing to bear with it if the plural vote is eliminated from the Bill altogether. But we shall have to wait until the larger measure of franchise reform, which we expect to get next year, is introduced and carried into law. I want to see one man one vote and every man a voter, and though this Bill will not give that I am not going to be driven into lukewarm support simply because we do not get in this measure all we want in this direction. I should be glad to see the vote confined by this Bill to the residential qualification, but if that cannot be, I hope and believe that in the Bill promised for next year which I for my own part am willing to wait for, we shall be able to secure that reform. I take this Bill as an earnest of the intentions of the Government to seriously tackle the larger question of registration and electoral reform for which many of us have waited so long. I cordially support the Bill, and shall go into the Lobby and vote for it with the greatest possible pleasure.


I should like to say a few words on the question of what these plural voters are. I consider myself that they are men who really take a greater interest in politics and in elections than ordinary people. If the plural voter has to exercise his vote and does so at several elections, it shows that he takes a great interest in them. We were told the other night, when the demand was made for further time to enable votes to be recorded, that always an hour or two before the close of a poll there were numbers of men hanging about who could not make up their minds whether or not to vote, or who to vote for. We were also told there were others who would not vote unless they were fetched in cabs, and that there were still others who insisted on being sent for in motor cars. Does not all this difficulty in getting men to the poll point to the fact that men who will not only vote where they can easily do so, close to their own residences, but will take the trouble to travel long distances and spend considerable sums of money out of their own pockets for the purpose of voting at elections, are by far the best class of voter? Indifferentism is a great disadvantage: one of the greatest you can have in politics. Plural voters are not indifferent, as is shown by the fact that we hear of men travelling from the South of France and going all about the country in order to exercise the franchise. It shows, at any rate, that they are keen in the matter, and a keen politician is worth a great deal more, and his opinion is worth a great deal more, than that of a man who can only be persuaded with the greatest difficulty, to vote at all. I do not know how the hon. Member acquired his plural votes, but some of the plural voters have inherited them, although the greater bulk of them are men who have bought either houses or other property, which gives them the necessary qualification.

9.0 P.M.

We want to encourage such men by every possible means to go on as they have begun, saving their money and investing it, and securing a greater stake in the country. I know classes of people in my own Constituency who have done this. I know porters at the railway station, who have by dint of hard saving, bought a little house in the country and have their votes there as well as in the borough. It is to the interest of each party to encourage and assist such men. We are told that the man who has a vote holds his head higher than the man who has not, for he considers he has a stake in the country. If that is so, a man who has two votes, and who buys another little place somewhere else, thereby getting another vote, will hold his head higher still, and take a double interest in affairs. He will say, "I am a county voter; I have bought a little place over there, and have got another vote." It is a commendable thing to encourage such people to put their fortunes into house property or land, which will give them another vote, and it will encourage thrift. If that does not give them a stake in the country, I do not know what will. I do not know any safer or better way for the working classes to invest their money, without risk of losing it, than to put it into small property of this kind, which will not run away. One of the things I have always regretted is the small opportunity the working classes have to invest their money. They often get deceived and taken in with regard to speculations and lose their money. If they buy property such as I have suggested, they know it will not run away. These are the men who get plural votes, and who ought to be encouraged in this country, yet under this Bill you are going to take away the second vote for which they have possibly struggled or invested their savings. It will not be a good day's work for thrift or for the encouragement of the very best class of people in the country, the men for whom Parliament ought to have the greatest regard. They are keen politicians; they exercise their votes. We say the people are indifferent to our doings, yet you want to discourage men by this Bill. As regards the extraordinary overrepresentation of Ireland, there is one thing that has not been mentioned in this Debate. It is acknowledged that they have about double the representation they ought to have. I was talking one day with a French Member of Parliament, and was surprised to find he knew so much about our franchise as he did. He said there was one thing he could never understand about Englishmen, and could not make out at all. He said we were the most patriotic people in the whole world, but that he understood Ireland sent Members to Parliament who said they did not want to come, and who took no interest in the questions affecting this country. I have heard them say so. I will not say they are disloyal, but they are not so loyal as the inhabitants of these islands. We know that from what has happened in re- gard to the flag and other things. They do not show that outward sign of loyalty to which we are accustomed. The French gentleman said he could not understand why we gave a double representation to them as compared with other parts of the country. It has often struck me what a strange thing it is that we should sit here and listen to remarks from hon. Members below the Gangway—I have heard such remarks many times since I have been a Member of this House—and it is remarkable that they should be given twice the weight that most of the votes in English constituencies have. I am not satisfied with the promise made by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill with regard to sailors, fishermen, and other people who may be absent on election day. We all say they are the most worthy people, and that there is no one we should be less inclined to disfranchise than one of those men. We had a Franchise Bill brought in about a couple of months ago, in which nothing was done for the sailors or fishermen. If the Government had been in earnest about them, why did they not provide for them. I myself drafted an Amendment to that Bill, dealing with that case, but the Bill was not proceeded with, and nothing happened with regard to it. Now the representative of the Government says that when the Redistribution Bill or the next Franchise Bill comes on they will be prepared to make some arrangement whereby fishermen, sailors, and people who may be absent shall be able to vote. It is a pity they did not do it when they had the chance some weeks ago. The promise to deal with it in some future Bill, which may be brought in some day, does not satisfy me. I want to know for certain that the Bill, which is to include sailors and fishermen, is going to pass; that it will be brought in and passed in this Parliament, and that when the next election comes these men will be entitled to their votes. They should not be deprived of votes in the way you are going to deprive numbers of people of their second vote by this Bill. I shall certainly oppose this unless those other anomalies are done away with, because I have no assurance that when the election comes round again these fishermen will have obtained their votes. I do not believe they will.


The speech to which we have just listened ought to have been delivered before the County Government Act of the Tory Government was passed. In that Act one vote, and one vote only, was given to those in the county of London for the purpose of voting for members of the county council, whilst local votes for local purposes were retained by them, and you have in the county of London men and women who have a number of qualifications, each one of which can be used for each borough, but only one in any case can legally be used for the purpose of election to the county council. Why is that? The county councils deal with general questions affecting London as a whole, and in that matter the Tories themselves recognised that one man was as good as another, and that with regard to elections to the county council something like a referendum should be taken when the opinion of London people were gathered. Is not that true also of Parliament? We have been told that localities are represented here. We have been told that people are sent up to represent the local communities. My quarrel with plural voting is that that is exactly what it prevents. Take constituencies outside London. Take the constituency in which I live—Hornsey. There for years past we Lave had between two and three thousand persons living outside the district whose influence was never seen in the district, for whom provision was made in the city of London to record votes in consequence of qualifications owing to their holding New River Company's shares, or something of that kind, and these outsiders, who have nothing to do with the local community whatsoever except to draw dividends from one of the industrial undertakings in it, were able to outvote the local voters altogether. Plural voting means an outrage and a wrong—it is more than an anomaly—which leaves behind it a sense of rankling injustice in many constituencies throughout the country after each general election, and if this Bill, small as it is, will do anything to rectify that injustice, which is more than an anomaly, I am enthusiastically for it. After all, it is long overdue.

For thirty years past the Liberal party have been pledged to deal with it at the first possible opportunity. They were prevented in the last Parliament by the action of the House of Lords. Now the House of Lords cannot prevent their passing their measures and the question is being taken up. Two kinds of complaints are made against this attempt at legislation. The first is that it does not do everything, and the other is that it does anything at all. There are many anomalies which we, on this side of the House, are much more anxious to clear out of the way than hon. Members opposite. There are many anomalies which have been referred to this afternoon. We also want Redistribution, but we want before Redistribution franchise reform and the abolition of plural voting, so that when we have these two things passed we shall be able to tell how many electors there are in each district throughout the country and be able to redistribute on just lines. I think I understand why hon. Members opposite are so anxious to push forward Redistribution. They know very well that the moment Redistribution is passed we must go to the country. They think they will bring nearer a General Election. Our programme is not finished yet. We have quite a number of things to do and we want to get these things done—things which we were commissioned to do at the last General Election and which we intend to get through—and I have great faith in the ability of the Government to get them through before another General Election, and Redistribution is naturally about the last thing that any Parliament should be called upon to deal with.

We have had one or two attempts to justify plural voting. The hon. Member (Mr. Fell) attempted to justify it on the ground that a man who had acquired qualifications in two or three different districts would take a greater interest in public affairs than a man who had only one public interest. But he misunderstood, or at any rate misstated, the argument of those of us who spoke on this side of the House last Friday on the Bill for lengthening the hours of voting. We did not complain of the indifference of people who had to be persuaded to go to the poll and could not make up their minds until the last moment. What we complained of was that men who had made up their minds, and would register their votes if they had the opportunity, were shut out because the conditions of their employment prevented their returning home in time to register their votes. The Gentlemen who tried to prevent that measure from passing—a measure which would increase the facilities and would enable them to register their votes—are the men who to-day are opposing this attempt to bring about something like justice between the different classes of voters throughout the country. The other justification was made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith). He said, "Here are two men; they both begin as workmen. One remains a workman all his life and the other builds up a successful business. Ought not you to expect greater political wisdom from that gentleman than from the other one who does not succeed? His success is measured by the amount of money he has accumulated and by the extent of the business he builds up." I do not think that political wisdom, and I know that public spirit does not always accompany the accumulation of money. I thought, as I heard the right hon. Gentleman speak, of two men who have been hon. Members of this House. One died only a few weeks ago. The late Mr. Robert Cameron died leaving no property behind him—almost nothing at all. He did not in all his life accumulate any large funds. Who will deny to him the possession of political wisdom equally great as is possessed by the great banker or the great landlord, and the possession of public spirit, which no one who ever knew him would think of denying to him?

The other example that came to my mind was that of perhaps the greatest leader the Tory party ever had—Lord Beaconsfield—who died a poor man. He had spent nearly the whole of his life in the service of his country. I suppose hon. Members opposite would not measure the political wisdom of that great statesman by the amount of property which he left. We on this side of the House believe that each man ought to have a vote and that no man ought to have more than one vote. We believe that the possession of property and the possession of character will, in themselves, tell on the public life of the country, will in themselves give the natural and proper advantages which attach to the possession of these things, but that when it conies to the registering of a vote the poor man, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Chamberlain) more needs it for the protection of himself and his interests than does the rich man, who has other means of protection, and if this Plural Voting Bill will bring about something more nearly like equality in the conditions which obtain in different parts of the country it will receive the enthusiastic support of every real democrat. May I refer to the bravery with which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Hume-Williams) justifies his opposition to this measure on the ground that plural voting was founded on justice and was in favour of democracy? It is a very curious kind of democracy, and I do not know any Member belonging to any democratic party who would adopt that view. I shall support this Bill as an instalment of a very much larger measure, which I hope to see soon. I want to see many other anomalies removed, but I think it is no reason for voting against the removal of one injustice that you should not remove all existing injustices.


The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Chancellor) told us that one of the justifications for passing this measure is the fact that in the year 1888, or somewhere about that time, the then Conservative party provided in the County Councils Bill that in London an elector for the county council should only vote in one constituency. My answer to that is that the elections for the London County Council are not elections for the High Court of Parliament. The London County Council may be, and probably is—certainly it is at the present moment—a most estimable body, but it is not the body which has to govern the greatest Empire the world has ever seen, and to say that because you elect what is, after all, only the successor of the vestries in a particular manner, you are to elect the Members for the ancient court of Parliament in the same manner, is to show, to my mind, that the hon. Gentleman, who is by no means deficient in speech or argument, is so hard up for any argument to justify this Bill, that he is bound to bring forward an argument of that sort, which will not hold water in the least degree. I have a further criticism to make upon that particular illustration. I have never held that the Tory party are always right. The Tory party make occasional mistakes—not so many mistakes as the Radical party. That was one of them. It was done at a moment when there was some sort of idea that the old existing traditions, and the old existing methods should be changed. I am not quite certain that that is a good principle to go upon. I am not sure that we cannot learn wisdom from our ancestors which is worth following. But whether or not the Tory party were right at that particular moment, it is no argument in justification of this particular. Bill. Then the hon. Gentleman went on to say—I hope I am not misrepresenting him—that one of the reasons in favour of the Bill is that one man is as good as another. I do not agree with him. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is the judge?"] There is the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General sitting on the bench opposite. He has great influence in the Cabinet. He has to judge what hon. Members opposite are not fit to sit on that bench, and he has judged that some other Members who are conspicuous by their absence at present, are fit to sit on that bench. If you want any better illustration of the fact that all men are not equal, I am afraid I cannot help you. The hon. Gentleman opposite also said something about wealth, and he seemed to be under the impression that because a man was wealthy he was not intelligent.




I thought the hon. Gentleman was going to qualify that remark, but I understand that his qualification consists in denying it.


The hon. Baronet is quite competent to represent or misrepresent anything I say. I said that it does not necessarily follow that a man is intelligent because he is wealthy.


I am not so sure. My experience in life is that it is very difficult to make out. It is not by any manner of means easy to make money. The hon. Gentleman opposite may say, "Perhaps that is true, but how about the man who has inherited money? It did not require any intelligence to inherit money." That is quite true, but it requires great intelligence to use money properly. Therefore, whichever way you look at it, whether you look at it from the point of view of the acquisition of money or the keeping of money, both things require considerable intelligence. There is another way of looking at it, and that is that a person who has a stake in the country is more likely to exercise his vote in a calm and dispassionate manner. After all, what is he likely to say to himself when he is asked to exercise his vote in the selection of a Member for this honourable House? I think he is likely to say to himself, "Which of these particular candidates is likely in the long run to exercise the privileges I am going to confer upon him in the interest of the country, and who is likely to look with a calm and dispassionate judgment upon the proposals brought forward, not with regard to the immediate future of these proposals, but with regard to their ultimate effect?" I venture to say it is the man who has got some wealth and some stake in the country.

In saying that I am not in the least casting any slur upon the man who has not got this qualification, but I say, human nature being what it is, the temptation to a man who has not some stake in the country—I believe we would all do it—is to say, "It really does not very much matter what is going to happen in ten or twenty years' time. I am not well off at present, and Mr. So-and-so is going to do something when he gets into the House of Commons by some Act of Parliament which is going to put into my pocket a certain amount of money—unearned increment in fact." Unearned increment applies to a great number of people, and the natural consequence is that those particular persons who have no money at the present moment may say, "I need not care what is going to happen ten or twenty years hence. I have children, but they have to make their own way in the world. Therefore, I will take the unearned increment which is going to accrue for the moment." It is evident, without casting any aspersion any particular class of people, that the man who has sonic little stake in the country is more likely to exercise the soundest judgment. If it is exercised against hon. Gentlemen opposite, it is a regrettable circumstance, but the voter does it, and he has a right to do it if he thinks he is serving the interest of the country. I remember not so many months ago having a conversation with a very astute man of business in the City of London. He said to me, "Well, you know I always prefer to have negotiations with men who have got some money." I asked, "Why?" and he replied, "They are no better than poor men, probably in some ways they may be worse, but they are not exposed to the same temptations." That, to my mind, sums up the whole matter. The hon. and learned Member for North-West Norfolk devoted a great part of his speech to a recapitulation of the Redistribution scheme which the Conservative Government brought forward in 1905, and pointed out to his own satisfaction that that was a scheme for benefiting the Conservative party, apparently at the expense of the Radical party. I think that that is very likely. I cannot say that I altogether disagree with it. But what happened to the Redistribution scheme, which incurred the satire of the hon. and learned Gentleman? We abandoned it.


The Speaker struck it out.


I do not think that the hon. and learned Member was in the House at the time. I was in the House, and I know perfectly well what occurred The Speaker said that there should be either two or three Resolutions instead of one, and we ultimately abandoned it. We could have brought it in on these two or three Resolutions, whichever it was.


It was not abandoned at all. It was referred to a Committee, over which Mr. Gerald Balfour presided.


It was not brought forward. The introduction was to be in a form. The Speaker ruled that the form was not right. But that was no reason why it could not have been brought forward in the form which the Speaker ruled was right.


But the proposals were never withdrawn. They were still alive when the catastrophe overtook the Government.


I have not the slightest objection to the hon. Member withdrawing the Plural Voting Bill and still keeping it alive. It would simplify the discussion. We should then both be in the same position. We should both be keeping our principles alive and doing nothing to advance them. I am perfectly prepared to meet the hon. and learned Member in that way. He may keep his principles alive, and I will keep mine alive. If he will not do any more than keep them alive, it is a very excellent idea. The hon. Member who spoke last seemed to be very indignant because certain shareholders in the New River Company had votes at some remote time in his constituency. After all, the New River Company did a great deal for his constituency in the past.


The shareholders did not.


I do not see the relevancy of that interruption. The shareholders in the past had to find the money. Without the money, the channel through which the New River flows could not have been dug. Therefore, the shareholders, in providing the money to dig the channel, which gave employment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, did a great deal for it. But why should they not have votes? They have an interest. I do not know whether they all voted against the hon. Gentleman.


I was not a candidate.


Or against his predecessor. But I fail to perceive why they should not have a vote in that particular constituency. I do not quite see why they had not votes in the City of London, because, as far as I know, no shareholders in the New River Company had votes in the City of London on account of—


Provision was made to enable them in the City of London to cast their votes for the candidate for Hornsey.


I have not any objection to certain people exercising the franchise in the City of London. It did not affect me or any of my predecessors, and I am very pleased that they should have given employment to a registration clerk, or somebody of that sort, in the City of London. To come back to the principle of plural voting, in my humble opinion plural voting is a very good thing, and has only one fault—there is not enough of it. What I should like to see is that everyone who has shown that he is a useful citizen and added to the wealth of the country should be allowed to vote not only for the place where he happens to have a stake and interest, but according to the rateable value of his house, and that where a man has shown that he has worked hard and saved money, instead of one vote in the City of London he ought to have three or four. That principle, I believe, is adopted in Belgium. I believe that they had a strike there recently which resulted in the defeat of the strikers. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Then I believe that the matter is still alive, and I hope that it will remain alive, and do nothing more. After all, it is a sensible thing that someone who has deserved well of his country, may be, should receive some reward for so doing. The hon. and learned Member agrees with the hon. Member who spoke last that people who have made money are insignificant people with intelligence of a very inferior order. But the hon. and learned Member, by his support of this Bill, is going to injure university representation. Now the university representation consists of another order of being. It consists of people who have received the very best education which they can possibly obtain. Why the hon. and learned Gentleman should rank those people with the mere ordinary person, who succeeds after many a hard struggle in making money and adding to the wealth of the country, which the hon. and learned Gentleman is taxing and is very anxious to tax I do not know.


I do not consider it the very best kind of education that is possible, but one of the very worst.


The hon. and learned Member, I believe, is a Winchester man. So am I. And he is also, I believe, an Oxford man. I do not want to say anything uncomplimentary, but I am not at all sure that the education which the hon. and learned Gentleman has had has had a good effect on him in that particular instance. I should have thought that the education given at Oxford or Cambridge was, to put it no higher, at least as good as the education in an ordinary board school. To return to the effect that this particular Bill will have, suppose that plural voting is abolished, what will happen? Take my own Constituency—["Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer ironically. I think that I can tell you one thing. I would still be here. Therefore I am not approaching this matter in any kind of selfish way, but I do think it quite possible that the number of votes cast for a Conservative candidate in the City of London would be different from what it is to-day, and it is also possible that the people who did vote might not be quite the same sort of people as those who vote at present. But why should people who are legitimately entitled to a vote in the City of London not exercise it because they also happened to have a vote somewhere else? I do not want unduly to exalt the City which I have the honour to represent, but I may say without contradiction that it is the greatest city which the world has ever seen.

If that be so why should not the people who have made that city and worked in it every day of their lives have a vote for that great city? Why should it be a matter more or less of hole and corner arrangements? Why should my agent consult with all the agents in Surrey, Kent, the West End of London, and the various places and villages contiguous to London and say, "We can spare a vote here and spare a vote there"—because this is what is going to take place—in order that they may still retain the Conservative representation of the City of London, and also the Conservative representation of the place in which the voter happens to dwell. It seems to me perfectly absurd that such a proposal should ever have been brought forward, but if it is to be brought forward surely it should be as part of some great scheme which is going to alter the representation of this country. It should not be brought forward in a small Bill which is only to apply to a general election, and which does not apply to other elections. On what possible grounds can we say that if there is an election in the City of London and in St. George's, Hanover Square, that a person having a vote in both those places can vote at a by-election, but at a General Election, which is much more important, he cannot exercise that vote. Of all ludicrous attempts at legislation which have ever been brought forward, even by hon. Gentlemen opposite, this is one of them. What really are the facts of the case? They are these. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are not very secure in their seats at the present moment, their £400 a year is trembling in the balance, and they do not want to lose it. I do not blame them for that. I think it is a very natural feeling to have, but at any rate they can, when they next go to the country say, "Here we are, we are all equal," for if all men are equal we are all equal in this House at the present moment. Let them go to the country and say, "Here are 670 of us, all equal, choose the best." Do not let them endeavour to alter the franchise, which will give an advantage to them without any reasonable ground for so doing, and greatly to the disadvantage of this Parliament. I shall have very great pleasure in voting against the Bill.


It appears to me that our views upon this subject will depend entirely upon the answer given to the question, "What is the basis of the vote?" The hon. Baronet has put the basis of the vote on the number of stakes a man has in his country. We have been told by another speaker that responsibility is the basis of the vote. A third hon. Member suggested that wisdom was the basis of the vote. It is none of these things. It is not land. If land were the basis of the vote, a man with ten times as much land as another, would have ten times as many votes. If wealth were the basis of the vote, a man who had ten times as much wealth as another, would have ten times as many votes. If education and culture were the basis of the vote, then a man with ten times the education and culture of another would have ten times the voting power. The basis of the vote is not in any of these things. What is the basis of the vote? The Debate so far has been severely practical, and I may be pardoned if I humbly try to make it severely academic. I want to ask myself first, what is the basis of the vote; secondly, what is the function of the voter; and, thirdly, what is the necessary capacity of the voter. The basis of the vote in my opinion is the biological interests of the individual. I use the word biological as opposed to the social interests of the individual, because that term is often misunderstood. The biological interests of the individual are the basis of the vote. As to the second question—the function of the voter is the selection of a man to represent his biological interests, and nothing more. The capacity of the voter to select a man is due to an instinct of trust or confidence that is common to all animals, whether the lowest or the highest.

I want to elaborate these academic propositions and see what conclusions we can arrive at. As to the biological interests of the individual. Take a concrete example from a slum where there is a widow and five children. What are the biological interests of that woman? You will not be long in finding out in conversing with her. She will tell you that food is dear, that rent is high, that taxes are heavy, that the roof lets in the weather, that the neighbour throws her slops into her yard. These are the woman's biological interests, they are her interests in life, they are her stake in the country. The hon. Baronet spoke of a stake in the country as if it merely meant wealth, so many pounds, so much money; he cannot get his mind away from that. If you want a perfect and comprehensive definition of what biological interests are you will find it in the Bible. Let me refer you to Ezra, who proclaimed a fast in order that those who accompanied him might seek of God a right way for "themselves, their little ones, and all their substance." Himself, his little ones, his substance. That is the concrete definition of biological interests. The social unit to-day is the man, his family, and his substance. If that be so men's interests are equal. The widow's interests are the same as the interests of the man in his castle—herself, her little one and her substance, and her highest function is to preserve her health, to preserve her little ones, to preserve her substance. This House is nothing more nor less than the clearing house of the people's interests. This woman's interests impinge upon her life, upon the life of her little ones, and upon her substance. However small or however great those interests are is a matter of pure indifference. A stake in the country is not measured by the abundance of things possessed, but by the biological interests of individuals. The widow in her life has to make great sacrifices to promote the happiness and welfare of her family.

There is no essential difference between the biological interests of one individual and another. In this respect all are equal. The hon. Baronet said one man was not as good as another; but it is not goodness, it is human interest which is the question. We go down to this widow, and we find that her interests have a right to be voiced and represented in this House. Who is to do it? The second proposition relates to the function of the voter. What is the political function of that woman as a social unit? Her function is not to arrive at a conclusion upon whether Free Trade is right or whether Tariff Reform is right. They need not concern her. Her function as a voter is to select the man who knows her interests and who will represent them in this clearing house. That is her political function, nothing more nor less. That is a very simple function. When Mr. A. B. calls and tells her that her food will cost her more if it is taxed, that her interests will be advanced by a new housing scheme, and that the sanitation laws require to be improved, and explains his method of protecting those interests, she has the capacity of saying whether or not she will trust A.B. or C.D., both of whom have appealed to her, having made themselves acquainted with her interests and her environment. We do not require wisdom then, we do not require culture, we do not require education, any more than we require land or wealth, for the exercise of the function of the voter. He makes a selection. The third proposition relates to the capacity of the voter to make that selection. That capacity is common to all animals. A mob of horses selects by common consent—its vote—a leader to lead them. I have followed a mob of horses on the prairies and by common consent of all the voters they have selected a leader to lead them and protect their biological interests. They follow their leader and that is nothing more or less than an instinctive selection of a horse whom they trust. In a mob of sheep you will find there is a bell-wether. There is an instinctive trust in all those sheep in one to represent and preserve their interests, and lead them out of danger.

Savages instinctively trust some one to represent their biological interests and they follow him. They know nothing about manœuvres or military disposition, or about the geography of the country, but they instinctively select one savage to lead them on, and that savage is the savage chief. Alexander the Great led because those who followed him trusted him. They knew nothing about military prowess or the geography of the country, but by common consent they selected him. Those who followed Napoleon did the same. Those who followed me in Stirlingshire did the same, not because they thought me capable of solving any of the great problems of the day, but they voted for me because they trusted me to represent them in this clearing house. That is a comparatively simple function. I have followed this academic line in answering these three questions. The basis of the vote is biological; the function of the voter is to select a person to represent those interests, and voice them in this clearing house, and the capacity of the voter depends on an instinctive trust or confidence in the person for whom they vote. If then that course of reasoning is right, we come to this conclusion, that if each individual man or woman, as a social unit, has interests to be represented in this House, each is entitled to an equal voice, and therefore we demand for them one vote, and one vote only. If you could weigh heads instead of counting them, there might be some justification for the statement made to us that wisdom was the basis. Belgium tried to weigh heads instead of counting them. She gave to those with academic qualifications three votes, and with commercial qualifications two, and others one. That system has proved a disastrous failure. There is only way, and that is to look upon each social unit as one individual having equal interests with all others, ignoring wealth and position and "stake in the country," and having regard to the vital interests only. On that reasoning every individual man or woman should have a vote provided they are not disqualified in other ways, and because this Bill is a concession to these principles which I hold strongly, I am going to support it.


The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken was quite right in informing us that he was not going to give us a very practical speech. I cannot say I found it uninteresting. He gave me some entirely new information. For instance, in regard to history he said that the followers of Alexander the Great chose him. I was rather under the impression that Alexander was the son of a King.


They followed him by common consent.


I think they followed him because they could not help themselves. Then the hon. Member told us, as an illustration of the principle on which Members should be selected, that, savages instinctively chose their chief, and he put in the same category Alexander, Napoleon, and himself. He was justified, of course, in doing it in regard to himself, but I think it was hard on Alexander and Napoleon. The hon. Member in the really academic part of his speech told us that the function of the voter was to protect his biological interests. I think the biological interests of the individual is one of the things which is most important in connection with the House of Commons and the Government of this country, but, if I may venture to say so, there is something else which is also important, and that is the biological interests of the State as apart from the individual. Therefore the basis of the vote should have some reference to the effect on the State as well as on the welfare of individuals in the State. It was probably because of the purely academic attitude of the hon. Member that the illustration which he selected, that of a widow, is rather apart from the common practice, for the hon. Member, I gather, forgot for the moment that his illustration had this defect, that in spite of her biological interests the widow would not have, in fact, and could not have anything to say in the selection of any man. I am much obliged to the hon. Member for giving me this material with which to begin on a subject which is very limited, and in regard to which everything that can be said on one side or the other has been said already.

The object of this Bill is also pretty clear, and it is not in doubt on the part of any hon. Member in whatever quarter of the House he sits. My right hon. Friend (Mr. F. E. Smith), who moved the Amendment from this bench yesterday, asked the right hon. Gentleman who was to follow him to establish a record for political honesty by declaring frankly that the object of the Government in introducing this Bill was to gerrymander the constituencies in their interests. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pease) did not adopt the exact words of my right hon. Friend, but told us he would be as frank as he could, and he was fairly frank. In substance he accepted the definition which my right hon. Friend gave, but he qualified it by the tu quoque argument that it was party interest which made us oppose it. That is interesting, and it carries us a certain length. The right hon. Gentleman cannot know what our motives are; he can guess them, and he may guess them accurately. But he does know what his own motives are, and it is interesting at least to know, apart altogether from what the motives of the Opposition may be, that the motive of the Government in introducing this Bill is to secure their party interests. As my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Andrews University pointed out, this is a new departure in this House. It is true that other parties have accused particular Governments of gerrymandering the constituencies, but this is the first time that any Government has specifically admitted that that was their object in the legislation which they introduced.

10.0 P.M.

The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education made an observation yesterday to which I must take exception. He claimed that we had made an advance in that we admitted that plural voting was an anomaly. We make no such admission. The Amendment contains the word "professes." I am not here to defend the English of the Amendment, but what was intended was simply to ask the House to reject this measure on the ground that, while the Government are professing to remedy one anomaly, they were leaving other anomalies, by their own admission far more important, unredressed. I do not admit that the plural vote in itself, under all circumstances, is an anomaly. I am quite ready to admit that there are some kinds of plural votes which are anomalous, and which I should be glad to see removed. There has been some talk of faggot votes. I suppose that hon. Members on all sides know that they were, if not first invented, at least first used by the predecessors of the party opposite. Now that they are no longer used in their favour, they naturally wish to abolish them. With that desire I have entire sympathy. I think the faggot vote is an anomaly. But there is another kind of plural voting which is not anomalous, but is strictly in accordance with the history and spirit of our representative system. Our system of representation in this House is based on the principle of the representation of different interests as typified in different localities. The Financial Secretary for the War Office this afternoon gave my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) the credit of having invented this idea. I do not grudge my right hon. Friend any compliments that may be paid him, but I should have thought that the fact was in the knowledge of anyone, even of the hon. Member below the Gangway, who told us that his education ended at his tenth year. If it is a part of our representative system that interests of localities should be represented here, then surely a man who happens not only to share the burdens in two localities, but takes his share in the actual life of two localities, should also have a share in the selection of the representatives who are to represent those two localities in this House. Every Member knows instances, just as I do, of particular men who have not only taken part in the civic life of the town or city in which they worked, but have been at the head of the municipal life of the city, and have also, at different times, been the head of the municipal life of the country district where they resided. Can anyone say that it is contrary to the spirit of our Constitution or in any way anomalous that a man fulfilling those duties should have a share in choosing the representative for each of those places? The anomaly would really be if that power were taken away from him.

In the same way, I think it is true, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend, that if localities and interests are to be represented, surely nothing is more reasonable than that such a body of interests as are represented in the City of London, interests which affect directly the welfare of the whole country, should have direct representation in this House. If there were no party motive involved I do not believe there is any Member present who would say that, if our object is to secure a fair representation of the whole interests of the country, a great locality like the City of London should not be represented in this House. I am inclined to take the same view in regard to education. I admit that it is in a sense different from the other qualifications, because it is of more recent growth; but I do not think it is contrary to the spirit of our representative institution. My Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) forcibly stated the case for some representation of education in this House. I do not suppose that this speech will have any influence upon the Government; but he brought forward one argument, and only one, which might possibly have had some influence. He suggested that he had and would put at the disposal of the Government a scheme which would give the party opposite a share in the representation of the educated classes. That would be attractive. If they thought there was any chance of obtaining that share, I believe they might adopt it. But I am afraid it will not attract them, for the reason that they will have a fear, and I think a justifiable fear, that their hold upon that class of support would not be more enduring than their hold now upon the gentlemen whom they place in another locality to represent them, and whose period of loyalty, I am told, does not exceed two or three years.

It has also been said, though I have not myself heard it in this Debate, that by adopting the Referendum in certain cases, especially when my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London pointed out that of course in that case each man would have only one vote, we had done away entirely with any right to oppose the abolition of plural voting. The two cases are not parallel. In the first place, the Referendum applies not to the system of representative government, but to the particular question which is to be submitted to the people. There is no question of representation of localities or anything else. It is only a question of getting the opinion of the whole of the people upon a particular point. More than that, and this entirely does away with any value in that argument, by making the whole Kingdom one constituency we automatically, of necessity, give to every vote the same value. I shall not attempt to discuss the general principle of representative government. It would obviously be out of place in regard to a Bill which touches only the fringe of the subject, and is frankly partisan. But there are two general observations that I should like to make. I have tried to follow the principle on which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite go in dealing with this matter. As afar as I can make out, their idea is that every citizen should have an equal share of electoral power. That is their idea. Well, in the progress of democratic government at different periods of the world's history that principle has been carried out to, I think, its utmost limit. You need go no further than Athens, where not only had the individual citizen equal power in selecting the Government, but where they adopted this principle—in order to make sure that there was no question of blank merit—they adopted this principle, that certain officers of State should be chosen by lot. We have not got that length yet.

The right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday that this Bill was a step in the direction of manhood suffrage. Another hon. Member crossed the "t's" and dotted the "i's" of that remark, for his idea was that every citizen who was not in prison or in the madhouse—it was good of him to include the madhouse—should have precisely the same electoral power. I understand that principle, but I should like to put this point to hon. Gentlemen opposite who hold it, and who are not in favour of manhood suffrage, How can they justify that? I am not going to make a speech on Women Suffrage. Heaven forbid! I have escaped so far—and I have been rather lucky. I have never made a speech on it either in this House or out of it, and I am not going to take the opportunity now. I do understand thoroughly the princple on whch people act who hold the view that I hold, that the franchise is not a right but a privilege, and that those who hold it should not part with it unless they believe that those to whom they give it will add to the strength and security of the State. I can understand people who take that view saying, "We will not give votes to women, because we think it will not add to the strength and security of the State." But what about the point of view of people who say that every citizen has a right to equal electoral power, and yet would not give it to women? They can only justify that in one way—again taking the illustration of what happened in Greece. Every citizen had equal power, but below the citizens was a great slave population, who had no power. In my deliberate opinion, any man who holds that view and refuses to give votes for women can only justify it in the belief that women are not citizens, but the slaves of men! The other general observation that I would like to make is this: That I wonder what the idea of hon. Gentlemen opposite is as to what a proper system of representative government is. They tell us that the majority should rule. I agree. That is the basis of all representative government. But do they mean by that that only the majority should be represented in this House? Do they not think that where you have a proper system of representative Government, that system will be right or wrong, just in proportion as the minority, as well as the majority, is properly represented in this House? If they do not take that view, is it not obvious that the right way would be to have the whole of the 070 Members elected at one time, so that the whole House should consist of people of one party? I should like to see the House in that condition for one year, though I should not like to be a Member of it. If that is not their view, is it not obvious that the right hon. Gentleman was wrong when he said that in removing this anomaly—as he considered it—he was not creating any other anomaly?

Take the position in Scotland. I have had the total votes cast at the last election counted up, and I find that in all the contested elections 44 per cent. of the votes were given to Unionists. There were a good many seats not contested—eighteen I think—so that making allowance for that I am within the mark in saying that 40 per cent. of the electorate of Scotland is Unionist. Yet out of the whole seventy-four Members we only have got eight. An hon. Member who comes from Scotland told us yesterday that plural voting was especially bad in Scotland. Is it not perfectly evident that if, in spite of plural voting the Unionist party get in Scotland only a fraction of the representatives to which they are entitled, that if you make this change, instead of making this House more representative, you are making it far less representative? I am quite sure that if any hon. Member in this House, who is ready to give attention to the subject, were free from party bias, and realised that the object of representative government is not to give one party or the other power in the country, but to have a fair representation of all views, that the last thing they would do would be to make a change which gives a minority a smaller share of representation than that which it ought to have, and they would not have touched it without they could have dealt with the whole subject so as to make sure that in redressing one grievance they were not creating others!

To come to the grounds on which the Government themselves defend this Bill. What are those grounds? They do not pretend that the anomaly, as they call it, which will be touched by this Bill is the greatest anomaly. On the contrary, the Prime Minister himself said last year, when he was announcing the abandonment of the Franchise Bill of last Session, that Redistribution was not less but the more important than electoral reform. If it is more important than the whole question of electoral reform it must be very much more important than the question of plural voting. Why, then do they deal only with this? Is there any explanation, except that they are going to get a party advantage out of it? Is it not obvious—I put this to any fair-minded man—that the very object they are trying to get by abolishing plural voting is effected by the question of Redistribution? Their object is to try and give each citizen the same electoral power. If one man is a voter in a constituency that has only a thirtieth of the electorate of another constituency, his share of political power is thirty times as great as that of the other man. Therefore, he is thirty times a plural voter. I should have thought that you could not justly touch the mere fringe of that anomaly without dealing with the bigger part of it at the same time.

The Prime Minister—I am speaking from recollection—told us that Redistribution would help his party. That is a statement which is easily made, but it is somewhat difficult to prove, and in any case, if you look at this question not from the point of view of party interests, but from the point of view of the interests of the country, you would not need to ask of such an anomaly how it affects this party or the other. You would ask which is the greater, and make sure that the one you remedied first was the one in which the evil was greatest. Though there is no proof that the Prime Minister is right or wrong, there is evidence, which I think is pretty conclusive, that he is wrong. If the opinion of the Government really were that Redistribution would help their case, I think, as the hon. Member thinks, that in that case we should have had a Redistribution Bill. Human nature being as it is—and the Government being specially human—I think in that case we should have had a Redistribution Bill. But what is the use of arguing? We have there below the Gangway a conclusive proof staring us in the face that the want of Redistribution is an advantage to the Government. It has doubled their representation. There is one class—I will not call them followers, but one class of their supporters—who have been most useful to them; one class upon whose votes they can depend, and that have saved them over and over again from defeat. Owing to the want of Redistribution, those votes are frequently twice as numerous as they ought to be.


It will be cut in halves by Home Rule.


Yes, but that is rather in the distance. The right hon. Gentleman who is going to follow relies on the Act of Union. That is a statement that is constantly being made in connection with this Bill. It implies this. That for all time, no matter how the population of Great Britain may have increased, or the population of Ireland diminished, we are always to have 100 Irish Members in this House. How many of those who make that claim have ever read the Act of Union. Precious few I am sure! There is not a word in the Act of Union which puts these 100 Members on a different footing from any other part of the Act. It is in precisely the same position as the constituencies which were to return these 100 Members, and they have been altered over and over again. There was one Clause in the Act, which specifically states it was binding, and that was the question of the connection between the English and Irish Church, but the one and only Clause so far as I remember, which was to be binding for all time, was broken. Now, when my hon. Friend, who moved this Amendment raised that point, someone on the other side said it was broken by agreement. I do not ask much historic knowledge, but really I ask a little. On whose behalf was that Clause put into the Act of Union. Was it put in on behalf of the majority or the minority? It was put in on behalf of the minority which was far smaller in proportion than it is to-day. The minority did not consent, and therefore, it was not broken by the consent of the two parties who made the bargain.

We are told this is part of a treaty. There is nothing in the Act of Union to suggest it was a treaty. It simply lays down the principle on which the Government of the whole of the United Kingdom is to be carried on. Will the Solicitor-General maintain that it is a treaty, and, if so, I will ask him to explain this. They are now trying to carry a Home Rule Bill, which far more than any question of Redistribution tears up the Act of Union. They have not a majority of the predominant partner in support of it, but they have a majority in Great Britain, so that in that case my argument does not apply. But in the Parliament of 1893, they tried to tear up the Act of Union when they admittedly had not a majority in Great Britain in favour of what they were doing. Then why did they do that? They claimed then, as I claim now, that this Parliament is supreme, and can do what is right and just over the whole of the United Kingdom. Is it not rather absurd of the Government to talk of removing this mote out of the Unionist party's eye with a beam like that in their own; when they are deliberately trying to carry through this House measures with which Ireland has nothing to do, like the robbing of the Welsh Church, which they know would be utterly impossible if Gentlemen below the Gangway were represented in this House in proportion to the numbers to which alone they are entitled. I know that in addition to Redistribution, as was pointed out by another speaker, there are other anomalous proposals of the same character which affect the value of the individual voters' power far greater than the one we are dealing with. The right hon Gentleman, the President of the Board of Education, told us yesterday that this Government could and would in the life-time of this Parliament carry a general scheme of electoral reform. I put to him what I thought was a rather pertinent question. If you are going to do that, why waste time with this Bill? He did not give a very satisfactory answer. I do not see how any answer is possible. The Government claim they are not doing it in this way for want of time. How can that be? Take the time spent over this Bill and two days for the Woman Suffrage Bill—assuming that Bill goes by the board—they are going to occupy this Session within a day or two of the whole amount of time which they allowed to the whole question last year. Obviously in face of this, the claim of want of time is a pretence.

There must be another explanation. What is the real reason? I think there can be only two reasons. One of them is a possible reason. The Prime Minister last year pointed out that in the larger Bill there were advantages to his party in the abolition of the plural vote, and he also said there were advantages to our party in other parts of the Bill. They take it away, they think over it, and they come back to this House, and, by a strange coincidence, they come back with only that part of the Bill which is to their own advantage. That is one possible explanation; but there is another, and I think it is the real one. The Government have got into rather troubled waters in connection with Women Suffrage. They are in this somewhat unpleasant position, that they have made a definite pledge which they are not keeping to those who are interested in Women Suffrage, and which they have broken without the consent of those to whom the pledge was given. That is the literal fact which cannot be denied. That is awkward, and in this situation they could not bring in a Bill dealing with the whole question and leave that out. That, I think, is the real reason why they have not reintroduced the Bill. If that is the reason, what right have we to expect to have the Bill introduced in this Parliament? Do they expect to get rid of Women Suffrage in so short a time as that. If they do not, the same reason which prevents them introducing it now will prevent them introducing it then. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pease), not only told us we were going to have a complete scheme, but the Financial Secretary for War (Mr. Harold Baker) told us there was no doubt that Redistribution would come also. The same thing was said equally emphatically by the Colonial Secretary about last year's Franchise Bill. We then put this question, "You promised to introduce a Redistribution Bill; will you add a Clause to this Bill providing that this Bill will not come into effect only simultaneously with a Redistribution Bill?" He was ready to give a promise of a kind, but he was not ready to give that. The same question was put to the hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Government this afternoon, and he gave the same answer. As the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) said yesterday phrases about something being done "in the lifetime of the present Parliament" have been heard often before. We are familiar with them. There are two kinds of debts which may be incurred, one kind which has been commonly described by a phrase which has become so hackneyed as to be a bye-word that I shall not use it. There are debts, to put it another way, which cannot be enforced and legal obligations which can be enforced. In ordinary life, the play of biological forces referred to by the hon. Member for Stirling (Dr. Chapple) has this result, that the one kind of defendant is paid as regularly as the other, for this reason that if in private life a man does not pay debts which cannot be legally enforced he never gets a chance of incurring another debt of the same kind. It is said of a private individual that the best proof of his intentions is that his word is as good as his bond. I wonder how this Government would stand that test? They are ready to incur, with the most lavish generosity, any number of the obligations which cannot be enforced, and the greater number they have behind them which have not been redeemed the more ready they are to add to the volume by making new promises on any occasion, but they are just as careful as other Parliaments about making obligations which can be enforced, and I do not think there is a Member in this House who doubts that if this Bill were by any chance to become law it would give them all they want, and we should never hear another word about any other change of the franchise.

Though there has been very little interest taken in these Debates, hon. Gentlemen opposite have not been uninteresting on the subject. Up till now the Government has been carried on in this Parliament by a system of give and take, one section being interested in one thing and another in another thing, but this is a principle in which they are all interested. They are all going to get something out of this particular measure, and therefore it is the one on which their hearts are msot set. I think that they have some reason to be interested in the subject. Of course, I am not unbiassed, and when I say that the Government have undoubtedly lost the confidence of the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] As I expected, hon. Members opposite do not agree with me, but there are some facts which have an influence apart from any question of agreeing or disagreeing. One of them was mentioned by my hon. Friend behind me to-day. The election of the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Sir Stuart Samuel), who was cheered when he returned to-day, had this lesson for hon. Members opposite: that is by any chance there were the same turnover at a General Election as there was then, 150 of the Gentlemen opposite would never see the House of Commons again. If they think that one swallow is not enough to make a summer, we will take a larger area. It is a fact, I think—I looked into it before; I have not done so to-day—that, taking the whole of the by-elections during the last eighteen months, there has been a greater turnover against this Government than even towards the close of the last Conservative administration. Under these circumstances, it is evident that this is a question of life or death, and it is no wonder that, for the first time, they make no pretence that there is any other object in this Bill than to at all costs pack the jury before they have to go to their trial. I am not so much afraid of this Bill as some of my hon. Friends are. It is, as was pointed out by my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), peculiarly improper that there should be an attempt to carry a Bill of this kind without that reformed Second Chamber which the Government have promised. This is peculiarly one of the cases where, if ever it is needed, a Second Chamber is required. I do not ask hon. Gentlemen to submit it to the present House of Lords, but I do say that if there is any truth whatever in their pretence that they are going to reform the Second Chamber, this is precisely one of those measures which should not be carried until they are prepared to have it stand the gauntlet of the Second Chamber they themselves have reformed. But though they hope to carry it through the House of Commons there is this consideration which perhaps they might keep in their minds—it is part of a link in a big chain, and the strength of that chain is the strength of its weakest link. In that chain is a link so weak that I do not myself believe that the proposal of the Government can be carried out. But in any case, even if I am wrong, this particular link will come only after results due to the other, so momentous, that what happens to it will be a matter of indifference to everybody in the House.


The right hon. Gentleman in his criticism of the Bill has complained both of what it does contain, and still more, of what it does not contain, and I will, if I have time, say a word on each of these two matters. But I should like at once to deal with one of his points as to that which it does not contain. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that this Bill contains no proposal for Redistribution because we on this side of the House have shown ourselves unwilling to alter the distribution where it is likely to be against our own interests, and because we think that Redistribution is likely to affect us adversely. I should have thought that if there were anybody in the House who was not at liberty to make such a suggestion it was the right hon. Gentleman who was a Member of the Unionist Government of 1905, and if there were any Government against whom such a suggestion could not fairly be made it was the present Government, which is endeavouring to carry a Home Rule Bill into law in which, with the assent of the majority of the representatives of the Irish people, we are proposing to reduce the Irish representation in this House from 103 to 42, and which would remove from this House just that body of support which the right hon. Gentleman thinks we are straining every nerve to retain. What was the position of the Unionist Government in 1905? They had for many years said that electoral reform was urgent and necessary, but when they came to deal with it in their dying moments they proposed a scheme of Redistribution which kept alive every borough which had as much as 18,500 population, and which therefore kept alive twenty-one boroughs with less than 5,000 voters apiece—most of them Conservative boroughs, and at the same time they refused representation to county areas, except on the principle of one vote for every 65,000 of population. That proposal, which was the contribution of the last Unionist Government towards electoral reform was denounced by so stalwart a supporter of their party as the "Standard," as a proposal which on the face of it contained such a disparity as to be too gross to be tolerable to ordinary intelligence. And this right hon. Gentleman, the Member of that Government, reproaches us, who are promoting in this House a Home Rule Bill which reduces our support, with being afraid to tamper with the question of Redistribution. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—speaking, as he frankly told us, from recollection—that as far as he could see and as far as his recollection served him, there was no reason at all in the Act of Union with Ireland why this House of Commons should not regard the number of Irish Members here—as long as the Union continued quite unimpaired—as a matter for adjustment and alteration as we thought fit. He told us there was nothing about it in the Act of Union. I have a copy of the Act here, but before I refer to its terms let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of the view which was expressed in, I think, the last of his great speeches in this House by one of the most distinguished Unionists who ever dealt with this problem—Mr. John Bright. Mr. John Bright, who had been a party to and a promoter of the Irish Disestablishment Bill, in the year 1884 said:— Nothing on earth will ever persuade me, until I see it done, that this Imperial Parliament, which is representative of the people of Great Britain, will lessen the just representation of Ireland in this House the Act of Union settled. Nothing shall persuade me to vote for any smaller number. That was the view he took on the basis of the Act of Union itself. Anyone who does look at the Act of Union can see at once that it is far from being an ordinary Act of Parliament. It is expressed in the form of a treaty; it consists of articles of treaty; it recites that the two Parliaments—the Parliament of Ireland and the Parliament of Great Britain—have agreed upon certain articles which are set out. Anybody who will trace the history of that Act of Union and who will go back a year or two before it, will find out this further: That before that Act of Union could be passed it was necessary for each of the two contracting parties independently to pass resolutions agreeing on the side which they each represented to the terms which were embodied in that Act. When I turn it up I find that this Parliament here, in the year 1799 actually passed, among other things, this Resolution:— That in the view of the Great Britain Parliament it is desirable to have a Parliament for the United Kingdom, to be styled the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, containing such a number of Members of the House of Commons as shall be hereafter agreed upon by Acts of the respective Parliaments as aforesaid, to sit and vote in the said Parliament on the part of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, who claim to be defenders of the Act of Union, and who treat it as part of the constitutional Bible by which they swear from time to time, come here, and, not content with reproaching us because, according to them, we are afraid to deal with the topic of Redistribution lest it should hurt our interests, actually announce that they would alter the Act of Union against the will of the majority of the Irish people, and, without making any new bargain with them for compromise or adjustment, would, if they had the power, reduce the number of their representatives. So much for his view of Redis- tribution as it affects the Act of Union. Those hon. Members who were in the House earlier in the day will remember the particularly pointed demonstration which was offered by an hon. and learned Friend of mine, the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Hemmerde), as to the complete absurdity of this position which is taken up, I am sure with all honesty, because it has so often been repeated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. What did that hon. Member point out? He pointed out these two facts: First of all, that in the Parliament of 1900, when we had 103 Members from Ireland, those 103 Members were elected by an electorate of 766,196 voters, adding them together—not the numbers who voted, but the numbers capable of voting. He pointed out that in the same Parliament of 1900 there were 103 Conservative Members, exactly the same number, who were returned for British constituencies, not by 766,000 voters, but by 643,701. That was the first fact which the hon. Gentleman pointed out. What was the second? He pointed out that to-day there are eighty-four Irish Home Rulers in this House, and that they represent a combined constituency of 532,272 people, and there are eighty-four Unionist Members sitting in this House who represent 535,000. So much for the grand contention that this Bill is to be opposed because it does not contain proposals for Redistribution.

Then the right hon. Gentleman, very good-temperedly I most willingly admit, repeated and reinforced the criticism that in bringing forward this measure its supporters were actuated by nothing but selfish interests. He reminded us that we have been asked to be frank about this and to state our real motives and reasons without pretence and without disguise. I will be quite frank about it. Our position, as I understand it, is this: We think that the system of plural voting is a gross and palpable injustice. But let me concede with the greatest frankness that it may well be that, in thinking that, we are the more sensitive of that injustice because we suffer from its inconvenience at every election in which we take part. I do not dispute it the least in the world. I concede the fact and admit it to anyone who thinks it is to his advantage to receive it. But let me point out this. The extent to which we suffer from plural voting is also the precise extent to which the Conservative party gain. If its abolition is an advantage to us, its continuance is an advantage to them. If we are to be accused on this side of self-interest in promoting its removal, hon. Gentlemen who make that accusation must not be surprised if we suspect them of some little self-interest in trying to resist it. The right hon. Gentleman said just now that, while we were frank enough to avow that we were naturally influenced by this consideration, no one could tell what a Conservative thought. That is true, but from time to time one may get an equal degree of candour and frankness on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite. A much-lamented and much-respected Conservative, who was a Member for thirty years, put it very well, and I am sure what he said will strike a silent, but none the less a sympathetic chord in the hearts of many hon. Gentlemen opposite when I read it. Sir F. Dixon-Hartland said:— He supported plural voting as a most valuable thing. There were several constituencies where if plural voting did not exist the Conservative party would have no existence in Parliament. He could not understand how any man could go in for one man one vote, and certainly they ought not to bring it up themselves. That is good Tory doctrine. I do not complain of it in the least. I only point out that we shall not get very far in the discussion as to whether plural voting ought or ought not to be abolished if we spend all our time in pointing out that one side will gain an advantage by its abolition and the other side will gain an advantage by resisting it. So far as I know, though there are many electoral anomalies there is not a single one which does not operate to the advantage of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not know of one. And while it is no doubt aggravating for hon. Gentlemen opposite to find that we who advocate this reform are likely also to profit by it, that does not prove that the reform is not a very just reform.

The Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil), who made a most charming and most sophistical speech, I think had some glimmering idea that perhaps the arguments commonly used by his Friends might be used as a retort upon himself, and so he told us that after all if a thief has got your watch and you endeavour to get it back from the thief, in the struggle it would be true if the thief said both sides were actuated by mercenary interests. He wants to keep it and you want to get it back. Yes, but if we are to apply that analogy to plural voting the important question to answer is this: Which is the thief?

Putting aside, as I desire to do, what can easily be shown to be recrimination on both sides, is it not possible to bring this matter to some test which does not involve continual imputations of bad faith and bad motives on one side or the other. Since I have been quite frank, I would invite hon. Gentlemen opposite to be quite frank with themselves and with the House too. Can they justify the continuance of plural voting as we know it in England in itself and by itself, as part of the electoral system at all? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] I quite accept the genuinenesss of that, perhaps rather solitary voice. But let us see if we can test it. Where else can hon. Gentlemen point to a system of plural voting such as we have got? We are told very often by hon. Gentlemen opposite that we ought to consider the examples set by the British Empire. Where in the British Empire will you find plural voting? In the Dominions and Colonies where will you find a system of plural voting of any sort or kind in connection with the Legislatures which this Parliament has taken a part in setting up in the last fifty years? Where in the subordinate bodies set up for local government—both those we have set up and those the Conservative Government have set up—will you find a single example of plural voting? If you go to any English-speaking community in the world, where will you find a system of plural voting? I confess that I thought the Leader of the Opposition would invite us once again to look at Belgium. He directed attention to Belgium a short tune ago, and the working classes of that country, overcome by the compliment, immediately went in for a universal holiday in the form of a syndicalist strike in favour of one man one vote. After all, the system of plural voting that obtains in Belgium is, at any rate, based on some sort of logical arrangement. Nobody under the system in Belgium has more than three votes. Every man has, at any rate, one vote, and, as I understand, whether you have more votes than one depends on whether you are the father of a family, whether you have obtained a certificate from certain educational establishments, and whether you belong to a profession. It is an arrangement by which all lawyers have three votes and laymen have only one. I can see some logic in that, but I can see no logic at all in the arrangement which hon. Gentlemen come down here to defend. It is not, as has been pointed out again and again, in fact a system which gives political authority in proportion to wealth, for the only kind of wealth that counts is wealth that consists in landed property. It is not in fact an arrangement which gives political authority in proportion to brains, even if brains could be judged by educational certificates. The extent of political power which it confers is the result of an accident. It depends not upon any logical system whatever, but upon the purely geographical accident of whether you own a great deal of property in one constituency or a number of little bits of property in a number of constituencies. I find it quite impossible to believe that any hon. Gentleman opposite, however anxious he may be to maintain the advantage which the plural vote gives him, can produce a serious argument to defend it as we know it in this country

I would like, in the few minutes that remain to me, to return to the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University. If there is any Member of this House who ought to be prepared to defend plural voting it should be he. His is the champion plural voting constituency. I do not suppose that he has got among his constituents a single person who is not a plural voter. I am one of them. My stake in the country enables me to vote, if I think fit, against the Noble Lord in the University of Oxford, against the hon. Baronet in the City of London, and against the hon. Member for Kensington. That is the power given to me by my stake in the country under the existing system. What is the argument which the Noble Lord very ingeniously put forward on behalf of the plural voter? He says, "If you are going to abolish plural voting you ought to introduce proportional representation at the same time." He says that it is bad enough as it is, that the majority of the Government is greatly in excess of that which a scientific calculation based on the principle of proportional representation would bring out, and he says that if you were to take away plural voting that majority would be greater still. I notice that that is a very neat and complete admission that the plural voters are Tories. I notice also that the Noble Lord's specific would seem to result in this conclusion, that since we cannot have proportional representation just at once, the only way to correct the balance that exists in this House would be that more Tories should have more plural votes. He says that the majority here is too great. Should you remove the plural voter it would be still greater. So it follows necessarily, according to the Noble Lord, on all principles of just calculation, that on the whole principle which he put forward this afternoon we should have more plural voters and not fewer. The truth is that in making any such contention, however ingenious he may be, he is putting forward a contention which is challenged and denied by the experience of the civilised world. As I have pointed out, all over the world, within and without the British Empire, you have not got an example or plural voting.


That statement is not accurate. Plural voting exists in the Dominion of Canada at Parliamentary elections for the Federal House. During the last general election I myself voted in two different divisions of Canada.


I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman and very glad that he did correct me, because, of course, I do not want to make a mistake. Evidently he mentions an exception. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is in different States."] Still, broadly, a system of plural voting such as exists in this country does not exist outside it. Broadly speaking, the proposition which I am putting forward will be found to be correct. I may point this out. We are criticised because of things that are not in this Bill, and I amused myself while the Debate was going on in drawing up a little sketch or the sort of Franchise Bill, or Reform Bill, which in the view of those who criticise this little measure would be the right thing to introduce and carry into law before we adjourn for the present Session. It would be a Bill in the first place to deal with franchise reform, and deal with all those eleven separate Parliamentary franchises with their nineteen varieties, everyone of which, according to the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment yesterday, would require individual attention if the complete treatment of the subject were attempted.

Then it would deal with the topic of Redistribution, and it could not be complete without dealing with the question of returning officers' expenses and the question of absent voters. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) cannot see his way to take steps to prevent men from having more votes than one as long as a woman has no vote at all. Then the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) suggested proportional representation. I frankly confess our measure is not so ambitious as that. But that only shows that it is all the more likely to be passed, and, in passing it, although I do not think we shall effect any great electoral revolution, and although I quite admit that there still remains some things to be dealt with, yet we shall at any rate have done something to suppress the present unjustified and unjustifiable scandal of the pluralist. He has no sympathy from the masses of his countrymen. He is a gentleman on the contrary, who already has the advantage of having the choice of a vote, not only one vote, which many people have not, but the choice of a vote. He has that not because of any theory which can be justified in the abstract, not because he has got even special wealth, and certainly he has not got special intelligence, but merely as the result of a geographical accident which destroys the whole scheme on its only possible foundation. That I submit abundantly justifies the House giving a Second Reading to this Bill.


I wish to make a protest on behalf of a considerable number of my Constituents. I have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and it seems to me a great pity that he made that speech before he was quite certain of his facts. The interruption of the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway had a considerable effect, I am certain, upon every portion of the House, and considerably spoiled the finish of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I intend to say a few words in support of the Amendment. I believe that this Bill is grossly unfair and grossly unjust to a considerable body of voters in this country. Last night I was pointed out by the Minister for Education as one of the typical representatives of the Tory party, who held his seat in the 1906 General Election by means of the plural vote—


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes, 318; Noes, 226.

Division No. 80.] AYES. [11.0 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Duffy, William J.
Acland, Francis Dyke Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar) Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)
Adamson, William Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)
Addison, Dr. Christopher Byles, Sir William Pollard Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Carr-Gomm, H. W. Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)
Agnew, Sir George William Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)
Ainsworth, John Stirling Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood) Elverston, Sir Harold
Alden, Percy Chancellor, H. G. Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)
Allen, Arthur Acland (Dumbartonshire) Chapple, Dr. William Allen Essex, Sir Richard Walter
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Esslemont, George Birnie
Arnold, Sydney Clancy, John Joseph Falconer, J.
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Clough, William Farrell, James Patrick
Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A. Collins, G. P. (Greenock) Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles
Baker, H. T. (Accrington) Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Ffrench, Peter
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Condon, Thomas Joseph Field, William
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Fitzgibbon, John
Barnes, G. N. Cory, Sir Clifford John Flavin, Michael Joseph
Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) Cotton, William Francis France, Gerald Ashburner
Barton, W. Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Furness, Stephen
Beale, Sir William Phipson Crawshay-Williams, Eliot George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Crooks, William Gill, A. H.
Beck, Arthur Cecil Crumley, Patrick Ginnell, L.
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George) Cullinan, John Gladstone, W. G. C.
Bentham, G. J. Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy) Glanville, Harold James
Bethell, Sir J. H. Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Davies, E. William (Eifion) Goldstone, Frank
Black, Arthur W. Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)
Boland, John Pius Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)
Booth, Frederick Handel Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire) Greig, Colonel J. W.
Bowerman, Charles W. Dawes, James Arthur Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Delany, William Griffith, Ellis Jones
Brady, Patrick Joseph Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)
Brocklehurst, William B. Devlin, Joseph Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)
Brunner, John F. L. Dewar, Sir J. A. Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)
Bryce, John Annan Dickinson, W H. Hackett, John
Buckmaster, Stanley O. Dillon, John Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)
Burke, E. Haviland- Donelan, Captain A. Hancock, John George
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Doris, William Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)
Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Marshall, Arthur Harold Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Hardie, J. Keir Martin, Joseph Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Mason, David M. (Coventry) Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.) Meagher, Michael Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Middlebrook, William Robinson, Sidney
Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Millar, James Duncan Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Hayden, John Patrick Molloy, Michael Roche, Augustine (Louth)
Hayward, Evan Molteno, Percy Alport Roe, Sir Thomas
Hazleton, Richard Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz Rowlands, James
Helme, Sir Norval Watson Money, L. G. Chiozza Rowntree, Arnold
Hemmerde, Edward George Mooney, J. J. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Morgan, George Hay Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.
Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.) Morison, Hector Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Henry, Sir Charles Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) Muldoon, John Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)
Higham, John Sharp Munro, R. Scanlan, Thomas
Hinds, John Murphy, Martin J. Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.
Hogge, James Myles Murray, Captain Hon. A. C. Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Holmes, Daniel Turner Needham, Christopher T. Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.
Holt, Richard Durning Neilson, Francis Sheehy, David
Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich) Nicholson, Sir C. N. (Doncaster) Sherwell, Arthur James
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Norman, Sir Henry Shortt, Edward
Hudson, Walter Norton, Captain Cecil W. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook
Hughes, Spencer Leigh Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus Nuttall, Harry Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)
Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
John, Edward Thomas O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Snowden, Philip
Johnson, W. O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) O'Doherty, Philip Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert
Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil) O'Donnell, Thomas Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N.W.)
Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) O'Dowd, John Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark West)
Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, Eost) Ogden, Fred Sutton, John E.
Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe) O'Grady, James Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.) Tennant, Harold John
Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) O'Malley, William Thomas, J. H.
Joyce, Michael O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Keating, Matthew O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Toulmin, Sir George
Kellaway, Frederick George O'Shee, James John Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Kelly, Edward O'Sullivan, Timothy Verney, Sir Harry
Kennedy, Vincent Paul Outhwaite, R. L. Wadsworth, J.
Kilbride, Denis Palmer, Godfrey Mark Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
King, J. Parker, James (Halifax) Walters, Sir John Tudor
Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Parry, Thomas H. Walton, Sir Joseph
Lardner, James C. R. Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th) Pearce, William (Limehouse) Ward, W. (Southampton)
Levy, Sir Maurice Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham Wardle, George J.
Lewis, John Herbert Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton) Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Logan, John William Phillips, John (Longford, S.) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Pointer, Joseph Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich) Pollard, Sir George H. Watt, Henry A.
London, Thomas Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Webb, H.
Lyell, Charles Henry Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Lynch, A. A. Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham) Whitehouse, John Howard
McGhee, Richard Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Thomas P.
Maclean, Donald Pringle, William M. R. Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Radford, G. H. Wiles, Thomas
MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South) Raffan, Peter Wilson William, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Macpherson, James Ian Raphael, Sir Herbert H. Williamson, Sir Archibald
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
M'Callum, Sir John M. Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
M'Curdy, Charles Albert Reddy, Michael Wing, Thomas
McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.) Redmond, William (Clare, E.) Young, William (Perth, East)
M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding) Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
M'Micking, Major Gilbert Rendall, Athelstan
Markham, Sir Arthur Basil Richardson, Albion (Peckham) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.
Marks, Sir George Croydon Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Banner, John S. Harmood- Bigland, Alfred
Amery, L. C. M. S. Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester) Bird, Alfred
Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R. Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Blair, Reginald
Anstruther-Gray, Major William Barnston, Harry Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue
Ashley, W. W. Barrie, H. T. Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-
Astor, Waldorf Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.) Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)
Baird, J. L. Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Boyton, James
Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.) Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Bridgeman, W. Clive
Baldwin, Stanley Bennett-Goldney, Francis Bull, Sir William James
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.) Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Burdett-Coutts, W.
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Beresford, Lord C. Burgoyne, A. H.
Burn, Colonel C. R. Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.
Butcher, J. G. Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon) Perkins, Walter F.
Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.) Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.) Pole-Carew, Sir R.
Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.) Hewins, Wiliam Albert Samuel Pollock, Ernest Murray
Campion, W. R. Hill-Wood, Samuel Pretyman, Ernest George
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Hoare, Samuel John Gurney Randles, Sir John S.
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Ratcliff, R. F.
Cassel, Felix Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Cater, John Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Rawson, Colonel Richard H.
Cautley, H. S. Horne, W. E. (Surrey, Guildford) Rees, Sir J. D.
Cave, George Horner, Andrew Long Remnant, James Farquharson
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Houston, Robert Paterson Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin) Hume-Williams, William Ellis Rolleston, Sir John
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Hunt, Rowland Rothschild, Lionel de
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.) Hunter, Sir C. R. Royds, Edmund
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Ingleby, Holcombe Rutherford, Watson (L'poel, W. Derby)
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East) Salter, Arthur Clavell
Clive, Captain Percy Archer Jessel, Captain H. M. Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Clyde, J. Avon Joynson-Hicks, William Sanders, Robert Arthur
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Sanderson, Lancelot
Cooper, Richard Ashmore Kerry, Earl of Sandys, G. J.
Courthope, George Loyd Kimber, Sir Henry Sassoon, Sir Phillip
Craig, Charles (Antrim, S.) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)
Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Knight, Captain E. A. Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Lane-Fox, G. R. Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'l, Walton)
Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Larmor, Sir J. Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Spear, Sir John Ward
Croft, H. P. Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts, Mile End) Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)
Dairymple, Viscount Lee, Arthur H. Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Lewisham, Viscount Starkey, John R.
Denniss, E. R. B. Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Staveley-Hill, Henry
Dickson, Rt. Hon. Sir C. Scott Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Du Cros, Arthur Philip Long, Rt. Hon. Walter Stewart, Gershom
Duke, Henry Edward Lansdale, Sir John Brownlee Swift, Rigby
Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Sykes, Alan John (Glas., Knutsford)
Faber, George Denison (Clapham) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanover Sq.) Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)
Falle, Bertram Godfray Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Talbot, Lord E.
Fell, Arthur MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)
Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Mackinder, H. J. Terrell, H. (Gloucester)
Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes Macmaster, Donald Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)
Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A. Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)
Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue M'Mordie, Robert James Thynne, Lord Alexander
Fletcher, John Samuel M'Neill, Ronald ([...]t, St. Augustine's) Tobin, Alfred Aspinall
Forster, Henry William Magnus, Sir Philip Touche, George Alexander
Gardner, Ernest Malcolm, Ian Tryon, Captain George Clement
Gastrell, Major W. H. Mallaby-Deeley, Harry Valentia, Viscount
Gibbs, G. A. Mason, James F. (Windsor) Walker, Colonel William Hall
Gilmour, Captain John Meysey-Thompson, E C. Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)
Goldman, C. S. Middlemore, John Throgmorton Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Goldsmith, Frank Mildmay, Francis Bingham Welgall, Captain A. G.
Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton) Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton) Weston, Colonel J. W.
Goulding, Edward Alfred Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton) Wheler, Granville C. H.
Grant, J. A. Mount, William Arthur Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud
Greens, W. R. Newdegate, F. A. Wills, Sir Gilbert
Gretton, John Newman, John R. P. Wolmer, Viscount
Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.) Newton, Harry Kottingham Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)
Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds) Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Nield, Herbert Worthington-Evans, L.
Haddock, George Bahr Norton-Griffiths, John Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight) O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid) Wright, Henry Fitzherbert
Hall, Frederick (Dulwich) Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A. Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth) Paget, Almeric Hugh Yate, Colonel C. E.
Hambro, Angus Valdemar Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)
Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Parkes, Ebenezer TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Stanley Wilson and Mr. Stanler.
Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Harris, Henry Percy

Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 314; Noes, 227.

Division No. 81.] AYES. [11.12 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Barton, W.
Acland, Francis Dyke Arnold, Sydney Beale, Sir William Phipson
Adamson, William Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Beauchamp, Sir Edward
Addison, Dr. Christopher Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A. Beck, Arthur Cecil
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)
Agnew, Sir George William Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Bentham, G. J.
Ainsworth, John Stirling Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Bethell, Sir J. H.
Alden, Percy Barnes, G. N. Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton) Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) Black, Arthur W.
Boland, John, Pius Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Munro, R.
Booth, Frederick Handel Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Murphy, Martin J.
Bowerman, Charles W. Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Needham, Christopher T.
Brady, P. J. Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.) Neilson, Francis
Brocklehurst, W. B. Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Nicholson, Sir C. N. (Doncaster)
Brunner, John F. L. Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Norman, Sir Henry
Bryce, J. Annan Hayden, John Patrick Norton, Captain Cecil W.
Buckmaster, Stanley O. Hayward, Evan Nugent, Sir Walter Richard
Burke, E. Haviland- Hazleton, Richard Nuttall, Harry
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Helme, Sir Norval Watson O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Hemmerde, Edward George O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Henderson, Arthur (Durham) O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar) Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.) O'Doherty, Philip
Byles, Sir William Pollard Henry, Sir Charles O'Donnell, Thomas
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) O'Dowd, John
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Higham, John Sharp Ogden, Fred
Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood) Hinds, John O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)
Chancellor, H. G. Hogge, James Myles O'Malley, William
Chapple, Dr. William Allen Holmes, Daniel Turner O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Holt, Richard Burning O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Clancy, John Joseph Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich) O'Shee, James John
Clough, William Howard, Hon. Geoffrey O'Sullivan, Timothy
Collins, G. P. (Greenock) Hudson, Walter Outhwaite, R. L.
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Hughes, Spencer Leigh Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Condon, Thomas Joseph Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus Parker, James (Halifax)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh) Parry, Thomas H.
Cory, Sir Clifford John John, Edward Thomas Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Cotton, William Francis Johnson, W. Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil) Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)
Crooks, William Jones, H. Haydn (Merloneth) Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Crumley, Patrick Jones, J Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Pointer, Joseph
Cullinan, J. Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe) Pollard, Sir George H.
Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney) Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Davies, Ellis William (Elfion) Joyce, Michael Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Keating, Matthew Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Kellaway, Frederick George Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire) Kelly, Edward Pringle, William M. R.
Dawes, James Arthur Kennedy, Vincent Paul Radford, G. H.
Delany, William Kilbride, Denis Raffan, Peter Wilson
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas King, J. Raphael, Sir Herbert H.
Devlin, Joseph Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)
Dickinson, W. H. Lardner, James C. R. Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Dillon, John Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th) Reddy, Michael
Donelan, Captain A. Levy, Sir Maurice Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Doris, William Lewis, John Herbert Redmond, William (Clare, E.)
Duffy, William J. Logan, John William Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Rendall, Athelstan
Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley) Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich) Richardson, Albion (Peckham)
Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.) London, Thomas Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Lyell, Charles Henry Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) Lynch, A. A. Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Elverston, Sir Harold Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)
Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) McGhee, Richard Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Essex, Sir Richard Walter Maclean, Donald Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)
Esslemont, George Birnie Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Robinson, Sidney
Falconer, J. MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South) Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Farrell, James Patrick Macpherson, James Ian Roche, Augustine (Louth)
Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles MacVeagh, Jeremiah Roe, Sir Thomas
Ffrench, Peter M'Callum, Sir John M. Rowlands, James
Field, William M'Curdy, Charles Albert Rowntree, Arnold
Fitzgibbon, John McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Flavin, Michael Joseph M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.) Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.
France, Gerald Ashburner M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding) Samuel, Ht. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Furness, Stephen M'Micking, Major Gilbert Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Markham, Sir Arthur Basil Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)
Gill, A. H. Marks, Sir George Croydon Scanlan, Thomas
Ginnell, L. Marshall, Arthur Harold Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.
Gladstone, W. G. C. Martin, Joseph Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Glanville, Harold James Mason, David M. (Coventry) Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.
Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Sheehy, David
Goldstone, Frank Meagher, Michael Sherwell, Arthur James
Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough) Middlebrook, William Shortt, Edward
Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland) Millar, James Duncan Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook
Greig, Colonel J. W. Molloy, Michael Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Molteno, Percy Alpert Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)
Griffith, Ellis Jones Mond, Sir Alfred M. Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke) Money, L. G. Chlozza Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) Mooney, J. J. Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Morgan, George Hay Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)
Hackett, John Morison, Hector Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Sutton, John E.
Hancock, John George Muldoon, John Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Tennant, Harold John Wardle, George J. Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Thomas, J. H. Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay Williamson, Sir Archibald
Thorne, G. R (Wolverhampton) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Toulmin, Sir George Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Trevelyan, Charles Philips Watt, Henry A. Wing, Thomas
Verney, Sir Harry Webb, H. Wood, Rt Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Wadsworth, J. White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston) Young, William (Perth, East)
Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince) White, Patrick (Meath, North) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Walters, Sir John Tudor Whitehouse, John Howard
Walton, Sir Joseph Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.
Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent) Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton) Wiles, Thomas
Age-Gardner, James Tynte Fell, Arthur Macmaster, Donald
Amery, L. C. H. S. Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.
Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R. Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes M'Mordie, Robert James
Anstruther-Gray, Major William Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)
Ashley, W. W. Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Magnus, Sir Philip
Astor, Waldorf Fletcher, John Samuel Malcolm, Ian
Baird, J. L. Forster, Henry William Mallaby-Deeley, Harry
Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.) Gardner, Ernest Mason, James F. (Windsor)
Baldwin, Stanley Gastrell, Major W. H. Meysey-Thompson, E. C.
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.) Gibbs, G. A. Middlemore, John Throgmorton
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gilmour, Captain John Mildmay, Francis Bingham
Banner, John S. Harmood- Goldman, C. S. Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)
Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester) Goldsmith, Frank Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton) Newdegate, F. A.
Barnston, Harry Goulding, Edward Alfred Newman, John R. P.
Barrie, H. T. Grant, J. A. Newton, Harry Kottingham
Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc., E.) Greene, W. R. Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Gretton, John Nield, Herbert
Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.) Norton-Griffiths, John
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds) O'Grady, James
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)
Beresford, Lord C. Haddock, George Bahr Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.
Bigland, Alfred Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight) Paget, Almeric Hugh
Bird, Alfred Hall, Frederick (Dulwich) Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)
Blair, Reginald Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth) Parkes, Ebenezer
Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue Hambro, Angus Valdemar Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith- Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Perkins, Walter F.
Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid) Hardie, J. Keir Pole-Carew, Sir R.
Boyton, James Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Pollock, Ernest Murray
Bridgeman, W. Clive Harris, Henry Percy Pretyman, Ernest George
Bull, Sir William James Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Randles, Sir John S.
Burdett-Coutts, W. Henderson, Major H. (Berke, Abingdon) Ratcliff, R. F.
Burgoyne, A. H. Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.) Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Burn, Colonel C. R. Hewins William Albert Samuel Rawson, Colonel Richard H.
Butcher, J. G. Hill-Wood, Samuel Rees, Sir J. D.
Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.) Hoare, Samuel John Gurney Remnant, James Farquharson
Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.) Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Campion, W. R. Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Rolleston, Sir John
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Rothschild, Lionel de
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Horne, E. (Surrey, Guildford) Royds, Edmund
Cassel, Felix Horner, Andrew Long Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)
Cator, John Houston, Robert Paterson Salter, Arthur Clavell
Cautley, H. S. Hume-Williams, William Ellis Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Cave, George Hunt, Rowland Sanders, Robert Arthur
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. Sanderson, Lancelot
Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin) Ingleby, Holcombe Sandys, G. J.
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East) Sassoon, Sir Philip
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.) Jessel, Captain H. M. Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Joynson-Hicks, William Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'pool, Walton)
Clive, Captain Percy Archer Kerry, Earl of Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Coates, Major, Sir Edward Feetham Kimber, Sir Henry Snowden, Philip
Cooper, Richard Ashmole Kinlock-Cooke, Sir Clement Spear, Sir John Ward
Courthope, George Loyd Knight, Captain E. A. Stanier, Beville
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Lane-Fox, G. R. Stanley, Hon, Arthur (Ormskirk)
Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Larmor, Sir J. Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Starkey, John R.
Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End) Staveley-Hill, Henry
Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred Lee, Arthur Hamilton Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Croft, H. P. Lewisham, Viscount Stewart, Gershom
Dairymple, Viscount Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Swift, Rigby
Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)
Denniss, E. R. B. Long, Rt. Hon. Walter Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)
Du Cros, Arthur Philip Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Terrell, H. (Gloucester)
Duke, Henry Edward Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo., Han. S.) Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)
Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)
Faber, George Denison (Clapham) MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh Thynne, Lord Alexander
Falle, B. G. Mackinder, H. J. Tobin, Alfred Aspinall
Touche, George Alexander Wheler, Granville, C. H. Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Tryon, Captain George Clement Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud Wright, Henry Fitzherbert
Valentia, Viscount Wills, Sir Gilbert Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Walker, Col. William Hall Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.) Yate, Colonel C. E.
Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford) Wolmer, Viscount
Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid) Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord
Weigall, Captain A. G. Wood, John (Stalybridge) Edmund Talbot and Mr. Pike Pease.
Weston, Colonel J. W. Worthington-Evans, L.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next, 5th May.

The other Orders of the day were read, and postponed.