§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. HUME-WILLIAMS
I beg to move, to leave out the word, "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
I shall attempt to found the arguments which I hope to submit to the House on two grounds. First, I shall suggest that the reasons for the rejection of the Bill lie in the imperfections of the Bill itself, and secondly, that it is introduced under circumstances that make it obvious that it is not intended to remedy any real grievance felt in the country, but is intended to alter the conditions of the electorate, whose verdict the Government fear. In a word, this Bill, as it stands, is not one which alters or extends the franchise. We are not touching the great questions of the qualifications of the voters, and we are not touching those still greater questions of Manhood Suffrage so dear to the hearts of a considerable number of hon. Members of this House. We are leaving untouched the system of representation by constitu- 1380 encies, and we are merely in this Bill considering the one question whether or not 500,000 votes which were registered at the last election shall, or shall not, be exercised at the next election. In this connection it is noticeable that the Government, in introducing this Bill, were so far conscious of the paucity of argument with which they were supplied and of the imperfections of the Bill itself that they did not hesitate to recommend it to this House by considerations attractive to a great number of their supporters, but considerations which they have not had the courage to introduce into the Bill. Speaking on the 14th of July last year on the Debate arising on the Second Reading of this Bill when it was first introduced, the hon. Gentleman, the then Under-Secretary for India, said:—Our theory of representation in this House is widely different from the theories of hon. Members opposite. They want to represent constituencies; we want to represent constituents. They think the right thing is to represent localities; we think the right thing is to represent men. They think that the right to vote should be vested in those who have what they call a stake in the country: we think that the right to vote should be based upon the fact that a man has got to live under the laws passed by this House and administered by the Government.That is an attractive theory perhaps to some, but it is one which finds no expression in this Bill. The truth is that the fundamental basis of our electoral system is the representation of constituencies. We exist and sit in this House on that basis. This Bill, as I have pointed out, is based upon the continuation of that system. It makes no attempt to alter it, but, instead, it takes away 500,000 votes which that system, so long as you leave it untouched, logically and justly confers upon the present holders. What is this system of voting by constituencies? It is founded on this: There are certain areas, defined from time to time by the wisdom of Parliament, which are allowed to send representatives to the House of Commons, partly to voice Imperial interests and to take their share in Imperial responsibilities, but partly, and indeed largely, to protect the interests and to voice the aspirations of the particular localities which the Member has the honour to represent. By whom are those sent to represent localities in this House-chosen? By those who have an interest in the well-being of the place, either because they reside there or have property there, or because they contribute to the common expenses of the locality. Surely, as long as you leave untouched the system of 1381 representation by constituencies, it is but elementary fairness that those who bear the burden of expense in a constituency should have the right to choose its representative! If that is so, by what system of logic or justice can you justify depriving a man of his vote in a constituency where he contributes to the "common expenses for the sole reason that he makes a similar contribution in another constituency? If he pays twice, why should he not vote twice? If he is exercising the rights and bearing the burdens of citizenship in two areas, each of which Parliament has defined as a constituency, why should he not have a voice in both in choosing the man who is to represent his interests?
Let me give just two examples, which I fear may have already been given in this House. Supposing a man has a mill, we will say, in Leeds or Blackburn, where he employs 1,000 men. He supplies the capital and the men supply the labour. The outcome of the mill is the product of the combination. The man who supplies the capital has one vote and those who supply the labour, if they are, as they probably are, in constant employment, have, approximately, 1,000 votes. There are those who think that even that system, stopping there, requires some justification, but see how much further this Bill takes it. Supposing that man, as is very common, has a second mill in another town, where he also employs 1,000 men. In both those constituencies he and his men are vitally interested in the trade of the locality, and in all that appertains to its welfare. He supplies the capital in the two places; he is a trader in the two; he is vitally interested in the prosperity of the two; he contributes to the expenses of the two; and he must be a man of some authority in the two. Bearing always in mind that you are preserving the representation of the locality, by what logical system can you say to him, "You shall vote in one place and not in the other?" By what logical system have we the right to impose on him the choice of registering his vote in the one and not in the other place, his interest as a trader being equal, his burdens being the same, and the responsibilities which he bears towards those whom he employs being the same in both places? Why should he be allowed to choose the representative for one locality and not for the other?
Let me put a second case, a case which is somewhat familiar to me because it largely occurs in the Constituency which I 1382 have the honour to represent. A man has his office and spends the whole of his working life in one of our big cities, say Sheffield, and he has his home outside. His wife and family and his whole home-life are situated in the neighbouring county. He is largely and vitally interested in the trade of the city, and in the other place he is probably a substantial contributor to the expenses, interested in the community, has sympathy with its inhabitants, and is conscious of their aspirations and their needs. By what logical process can you say to him, "There are these two great objects in your life, one represented in the city where you work, and the other in the county where you live. You have the right to choose your representative for one of your interests and not for the other." Again, by what local process can the choice be imposed upon him of electing for which of his interests he is to vote?
§ Mr. HUME-WILLIAMS
As long as you leave, as you are doing in this Bill—that is just the mistake the hon. Member is making—the representation of constituencies, the representative of a constituency is returned to this House not only on national questions, but also to represent the interests of the locality, and, that being so, you have logically no right to say to a man, "Your interests in two places are equal; they are substantial; you are a contributor in each; you take a share in the life of the one place and of the other, but you shall vote in one and not in the other." Yet that is the object of this Bill. In truth, there is no injustice in the theory that where a man pays, there ho shall have a vote, but there is an injustice, a great injustice, which requires to be remedied at the hands of this House, and it is, not that a man votes twice, but that his vote in two different constituencies has a totally different value. In the one constituency he may be one among two thousand electors choosing the representative and in another constituency he may be one among forty thousand electors, and yet the representative returned to this House in each case has an equal power. It is, I submit, the essence of representation by localities that the areas should be proportioned so as to contain approximately the same number of electors, of course with a few exceptions, and that the proportion should be maintained by a readjustment from time to time as 1383 the changing necessities of population render it necessary and desirable. Only by doing that, only by maintaining the proportion between the areas sending representatives to Parliament, can you maintain a proper value for each man's vote. The need for Redistribution, quite apart from this Bill, is real and insistent. We have often had the figures given in this House. The anomalies presented by this present system are common knowledge, and I will not, therefore, repeat them, but perhaps there has been no more able and arresting speech than that which came from the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) on the Second Reading of this Bill. He seems to me to have given two expressions which put the whole thing in a concrete and extremely intelligent form. The hon. Member said:—The greatest plural voters to-day are not the half million of men to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred who have votes in more than one constituency; the greatest plural voters are those who vote in a small constituency. I happen to be a registered elector in a Division in the county of Middlesex. In that Division there are 35,000 electors registered, whilst in Middlesex and another part of the country where a by-election is now taking place there are only 4,000 registered electors, so that every voter in Whitechapel is a plural voter nine times over, compared with the voters in the constituency in which I reside. Let me give one more illustration. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) takes an important and valuable part in the Debates of this House. May I point out that he was returned by a number of votes hardly enough to return a member to a respectable parish council, and he polled only one-tenth of the number of votes polled by one of my hon. Friends who represents the city of Newcastle. The first time I stood as a Parliamentary candidate in 1900 I was not elected, but there were not twenty out of the 670 Members who were returned at that General Election who polled as many votes as I did, although I was not a successful candidate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1913, cols. 1247–8. Vol. LII.]The hon. Member summed up his arguments in these words:—Who can defend a system like this? These are the real plural voters, and the right hon. Gentleman's Bill does not attempt to touch this, which is one of the greatest anomalies in our electoral system."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1913, col. 1248, Vol. LII.]I want to see Redistribution. It is a real and pressing need. Without this Bill, as long as you leave the system of voting by constituencies, you cannot justify the present condition. It is the very negation of the rights of the individual voter, and to pass this Bill first, to hold your General Election on a mutilated electorate in constituencies admittedly disproportionate, is to invite, and surely to deserve, the criticism that you are not honest in the purposes with which you introduce the Bill. How do we stand with reference to this question? Speaking on the Second Reading, the 1384 right hon. Gentleman who moved the Bill in 1913, said:—I hope the House will accept my word when I say it is our intention before the General Election to introduce a measure of this kind to deal with Franchise reform. We intend to deal with that, and we also intend to deal with Redistribution on a basis which I believe will command the general assent of the whole country.And, again, speaking in reply to an interruption, I think by the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman said:—He may accept our word or not with regard to our intentions, but there it is. I believe that we shall introduce a Redistribution Bill, and I believe the right time to introduce a Redistribution Bill is towards the end of the life of a Parliament and not before."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 30th April, 1913, col. 1241, Vol. LII.]Even apart from the almost inevitable happening of the unexpected, it is quite clear the life of the present Parliament is drawing to a close. Even if the Government by careful nursing and by the artificial and unnatural sustenance given it from the benches behind me, is enabled to prolong its anæmic existence until next year, it is abundantly clear that it is absolutely impossible to formulate, perfect, consider, introduce, and pass a Redistribution Bill before the next General Election, and I should like to get from the right hon. Gentleman—if he serves no other useful purpose, he will do in that a good service—a definite answer to this: Do they intend to use the power which the command of a majority of this House gives them to redistribute the constituencies either prior to or contemporaneously with the passing of this Bill into law under the Parliament Act, or do they intend to pass this Bill first, and to reap the advantages for which they hope from an unreformed electorate, and to leave Redistribution and reform of all real anomalies, if they are not successful, to their opponents, or, if they are successful, to leave it to the Greek Kalends, presuming their conclusions are justified, and they are returned with the majority which it is the purpose of this Bill to give them? I hope before this Debate is over we shall get a definite answer to that specific question—are we to have Redistribution contemporaneously with or prior to the passing of this Bill, or is the election to take place on an unreformed and a mutilated electorate, and is Redistribution of seats to be left to some future indefinite period?
I should weary the House were I to deal with the many imperfections of this Bill, but there are just two which seem to demand passing notice from one who is 1385 practically asking the House for the rejection of the Bill. One is the absurdity, for it really is nothing less, of the fact that the Bill applies to a General Election and not to a by-election. Why? Can it be because the Government have fixed their eyes firmly on the next General Election and do not care for much beyond? If what you please to call plural voting is unjust at a General Election, why is it just at a by-election? By what system of logic can you justify the insertion of such a proviso in this Bill? See what may happen: An hon. Member is elected to this House by a constituency under the terms of this Bill. He is appointed a Minister of the Crown and has to seek re-election. Then the Bill is not operative, and he goes back for reelection by a totally different constituency from the one which sends him here. What possible justification is there for that? I claim no credit for that example. I have taken it from a speech which the right hon. Gentleman himself made in introducing the Bill on the Second Reading. He said:After this Bill is passed into law, and if a Franchise Bill did not follow it before the next General Election, I admit that it would be absurd that at the General Election Members might be returned by certain electorates, and then a fortnight afterwards, having taken office, they should have to appeal, not to the same individuals who had previously returned them, but to a constituency in which at the by-election there might be three or four thousand additional voters. Again, it is absurd that an individual with several qualifications should be placed in a preferential position, as compared with the poorer elector, as to the constituency m which he should exercise his vote. "I think these evils can be redressed before the next General Election by the passage of a Franchise Reform Bill somewhat similar to that which I introduced last Session."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1913, col. 1237, Vol. LII.]Does the right hon. Gentleman still think so? Was a Franchise Bill of the kind which he suggested ever after the 30th April, when he made that speech, within the sphere of practical politics? Does he now think it is possible in this Parliament, before it comes to an end, to introduce a Franchise Bill? He knows that it is totally out of the question. He might as well attempt to corece Ulster, let us say, into coming in placidly under an Irish Parliament as to hope to introduce a Franchise Bill before this Parliament comes to an end. Therefore, you have this strange anomaly admitted by the hon. Member to remain in this Bill. It is to pass with all its absurdities on the face of it, without any chance of being followed by the Franchise Bill promised by the right hon. Gentleman when ho introduced this Bill. Again, there is the fact that you leave a candidate under this Bill the right to incur expenditure based on a number of electors in the constituency 1386 which you know is not the real number. It is based on the number of those on the register when you know that the register has ceased to be a true index of those who go to the poll. This is a real grievance. In my humble opinion the whole of this question relating to expenditure by Members of Parliament and by candidates requires to be revised, in a direction of curtailment, and not of enlargement, and I confess I cannot follow the attitude of hon. Members opposite below the Gangway, who, while objecting, and very rightly objecting, to the power given to wealth at election times, are prepared to support a Bill which will remove even the meagre protection which the law now imposes and will allow a candidate to spend money out of any real proportion to the number of the electorate whom he is wooing.
I do not want to detain the House with further examples of what I submit are the inherent injustices and absurdities of this Bill. I have dealt with the question of Redistribution. I have attempted to show, and I hope I may have succeeded, that it is a real and pressing need, quite apart from the introduction of this Bill. The introduction of this Bill, without a contemporaneous Redistribution is, I should say, almost unthinkable, and certainly would be a grave injustice. There is a remaining anomaly contained in this Bill which has been pointed out before now, and that is the way in which you are affecting votes and the interests of that rapidly growing and increasingly important class who have their offices or shops in cities and who reside outside. You are leaving them to contribute in two places, and giving them the right to choose a representative in one place only. I want, in conclusion, to say two words upon what I venture to submit to the House is a really grave aspect of this Bill which would justify it in refusing to entertain it at the present time. You are going to leave voting by constituencies. Personally, I am glad. I think that system is the right one, but you must admit that the machinery by which you carry it out is obsolete, cumbersome, rusty, and out of date, and that its operation often produces grave injustice. I remember hearing two examples given by the right hon. Gentleman in introducing this Bill when he instanced the grave injustice felt by a man who went to live in a locality on the 11th of July, 1913, and found himself unable to obtain a vote until the 1st of January, 1915. The anomalies and injustices 1387 are patent. Hon. Members opposite are never tired of complaining of them. Why are they left unremedied? Why do the Government choose but one admittedly small item which they are pleased to christen an anomaly, and deal with that, while leaving all the others untouched? I think the reason is obvious. They do not know what the result of a real reform might be upon their electoral prospects. They do know what the result of this Bill is going to be. Indeed, we have it in plain and ingenuous terms given by the right hon. Gentleman himself, because on the introduction of this Bill he was reminded by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Walton Division that a year previously he had said:—I am quite prepared to make the admission freely to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that by the abolition of plural voting, we do expect to gain on this Hide of the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th April, 1913, col. 1020, Vol. LI.]Yes, Sir, it is a fact that those who have what hon. Gentlemen somewhat sneeringly are pleased to call a stake in the country have a distressing habit of voting for the Unionist party. That state of affairs has obviously to be put right, and for that purpose you are going to utilise the Parliament Act, and not only to utilise it, but you are straining every nerve to remain in office until this Bill becomes law. How the Government must regret that this Bill, as it now stands, was not the first fruits of the Parliament Act! How they must regret that, in starting their trio of Bills upon their mechanical progress towards the Statute Book, this Bill, instead of being put first of the three, was put a belated and bad third! Is there anybody in this House who does not realise the reason why the Government has been reluctant to submit the Home Rule Bill to the electorate of the country? Do not we all know that the Government is refusing to submit that Bill to the constituencies, and is pathetically clinging to office for the sole reason that they may remain there until this Bill is passed into law, and, consequently, their own electoral chances are improved. They say that they intend to submit the Home Rule Bill at some time to the electorate. Yes, but it is not the same electorate from whom they claim to have a mandate. They are going to alter the electorate. When this Bill is put before the constituencies, if ever it is, then it is to be determined not by those who they pretend have sent them here to pass 1388 it into law, but by a different, a mutilated, an emasculated and, I say, an unfairly constituted constituency. In conclusion, I venture to make this appeal to the Government: I believe, indeed, I know that every man in this House has the dignity of public life at heart. I believe that every man in this House is proud of our traditions, and of the fact that hitherto our public life has been an example to the civilised world. I would suggest to the Government that, in the interests of that public life and of our public reputation, they should hesitate, at a time when this Parliament is coming to a natural end, when their power is of necessity running out, before utilising the power and the authority which is still theirs, not to reform an admitted grievance, not to redress an admitted injustice, not to remedy any need of the country or to do any good to the country, but, instead of doing that and instead of leaving a useful reputation behind them, for the sole and unique purpose of securing for themselves an evanescent and contemptible party advantage.
§ Sir JOHN RANDLES
I rise for the purpose of seconding the Amendment moved by my hon. and learned Friend. In doing so I shall endeavour to observe what I regard as a very wholesome tradition of this House, and not to impute unworthy motives to the promoters of this Bill or to its opponents. The Government have made it very difficult for us, in view of their own admissions, to regard this Bill as one into which there does not enter some element of their own personal advantage in the constituencies at the next General Election. My hon. and learned Friend quoted from the speech of the President of the Board of Education to show what would be the desire if it were thought possible to eliminate such considerations; but we have had in our minds, and cannot help believing, that they have had weight in the pressure that has been brought to bear to bring this Bill before the House for its Second Reading to-day. What a comment on the position this Debate is. This Bill is one of the cardinal and chief political measures of the Government this Session which come-under the terms of the Parliament Act. They stand on it, perhaps, more than on any other one measure. A glance round this Chamber on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill will show very clearly to any observers who have come up here from the country, that there is absolutely no interest in the discussion of 1389 this measure, and there is absolutely no care for what may be said about it. It may be shattered and destroyed in argument; it may be made to look entirely illogical, but scarcely a man on the other side of the House feels it worth while to discuss the Bill seriously, although they will come in in a crowd a few minutes before eleven o'clock for this Bill, if for no other Bill, which will come before this House during the whole of the Session. Knowing that that is the case, we cannot but feel that it is the advantage of the Government in particular, and of hon. Members opposite in general, in view of the coming General Election, that makes them so keen to support this Bill in the Lobby, and so careless to defend it in Debate. This Bill can hardly be said to be the embodiment of the views of the Government on electoral reform. It can scarcely be called the legitimate child of the Government. That infant died some time ago, and this is a fresh one. The President of the Board of Education defended it on a ground which does not sound quite logical. He said:—It is only because this is a very short Bill and does not raise many points of criticism and controversy, that we can devote sufficient time this Session to passing it into law.That is the plea, "It is only a little one. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman carried his case much further than that this was a little point in electoral reform which the Government would not, by itself, push through, but that, accompanied by other measures of reform, they would push it through. It was very convenient, of course, to forget the first Bill they introduced, for one man one vote. That Bill held out possibilities and hopes of votes for women. It was not convenient to perpetuate the life of a Bill of that nature, and it was dropped and the unfortunate measure disposed of. The hopes and promises which attached to that Bill seem to have died with it. I am not saying that the Government should or should not have continued to prosecute their measures or their promises in relation to votes for women, but they must not be surprised at a good many people, looking at their attitude on this question—leaving the Government to be the judges of their own honour—think that the measurements are so very fine and that it requires a very nice discernment to detect where the point of honour is saved and where it is lost. Perhaps a good deal of trouble in the country in connection with that question might be attributable to the manner in which the 1390 Government have dealt with electoral reform. It is common ground between all of us that there are a great many anomalies, and there is no question that, as a part of a general scheme for one man one vote, the principle might well be adopted by this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] It is arguable whether or not it should be a part of the scheme. The one little section of electoral reform which the Government select to force through, to the neglect of the rest, should be one which does not tell to their own particular electoral advantage and to the particular disadvantage of their opponents. I should think that men of honour would have some regard to a consideration of that kind in deciding which particular measure should be pushed through if the time was so limited, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested it was.
This Bill can hardly be said to remove anomalies. I am not sure that it does not rather create than remove them. The anomaly with regard to by-elections has been referred to. What could be more absurd than that we should have a General Election resulting in one decision and that, at a by-election immediately following, we should have an entirely different decision arrived at by the electors? All that we can get out of it is confusion. You are giving a preference to individuals. If it is a wrong thing that a man should vote more than once at a General Election, it is a wrong thing to give a man a preference as to where he should vote. It is an anomaly that a man, because he has two qualifications, should be allowed to select which of them he will exercise. You put an unfair decision on the man himself, and you open to the clever electioneerer a great chapter of possibilities. Are the constituencies to be rigged and regulated? Out of the confusion and scramble I suppose it is hoped that the Government may emerge with a few extra seats. I cannot see anything else in it than that. Instructions from an astute party agent may have a very considerable effect on the determination of any particular election. Alternative voting is nothing but an anomaly. We have lots of abuses. The right hon. Gentleman enumerated all manner of abuses and anomalies in his speech in introducing the Bill, but he is not going to remove any of them. It does not seem as if he had decided that seamen, who are practically disfranchised, should have some method of recording their votes. He does not tell us how returning officers' expenses are to be paid other than they 1391 are paid. There is an abuse he might well have remedied with a good deal of concurrence on both sides of the House. Again, take the expenses of the candidate. Those expenses are based on the number of electors in the constituency which he is contesting. It is quite absurd to suppose that all the electors in that constituency are going to vote in the election, and it may be that some thousands of them will not, because they have duplicate qualifications. Is the candidate to spend money on the large scale or the small scale? Is it to be on the scale of all the names on the register? One hon. Member will be allowed to be extravagant because of the large list of electors who cannot or probably will not vote in his constituency. Is that to be allowed?
Then there is the question of autonomous Redistribution. Why should not attention be paid to that? We all complain of it and honestly and sincerely desire that it should be made easier for the electors to get on to the register. Nothing is done with that matter. The Government's case rests on the fact that it is to be done, and that unless it is done this Bill is not to pass into law. I can quite understand that the President of the Board of Education will resign his office if the Government try to force this measure into law without the remedies to which he is so deeply pledged being carried out before the next General Election. He used very definite language, and for the sake of correction I will quote it. He said:—I think these evils can be redressed before the next General Election by the passage of a Franchise Reform Bill somewhat similar to that which I introduced last Session. I hope the House will accept my word when I say that it is our intention before the General Election to introduce a measure of this kind to deal with Franchise Reform. We intend to deal with that, and we also intend to deal with Redistribution upon a basis, which I believe will command the general assent of the whole country.But referring to this particular little Bill which is only a part of the whole scheme, he said:—It will be a direct incentive to the passage of those other complimentary measures which we feel are required to be carried into law in order to make this Bill workable in the best sense of the term. It is founded upon the equal rights of qualified electors.So that we get very definite language here—not anything about "if circumstances will allow, we should desire to do this, that, or the other," but we must accept his word. If not, I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman will tender his resignation, because no words which could be used to set them aside would get rid of the important argument which he ad- 1392 dressed to this House, and on the strength of this hon. Members voted last Session, if they ever take any notice of Ministerial statements at all, for the Second Reading of this particular Bill. So I looked forward with some hope and confidence to a pronouncement by the right hon. Gentleman as to how he is going to carry into effect those intentions, which were not simply pious intentions, but were real, genuine, and sincere, and which the Government, through him, are pledged to carry into effect. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs forgot that speech of his colleague when he was speaking in this House about a possible deal on the Home Rule question. He suggested that if the Home Rule Bill, the Welsh Church Bill, and the Plural Voting Bill could be passed by assent in some manner which he was not without hope of seeing done, we might get a compromise or an arrangement made which would avoid more serious trouble. He forgot that these other measures were complimentary to, and must be carried into law along with the Plural Voting Bill, and I am quite sure that a reminder from the right hon. Gentleman to the Foreign Secretary will put that matter right, and we shall not have any more forgetting of these important measures which are to be introduced before a General Election. Then, again, they are fortified by the words of that tribune of the people and that great Liberal, John Bright. He certainly was as good a Liberal as the Liberals of today, and I should hope that they had not gone back on pronouncements that he was in the habit of making, speaking on a question which was practically his own. On this matter of Redistribution he said:—Repudiate without mercy any Bill that any Government whatever may introduce, whatever its seeming concessions may be, if it does not redistribute the seats which are obtained from the extinction of small boroughs amongst the large towns.That was truly a democratic pronouncement, and it is inconceivable that the so-called successors of John Bright will go back on the proposal so strongly put forward by him. I think we must insist that Redistribution of these small borough seats shall be a part, and a real part, of any franchise reform which is to go through this Parliament. The anomalies which are being remedied by this Bill, if they are being remedied, are mere trifles in comparison with the anomaly of the Redistribution of Seats. That it should be possible for even so useful a Member of this House as the hon. Member (Mr. 1393 Booth) to be elected by 1,679 votes, whilst it takes 16,599 to elect the hon. Member for Newcastle, or 16,998 to elect the hon. Member for Walthamstow, shows an entire disproportion. Important as the services of the hon. Member (Mr. Booth) may be in many ways, surely they are not more important than those of the Attorney-General, and, indeed, the Attorney-General himself is not satisfied, as far as I can understand, to remain the Member for a constituency which requires 16,998 votes in order to put him in. He is going to transfer his attentions to another constituency?
§ Sir J. RANDLES
I am delighted—that is, on the personal side. I shall be sorry for the learned Attorney later on. What is the significance of this? He is changing to a constituency which is going to be very greatly affected by this Bill. It is one of the historic constituencies in the United Kingdom. It has been represented by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill), and the right hon. Gentleman Mr. Bonar Law sought the suffrages of that constituency, and it is an important constituency, because it is supposed to represent the heart and the centre of commercial, manufacturing Lancashire. Six thousand electors have their qualifications in that Division, because it is the business centre to which they converge in that part of the country, and men such as I have referred to have sought the suffrages of the electorates in that constituency, and the Attorney-General is seeking for the same, but he will wipe out the possibility of those 6,000 electors voting if this Bill is carried. They can only vote once. They have various interests scattered around, and you will cease to obtain the consensus of opinion of commercial industrial Lancashire, such as you can possibly get in that centre to-day, and the Attorney-General, instead of going to ask for 16,000 votes, will be going to ask for a remnant of votes which, if his agents are very clever, he may succeed in persuading to augment the number by getting men not to vote for some other hon. Member in the constituency in which they reside. But it destroys the representative character of the constituency. It takes away from it that mark of distinction and that mark of a representative character which gives some value, at any rate, to an expression of opinion from a great centre Instead of representing a great 1394 commercial community the Attorney-General seeks to represent some very excellent people—caretakers, policemen, firemen, and other gentlemen who will be left in that city, with a small residential population lying on the outskirts of the constituency. I think we cannot but see that to try to carry just a little bit of a measure like this and put it through by itself would be entirely wrong, as was so strongly pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. A. Pease) last year. I am sure the country will not understand and will not give you credit for such high motives as we are disposed to give. They will not understand anything but trickery about this. They do not know, perhaps, how high your principles are. I would desire that you should avoid that pitfall, and that it should not be thought that the House of Commons is legislating to perpetuate its own personal membership, and to perpetuate in place and power any Government. That is what you are doing if you carry this Bill by itself. It is arguable and it is discussable that you should have one vote one value, and all the rest of it, but this miserable offspring of I do not know what combination of circumstances I hope the House will reject, unless we have the most definite assurance that it will not be proceeded with except accompanied by such other measures as they have indicated their intention to produce and which we are now waiting to see.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)
I cannot pretend that after the years of discussion which have taken place of these proposals, I am likely to have anything very novel in the way of argument or of defence to offer for them. In fact, the hon. Gentle-man (Sir J. Bandies) said that one of the penalties of the Parliament Act was that we must put up with a good deal of repetition. Since I made my first speech in this House in 1906, introducing the Plural Voting Bill of the Government, I have assisted in the drafting and in the defence, and, I am sorry to say, in the demise, of several measures directed to the same object, but directed to it by widely different methods of approach. That is only a proof of the old adage that there are more ways of killing a cat than by hanging. Some of these Bills have been killed by Lords, and others have been killed by ladies, and at all events the survivor to-day is distinguished by its sweet simplicity and by its strict legitimacy. But what are the methods which have been 1395 adopted or suggested in the various measures which have been before the House? In my Bill of 1906 we proposed to compel the individual who had more than a single vote to select amongst his various qualifications once a year, or, if he liked, once in a lifetime, which of these qualifications he would exercise during the currency of the twelve months' register, and upon that he became marked in the register for the particular place in which he was entitled to vote. That Bill, I admit, became rather complex in its passage through Committee and Report in this House. It was due to my own desire, and indeed to the fears and objections which are felt in any quarter of the House, that I believed then, and believe now, that it would have been simple in its working machinery. At all events, a great advantage, from my point of view, was that it satisfied a great electoral expert in this House. After we had spent weeks in this House in shaping that Bill, it was disposed of and killed in a couple of hours in another place.
Then we came to the Franchise Bill of 1912. That, of course, was a much more ambitious scheme. It was a scheme which aimed at shortening the period of qualification, and giving us something like continuous registration, and I was glad to hear that the hon. Member rather favoured the idea in his speech. It proposed to enact the enfranchisement of peers, and, above all, in effect to provide for a pure residential qualification—a pure residential vote. That was withdrawn owing to a decision of yours, Mr. Speaker, in the Chair. It was necessarily withdrawn, and not as suggested by the hon. Member willingly got rid of by the Government. And so all these reforms had to be postponed owing to the unfortunate insistence of some ladies who desire the vote, and we must now be content with what we can get within the lifetime of the present Parliament, because we have no time to deal with any measure which would require the setting up after the measure became law of a new register, with all the interval which would be required for that purpose. I am sure that while the House will agree that there are many reforms which are very desirable in connection with the franchise, such as the shortening and simplification of the voter's qualification, we might get rid of some of the eleven or nineteen qualifications, whatever the number that may be said still to exist. 1396 There is the desire for continuous, or, at all events, more frequent registration.
There is, I think, a very common wish that there should be a limitation of the period over which polls may be spread at the time of a General Election. I am glad to know that the House has now received back from the Grand Committee a private Member's Bill which provides that the polls are to take place on two consecutive days. I hope it will be discovered that the House has the will, as well as the time, to pass that Bill into law. There are others who would like to see the question of three-cornered contests dealt with either by the second ballot or the alternative vote. I notice that the hon. Member for the Bassetlaw Division (Mr. Hume-Williams) favoured some drastic further amendments of the Corrupt Practices Act—amendments which would give us a reduction of expenditure. He did not actually specify them. I dare say he would not differ from those who desire to lessen expenditure by the prohibition of posters and conveyances. Certainly, there is the question of an amendment as to the-returning officer's expenses which the hon. Member favours. If I remember aright, it was favoured by the hon. Member for the-Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), speaking from the Front Bench last year. But we have not time for these proposals in this Parliament, unless indeed that they were to be matters of agreement. I am afraid that at the present moment I see no-indication of that, and so we have to come down to this short and simple Bill. It was a complaint made against my Bill that you were putting the voter to a certain amount of trouble—I think that was exaggerated—and giving him the trouble of selecting where he would vote during the twelve months in which the register was current if he had more than one qualification. There was a complaint against the Franchise Bill that we confined it practically to a simple residential qualification, and it was said that a man might be more interested—it was said again to-day by the hon. Member opposite—in the place where he works than in the place where he sleeps. I have heard it suggested that he might wish to vote rather in the place where he draws rent than in the place where he pays rent.
All these objections, whether valid or not, are removed by this Bill. It may be a less scientific measure than that of 1912, but, at all events, it is infinitely simple. It mitigates some of the evils under which we 1397 suffer, though it does not pretend to abolish them all. It prohibits a man voting twice during a General Election, but it leaves him an absolutely free choice where he shall vote at the very moment of going to the poll. That provision is not enforced by any arrangements of registration or by any marks on the register. It is enforced under this Bill by a very moderate penalty. In fact, some people may think that the penalty suggested is too low—at any rate, the Tory party thought these penalties were too moderate when they passed legislation in regard to county council elections in 1888. They passed measures by which they abolished plural voting all over the country for county council elections, and later on for London. We propose in the ease of anyone voting twice a maximum fine of £200 and a maximum imprisonment of one year, with or without hard labour. But when the party opposite were dealing with precisely the same offence in their Bills relating to county council elections, they made this offence not a misdemeanour but a felony. They fixed a maximum of two years' imprisonment with hard labour, and they gave no option of a fine. I think we may claim that we are milder in our penal code than they were at that time. I agree that these offences, if committed at all, will be mainly committed by the well-to-do, and therefore it is desirable that there should be something more than a fine as a deterrent.
Hon. Members opposite ask why we wish to abolish the plural voter at all. I will tell them. It is because we are convinced that it is the desire of a very large majority of the voters who took part in the last three elections in this country to be relieved of this injustice. Hon. Members opposite talk very big of mandates at certain times—occasions when they think a reference to a mandate may be of use to them—but when we came back to this House in 1906 I will venture to say that every Liberal Member returned at that time had a direct and emphatic mandate to get the plural vote abolished, and one man one vote established at the earliest possible moment. We proceeded with my Bill in that year. We carried it on the Third Reading by a majority which might make any party's mouth water. I think it was a majority of 230. But what care Noble Lords in another place for mandates when they think that their own privileges, or those of their class, are being assailed? That Bill was rejected in the House of Lords with contumely by 1398 a majority of 100 after two or three hours' debate. We believe that we have a continuing mandate on this subject. The electorate desire the removal of this anomaly, if I may call it an anomaly. Both of the hon. Members opposite have,. I think, used the term to-day, and as the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) is absent, perhaps we may escape reproof for the use of that word. Though I do not attach much importance to that particular word, I would be quite prepared to say that we regard the plural vote as a gross and palpable injustice to democracy. If hon. Members opposite doubt that, as they seem to do by their audible smile, it can only be because they have never had the advantage of being present at a Liberal meeting. I dare say that in the holy calm of their caucuses it is a name that is; never mentioned.
The hon. Member for the Bassetlaw Division suggested that we were only-dealing with this matter because we found it to our own advantage to do so. Well, I do not deny that for a moment. The very fact that you suggest that it is to our advantage shows that the extent to which we suffer is the exact measure of the extent by which you gain. I think, therefore, that we may take it that matters of self-interest are pretty equally divided in this Debate. The hon. Member for North-West Manchester (Sir J. Bandies) did not, I think, deny that he had a very personal interest in the plural voters resident in the constituency for which he sits. Let me ask why the balance should be weighted upon your side only? After all, the science of legislation is to redress inequalities. It is the same whether applied to individuals, industries, classes or parties. You have had for thirty years an undue and, in my opinion, an undeserved advantage from plural voting. Let us have a little more equality now. If that equality favours us, well, that is our good fortune and not our fault. I remember being blamed for saying in this House in one of the Debates on this subject that our object was to unload the dice. Surely the whole of your argument is an admission that the dice are loaded against us.
You admit that there is no foundation for the claim for the plural vote by your own legislation, which I have already mentioned in relation to county councils all over the country, and the London County Council later on. In neither of these measures did you allow the plural 1399 vote to be exercised anywhere, and that, I would point out, is the real answer to the hon. Member for the Bassetlaw Division, who said that if a man paid in two places he ought to vote in two places. His argument was that this entitled him to vote in two places for Members of this House; but, if a man pays rates in two places, or in twenty places, under the legislation passed by the Conservative party, he is not allowed to vote for the rating authority that inflicts the charge upon him. You have admitted that a man has no claim for a plural vote. You attempted to bait the Referendum hook with the condition that there should be no plural voting. Why in the world a man who possesses six bonded warehouses should vote six times at a General Election and only once in a Tariff Reform Referendum, I cannot understand. You have no objection to our proposals in principle. Why not apply them in practice in connection with Parliamentary elections. The Opposition have never been able to make a case for plural voting with any foundation of justice. Really the arguments as to a man's stake in the country are too thin. That is not the basis of plural voting, and it never has been tried logically to argue or to carry it into effect, or to apply it in such a case.
Plural voting as it exists to-day in its present development is well known to be an accident of past Redistribution. I know that the hon. Member for Bassett-law, and those who have spoken from the Front Bench in our Debates previously, have said that votes should be given in reference to the stake of an individual in a locality. But the vote does not depend on the amount of a man's stake in the locality. It depends in many cases upon the stake, however small it is, having had a perfectly arbitrary and accidental line drawn through it by certain Commissioners who had to redistribute the constituencies. Why the ownership, say, of a small farm near Knowsley, on the borders of two county divisions, which was actually in two county divisions, would give the owner of that small farm two votes, one in Ormskirk and the other in Bootle. That very same man may have an overpowering interest in all the nine divisions into which Liverpool is divided, and he is only allowed one vote for the whole number of them. It only really shows that there is no basis of principle at stake, and, indeed, the owner of that imaginary farm 1400 which I have mentioned at Knowsley would only have had one vote until 1885, when the Redistribution Commissioners came along and drew their line upon a map. I have never been able to understand why it is that voters should be treated so differently in the divisions of big towns and in the divisions of a county, and why if a man is only allowed to vote once in the whole of Liverpool, he should be allowed to vote any number of times for which he had qualifications in the whole of Lancashire. In fact, the larger part of the difficulties which now exist is due to the vagaries of Redistribution.
But if hon. Members opposite really think that men with certain attributes and certain possessions ought to have more electoral power, let them say so. Then we can deal with them, if we clearly understand that their future policy is something in the nature of plurality with wealth, or plurality which is attached to wealth. But I am not sure that hon. Members opposite will have the courage to say that they are inclined or mean to base their argument purely upon wealth. Are they prepared to give more votes to a man because he has got a large quantity of land, or a large number of stock, or that he has attained a certain income, or offers a certain amount of employment, or even that he has attained a certain education or a certain age, or, if you like, a certain stature? I can understand any qualification likely to be put forward, if you put it forward definitely. I remember that the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull) last year suggested. I think, that a man should have more votes in proportion to the number of children which he had. It would be an interesting study to see the revising barrister balancing between a man's stake in the country and his sterility. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London suggested that a man who had worked hard and had earned money should have three or four votes for the City of London. I have no doubt that on the qualification of hard work the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London would probably be entitled to thirty or forty votes. But is that the policy of hon. Members opposite? Is it to be a policy of the preponderating enfranchisement of wealth? The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University, who generally takes an interest in these questions, put forward another qualification. I remember that he was not much impressed with the argument as to hard work. He is a student of casuistry rather than of 1401 parsimony, and is the anti-type of the commercial common sense of the Parliamentary stockbroker. The Noble Lord said that it was quite easy under this Bill to make out a good case for giving people a second vote on the ground of moral superiority. I am sure that if he had been able to do it he would have been here now. I should have liked to hear him try his hand on a legal Parliamentary definition of "moral superiority." I should have been curious to see if he would have been able to include under it any save those of his own title or class, or, at all events, those of his own constituency, the University of Oxford. I suppose that it is this moral superiority which has made possible the rapid change of opinion on the part of Oxford University, or of its Member, which we have had on the subject of Tariff Reform, but I do not think this example of moral superiority can encourage us to form the new class of electors which was suggested by the Noble Lord. Hon. Members' arguments on this subject of qualification are so diffuse, and the qualifications suggested are so diverse, that you cannot arrive at any least common denominator for your pluralist whom you wish to retain. This Bill is not one for the disfranchisement of individuals; it is only one for the limitation of their ubiquity. If the plural vote is so good in itself, as you say it is, why have you never proposed or adopted it in the case of the Colonies or Dominions where you have set up responsible self-government? Hon. Members opposite—and I dare say the hon. Baronet the Member for the City has assisted them—have framed some of those Constitutions, but neither he nor his Friends have ever suggested that such a provision should be put in. I think it is lucky for them that they did not, because they would have found it flouted and ridiculed if they had. Hon. Members opposite talk a great deal about the necessity of there being representatives of localities. There is a great deal of nonsense talked about that.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
I will take as a typical case the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin), who is sitting opposite. He is to-day the representative of a large number of men who never visit Wimbledon even to vote, who have no property or occupation there at all, and who but for the enterprise of the illustrated Press would not know him by sight. He has got on the register in 1402 his constituency something like two thousand London freeholders, who hardly know where Wimbledon is, and who do not even have to go there to vote, because they have special polling places put up for them in London. By one of the freaks of fortune the right hon. Gentleman has undergone a transmigration of body, though I am sure not of soul. He has been transferred from his old happy hunting grounds in Lincolnshire, where he would have been considered a representative of the locality, and has gone to a place which he seldom sees, and which some of the electors never visit, while others spend their days in coming up to London in the morning trains, reading the "Daily Mirror," and going back to Wimbledon in the evening for their supper of fish. No. Sir, we cannot regard the form of the right hon. Gentleman as the modern embodiment of the suburban nut. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw said that the employer has as much right to have a vote for his factory as to have a vote for his home, and that he had it for both—a vote for the place where he works, as well as for that in which he lives. I would like to ask him what about the workman who lives in a humble cottage in the suburb, and who comes in by tram, train, or bicycle every day? You never suggest that he should be allowed the vote for those works in which his hours are spent, and of which he, is a more effective occupier than the owner who only comes there a few hours in the day.
Hon. Members opposite, and quite naturally I think, lay stress upon the necessity of Redistribution concurrently with any proposals which we make. Let me say at once that I have no objection to such proposals at all. You cannot have it of course in the same Bill. That is admitted. We are getting accustomed in this House to the insistent campaign which is carried on by the hon. Member for Honiton (Major Morrison-Bell) with diagrams and columnar illustrations. Whenever he is kind enough to send me any of these diagrams, I always feel that he is preaching to the converted. I would welcome Redistribution now. A few years ago I should have felt it personally impossible to have given my consent to any proposal for Redistribution which made it necessary to reduce the number of Irish Members below a hundred, because I hold that the Act of Union was a treaty, as it was described in the first Clause of that Act. I know that that view is not held by the Leader 1403 of the Opposition, but I do remember that Mr. John Bright, whose authority you are fond of quoting when it suits you—you often quote him on the Irish question—said in Debate in this House in 1884 that no power on earth would induce him to consent to any reduction in the number of Irish Members returned to this Parliament. But I have been able to change my point of view by the introduction and the imminent passage of the Home Rule Bill, which reduces the number of Irish representatives from 103 to forty-two, a number that is far below any proportionate reduction which can be suggested by hon. Members opposite. It seems to me that that would leave the road open to this very desirable reform.
I remember that the Prime Minister said on the Third Reading of this Bill last year that he hoped that Redistribution would be undertaken at an early date with something approaching a general consent. That is our position to-day. I can assure hon. Members that the disproportion of voters in the different constituencies has no merit whatever in our eyes. Equal electoral districts; one vote one value—why not? Will you join us? The hon. Member for Bassetlaw said that we were not prepared to appeal to the same constituents who had returned us at the last election. I assure him that he is mistaken. We are prepared to appeal to the same men. It is you who wish to vary the areas, but we see no objection whatever. And we hope that hon. Members opposite mean what they say when they use the catch-phrase, "One vote, one value." If so, we hope that hon. Members have learned wisdom since they put forward their proposals in the year 1905. I hope that they have progressed since then in their ideas of equality of value. Then hon. Members opposite or their leaders—I suppose it is the same thing—left in constituencies like Whitehaven and Lewisham, the one being exactly seven times the size of the other in votes. The Tory Redistribution Bill of 1905, or perhaps I should say the Resolution in the shape of a Bill, preserved a very large number of small boroughs, and preserved them not on the ground of one vote one value, or equal electoral districts, but on the grounds stated, I think, by Mr. Gerald Balfour as being those of "considerations connected with history." I suppose that that is another form of what the Noble Lord calls moral superiority, though I am not sure 1404 that electoral morality is the most distinguishing virtue of small boroughs. I remember that during the Debates on my Plural Voting Bill of 1906 the "Pall Mail Gazette" wrote an article one night in which it said this of the Tory Redistribution proposals:—The manipulation was too flagrant and ton outstanding to pass inspection. It is owing to their lamentable failure of courage that the Unionist attack on the Plural Voting Bill has lost half its force.And so it is to-day. But then, in 1906, you had resort, not to the force of argument, but to force of quite another kind in another place. You retained in those proposals twenty-five boroughs with less than 5,000 voters apiece. I listened to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Hume-Williams), who said he would never have been a supporter of such a proposal, put forward by his own party, and I hope now that hon. Members opposite are prepared for something more progressive to-day. In my opinion Redistribution can only be carried, and I think ought only to be found by something like agreement, and I should like to see it carried now. The Mover of the Amendment in the Second Reading Debate last year, on the same proposal, said he quite realised that—The Government have given no pledge that they will pass a Redistribution Bill and that it will be operative before next Election.He did go on to say that if we put forward a Redistribution Bill pure and simple, he could not suppose that it, would meet with any substantial opposition from any quarter. I am afraid that he spoke without a full knowledge of the mind of his Leaders, because in that same Debate a question was put to the Leader of the Opposition, and his answer was—We shall facilitate the passing of Redistribution as much as we shall facilitate the passing of this Bill.That is not a hopeful prospect, and I invite hon. Members to give us some better promise of co-operation in their speeches to-day. It is an unfortunate fact that there has never been any measure of franchise reform which has not been opposed, at some stage or other, or by some method or other by the party opposite. Every student of history knows that they brought the country almost to the verge of revolution in their opposition to the Reform Bill of 1831. They offered, too, almost an equally stubborn resistance—in which the right hon. Gentleman took part—to the Bill of 1884. They only supported the Bill of 1866 in the hope of dishing the Whigs, which they failed to do, and it was 1405 immediately followed by the great administration of Mr. Gladstone. I do not know, from all the history of the Tory party, that we have any reason to hope for better things in the future; but if it would entourage the Opposition at all to support this small and simple Bill, I would remind them of the declaration which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham some years ago, when he was a Leader of the Unionist party, in which he said:—Plural Voting is inconsistent with the principle of our present suffrage. Plural voting is doomed.If such a good lead as that lends no encouragement to hon. Gentlemen opposite to come into our Lobby, we must draw our own conclusions as to what their reasons may be. We have not far to go; we need not go beyond the declaration made by Sir Frederick Dixon-Hartland, which has been quoted already several times in this House:—There are many constituencies where, if the plural voter did not exist, the Tory party would have no existence in Parliament.That is equally true to-day. Every electoral anomaly unredressed is an electoral advantage to the party opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] It is not a good objection to this Bill to say that, "You ought not to remove one grievance unless you are prepared to remove them all." This Bill redresses, it is true, one specific grievance, but it creates no others, and it retards no reform. It is not a disfranchising, it is an equalising measure. It deals with a scandal which is the result of a combination of undesigned coincidences a scandal which shows a privileged class, small in numbers, controlling 500,000 votes out of an electorate of 8,000,000. That seems to us, and those who think with us in the country, an intolerable and unjustifiable state of affairs. We came to this House eight years ago, fresh from the country and the constituencies, and armed with an ample mandate. But you would have none of it. You were beaten here by overwhelming majorities, but you depended on your second line of defence, and you mobilised your reserves, efficient and numerous, and killed our Bill. But your powers of permanent obstruction have now passed. With the authority of the Parliament Act it is our turn to-day. We present this Bill to you as one of which the people demands the passage.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
When I entered the House a short time ago I had very little idea of taking part in this Debate, but 1406 one or two things have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman which induce me to offer some reply to several of the observations he made, and to some of the arguments which he used in support of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman described me just now as the "modern embodiment of a suburban nut."
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I think I may say in reply to the right hon. Gentleman that I am afraid I am too old to be as well versed in modern slang as he appears to be. But be that as it may, and whatever may be my faults or my failings as a modern or ancient suburban nut, I was relieved to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that there is no great or preponderating personal difference, in respect of elections, between hon. Gentlemen sitting on either side of the House. I was glad to hear that, because after what we heard with regard to the composition of my Constituents at Wimbledon, it might otherwise have been thought that I was speaking upon this question from reasons of personal interest, which I can assure the right hon. Gentleman is in no way whatever the case. The right hon. Gentleman said, among other things, "You have no basis of principle whatever for your opposition." Why have we no basis? "Because," he said, "your leader only a few days ago, in one of the Irish Debates, offered to submit the decision to a Referendum of a question of enormous gravity, and to eliminate the plural vote altogether." That is perfectly true. Why did we do it? Because of the great, the enormous, the appalling, the rapidly-growing gravity of that question. If I said all I wished to say with regard to that subject, I should get beyond the limits of Parliamentary rules; but I will say this in respect of the right hon. Gentleman's taunt about the Referendum, that, whatever the difficulties may be, whatever they grow to, no Government that has ever ruled in this country for hundreds of years has been so gravely responsible as is the Government now in power. I pass from that. The right hon. Gentleman gave us the history of all the past Bills dealing with this question, and I agree with him when he says that there is little or nothing new that can be said upon this subject. He enumerated many useful reforms which might very well have been included in this Bill, and with some of those reforms I should have been 1407 perfectly ready to agree with him; but then, unfortunately, he vent on to say that in this Bill they did not attempt to deal with any of those really important questions, which would so greatly improve the representation, in many respects, of this country, because for none of these was there any time at all, so that we must be limited to the simple question which is now before the House. He did not go on to add that they are going to get an enormous electoral gain in consequence of this Bill.
That is the whole secret and history of this measure, and I am surprised at the candour of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. He says he does not agree that this Bill would increase the anomalies which are in existence already. My hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment, the Member for North-West Manchester (Sir J. Randles), quoted that very great authority, Mr. John Bright, in support of his statement with regard to Redistribution, and whatever the Colonial Secretary may say on the subject, he never answered my hon. Friend. For myself, I agree with Mr. John Bright, and I think a vast number of other people agree, that Redistribution is not one whit less important to-day—it is more important in my humble opinion—than it was then. One of the great reasons why we wholly and decidedly object to a Bill of this character is that it is brought forward solely with the object of gaining an electoral advantage. Mr. Bright declared that he would never, agree to the withdrawal of one single Irish Member from the representation they enjoyed then in this House; and I remember no more remarkable statement than that which was made by one who sat on the same bench as Mr. John Bright, a statement by Mr. Gladstone himself when he introduced his Bill at that time. What did he say? In one of the ablest, most powerful, the most absolutely convincing statements I ever heard in the whole course of my life, Mr. Gladstone showed, by his argument, that it was absolutely impossible to have an Irish Parliament established in Dublin and Irish Members of Parliament and Irish peers continuing to sit at Westminster; and he said that, notwithstanding that Mr. John Bright had said that he would not consent to the withdrawal of one Irish Member from their representation in this House.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Home Rule Bill, and certainly his statement in regard to Mr. Bright referred to Irish representation.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I am sorry I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, and I suppose it is in part due to the trouble of advancing age. I, however, pass from that part of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman declared, among other things, that no one had ever attempted logically to show ort what grounds plural voting could be supported. I will try myself to show why, and I will ground my argument on what I know of the constituency of Wimbledon. What are the facts with regard to Wimbledon? There are, as the right hon. Gentleman truly said, a great number of residents there, among whom are many pillars of commerce in this country, who have houses of business in London and their residences in Wimbledon. That is not only limited to them, as I believe there are numbers of workmen who do their work in London and who live in Wimbledon, and who, I believe, have residences in London also. Those men in Wimbledon who really are pillars of commerce can vote there and elsewhere, and, in my humble opinion, it is very desirable that they should be able to do so, and I will give a logical argument why I hold that opinion. The welfare of commerce and of the prosperity of trade in this country is absolutely vital to the great masses of our people, and to vast unknown numbers of workmen in the neighbour hood of London as well as in the neighbourhood of other towns in all parts of the country. Those are the men upon whose enterprise and capital and help and sup port the prosperity and trade and commerce of this country depend very largely, and that prosperity of trade and commerce is of more importance to millions of the people of this country at the present time than anything else you can name. If that be so, why are those men to be penalised and deprived of one vote here and at Wimbledon, or in any other town where they conduct their business? The right hon. Gentleman says, and it was his only argument in favour of this, that they have a mandate received from three different-elections given to them by the people because, as he contends, this is a palpable and glaring injustice to the democracy, and for that reason ought to be removed.
But, I ask, how can this hurt the democracy if I am right in thinking that those 1409 people whom I have described are only symbolical of a great many other constituencies in the country, and that they are men who at this moment are doing more than any other class to promote the trade and commerce of the country, and therefore the prosperity of its people? Why, because they occupy that position, they are to be penalised and deprived of votes which they have always had I do not know, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman has thrown no light on that question. No, Sir, the real reason for this Bill, which has been expressed again and again, and I do not think it is even denied by hon. Gentlemen opposite, is this—that they are seeking by every means in their power at the present time to get a majority of voters at the next General Election to support them in their policy with regard to their all-important measures on which they are now engaged. It would be a terrible thing for them if, after all they have done, and with the appalling position into which Ireland has fallen in consequence of their legislation. For, what is the real reason of all the difficulties in Ireland at this moment? That is only one aspect of the question, and it is the Irish legislation of this Government. Without that legislation there could have been no danger from civil war in Ireland.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I am much obliged. I was endeavouring to advance arguments why this Bill, which is designed to give a majority to the Government at the next election, if it be possible for them even then to get a majority, is being pressed, and it occurred to me that that would not be a bad argument against the Bill. That is the position. This Bill is being introduced for one purpose, and for one purpose only, and that is, because His Majesty's Government hope and believe that by its passing they will get a considerably larger number of supporters at the next General Election than they otherwise would. It is upon those grounds and no others that it is being put forward, and if it were the best Bill in the world, and if that was to be the consequence of it, I think I should feel justified in opposing it to the uttermost of my power, because this is the worst Government I ever remember.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
I desire very briefly to state the position that we on these benches take up regarding this 1410 measure, and our attitude to the Amendment which has been proposed. With much of the criticism of the Bill itself we are in agreement. I have followed, I think, very closely all the attempts that the Government has made since 1906 to deal with the question of plural voting. Unfortunately, they have never yet introduced a Bill, in my judgment, for dealing with the anomaly or injustice, as you care to call it, such as the greatness of the question or the justice of the position required that it ought to have been. Those of us who really want to remove this injustice cannot possibly defend the application of a law, and the creation of a certain numerical strength in a constituency at a General Election, and find that the position may be altered by thousands for a by-election which might occur within a few weeks, or even a few days, after a General Election. I think a very anomalous position, and which has been referred to, for the country would be if, under this Bill, we had a new Government, and the Members of it had immediately after a General Election to go and seek re-election on appointment to office, a position which, I think, cannot possibly be defended. In fact, I do not think the Government themselves have made any attempt to defend it, because I think one of the arguments that has always found acceptance in this House is that the constituency should be as near as possible the same, whether at a General Election or a by-election. That is one of the objections, and I have never yet been able to satisfy myself why, in the first Bill that was introduced to deal with this question, or in the present Bill, the Government have taken what appears to me to be the wrong road, the inconsistent road.
The process of selection ought never to have been admitted. Those of us who have any experience of municipal life, and especially conducted under political influences, know that if there is one anomaly more than another, it is that arising out of the possibilities of selection and, what shall I say, the manipulating of the ward registers by this particular process of selection that goes on. I know this much, that the keen election agent in a borough constituency is not considered to be doing his business—and I know what I am speaking of as I was associated with an election agent before I came to this House for a number of years—if he is not carefully watching the opportunity of transferring from what he 1411 calls "a good ward" to a doubtful ward some certain number of electors of his own party colour that he knows will just have the effect of securing not the one ward where they are highly organised but to secure two wards. It seems to me that we are going to have this business introduced in connection with Parliamentary elections. What the Government ought to have done was to have gone boldly to the root of the evil, and allowed a man to be registered for his place of residence, and to allow a choice, if he had more than one place of residence, but to compel him to choose where he was going to be registered for, and to have given him the one choice only. That course has not been followed.
Then we have been reminded, and I think rightly reminded, although it comes with very bad grace from the other side, of the smallness of this measure. My experience of eleven years in this House leads me to say that when an important, drastic, far-reaching Bill is introduced, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen rise up and say, "you are attempting too much." When a little Bill is introduced, and we have been reminded that this is a little Bill and an illegitimate Bill, and I do not know what else, then we are told that because it is a little Bill it ought to be rejected. I regret it is a little Bill very much. I know something of the very serious anomalies which exist in connection with the franchise and electoral law and registration. It seems to me that we on these benches have the strongest possible reason for objecting to the continuance of all those other anomalies as much as right hon. and hon. Members opposite. We are especially-interested, as we have demonstrated in this House on many occasions, in the great question of the non-representation and of the non-enfranchisement of women. We would have liked, if it had been possible, for this question to have been treated along with the question of plural voting in a great scheme of electoral reform. We are also interested, as I have often pointed out in this House, with regard to the very absurd position of working-class registration. The working man was supposed to have been enfranchised many, many years ago in the boroughs, and more recently in the counties, but when they gave the enfranchisement they did not give registration simplicity and shortness of the period of qualification. They made the enfranchise- 1412 ment of tens of thousands ineffective through the influences to which I am referring, and to-day in working-class constituencies, we have thousands upon thousands of men every time a General Election comes round who have had the franchise conferred upon them but who are denied the opportunity of voting. Then there is another great class affected, and I think this is one of the most shameful things in connection with the whole of our electoral system. I am a member of a very large church in this country—the Wesleyan Methodist Church—and I have known ministers of that Church who have been in the ministry for thirty or forty years and never once had the opportunity of voting. They were under what we call the three-years' system. They went to their new circuits on the first Sunday in September. As most hon. Members are aware, they did not begin to qualify for their vote until July of the following year. Then they had to remain until the following July before they were qualified. They then came on the register in the following year—that is, the year in which they had to remove to another circuit. These men are highly educated and deeply interested in the moral welfare of the nation, and yet in thousands of instances they have not had an opportunity of voting—unless, of course, they were prepared to go to the exceptional expense of travelling, it might be from one end of the country to the other, if an election happened to occur during the remaining few months of their last year. These are matters in which we on the Labour Benches are interested. We would have liked to have seen the Government deal with the very serious injustices—I think the word "anomalies" is not sufficiently strong—to which I have referred. But what I want to ask is this: Is the mere fact that either this or any other Government does not deal to our satisfaction in a bold and comprehensive way with all the evils of which we complain a sufficient justification for saying that we will have nothing to do with this measure, which is going to deal with one of the greatest of the injustices associated with our electoral system?
Reasons have been given this afternoon why the Government are proceeding with this measure. We have been told that it is to gain some party advantage. After all, it is very easy for us to say that hon. Members opposite have always defended the plural vote in order that they may 1413 reap some party advantage. It is very seldom that we hear—we have heard it today—the plural vote defended on principle. The hon. Member for the Basset-law Division (Mr. Hume-Williams) tried to make out a case on principle, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin), in a way that we would have expected from him, has also gone the length of trying to make out on principle a case for the continuance in existence of the plural voter. The Mover of the rejection endeavoured to argue that the vote ought to go pretty well in proportion to the wealth enjoyed, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon took practically the same line of argument. It seems to me that there you have the difference clean cut and intelligible between the supporters of the Bill and those who, during the eleven years of my membership of this House, have opposed every measure for restricting the pluralist. If hon. Members opposite are going to defend, on principle, the continuance of the pluralist, they are entitled to do so. None of us can call their right in question. But it does not become them to get away on the defence of the pluralist on principle and then try to shelter their opposition to this measure by charging the Government with having introduced the Bill merely in order to obtain some party advantage.
Why do we on these benches support the Bill? We are going to be perfectly candid. Why do we agree that there should be no exercise of the plural vote? Because we believe fundamentally that the vote ought to be conferred upon the individual and not upon any property that he may possess. We believe that every man ought to have a vote. In fact, most of us on these benches go so far as to say that every woman who has to obey the law ought also to have a vote. We do not believe in talking about the government of the people for the people by the people', and then deny to millions of our people, both male and female, who are called upon to obey the law just as rigorously as those of us who have the vote, any right to take any share in the Government of the country. Therefore, we Labour Members say that this is a great injustice. The constituencies are called upon periodically to send representatives to this House. We believe that those representatives ought to express the views of the constituencies. Under plural voting they cannot do so. The Mover of the rejection seemed to be gratified that we were going to 1414 continue constituency representation. It seems to me that it will only be when the pluralist is absolutely abolished that we shall have constituency representation as it ought to exist. Let me try to show what I have known to take place in the constituency that I have the honour to represent. When I first became connected with that constituency as the election and registration agent of my predecessor, what did I find? I found a small polling district in a colliery neighbourhood with, perhaps, 150 colliery houses. When I examined the register I found that for nearly every one of those houses there were two or three owners on the register, and whenever I spoke to any of the resident electors of that little polling district they always said that this was the greatest grievance under which they suffered—that when election day arrived, motors, carriages, and trains brought from all over the country, from entirely outside the constituency, two votes, and in some cases three, to neutralise every vote of the miners, who were surely interested in the district. We have had the argument put forward this afternoon that a man's interest in a district ought to be measured by the amount of money that he has invested.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
I have heard it this afternoon. I think that is the only construction that can be put upon the statement that was made. [An HON. MEMBER; "By whom?"] To begin with, the Mover of the rejection (Mr. Hume-Williams) used the argument that the vote ought to go with the interest that a man had in the locality; and the Seconder of the rejection (Sir J. Randles) argued the case of the Manchester constituency which he represents, and tried to point out the injustice that would be done, saying that the Attorney-General was going down there after having removed from the register of the constituency the votes of all the business people who resided elsewhere. Surely that is the point with which I was dealing. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Hon. Members opposite are entitled to take that line if they like, but it is not an argument with which we on this side hold. In the illustration that I was giving these miners' all was in that neighbourhood—the only capital they possessed was their labour; their little cottages were as much to them as any mansion is to any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite, and they were entitled to complain about the effect of their vote being neutralised 1415 by two or three owners coming in from outside the district. I repeat that you will only get a fair representation of the constituencies when the resident vote is the only vote that counts, and when it counts to the extent of being thoroughly effective.
The great argument used on the other side to-day has been that we ought to do nothing until we get Redistribution. I was rather glad to hear the representative of the Government throw out his challenge to Members of the Opposition. They are fond of talking about the anomalies of the present distribution of seats. I do not think there are any two opinions about the existing anomalies. But there is an unwillingness on the other side to accept any and every effort made for a peaceable settlement of the difficulties inherent in the present distribution of seats. The offer has been made in a very deliberate way. If I were not afraid of transgressing the rules of order, I might put the same construction upon the attitude of the Opposition on this question as I put upon the suggestion made for the peaceable settlement of another outstanding question with which this House is concerned. It seems to me that it is nothing else than talk. If we were going to deal with the question of Redistribution, we on this side would be only too delighted. The Mover and Seconder of the rejection gave two or three illustrations of the absurd position that obtains to-day in different constituencies. They quoted Walthamstow and Pontefract. They might have taken illustrations from their own side of the House. They might have told us how there are Members on their own side representing some of the smallest constituencies in the country. To select all their illustrations from seats held by Members on this side is not the way to convince us of their serious intention or of their real desire to remove outstanding anomalies. I listened very attentively to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, but I have never hoard a case for the rejection of a Bill supported with less argument than the one put forward this afternoon. There was one argument that I was delighted to find was not advanced. Every time the rejection of the Bill of the Session—I cannot make a closer reference to it than that—has been debated, it has been on the ground that there was no mandate for the measure. 1416 Neither the Mover nor the Seconder, as I understood them, advanced the argument that this Bill should be rejected to-day because there was no mandate. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Government Bench said that in 1906 every Liberal Member came to this House pledged in favour of the abolition of plural voting. I think I am right in saying that there has never been a Labour Member returned to this House who has not come fully pledged to a complete abolition of the pluralist in connection with Parliamentary elections. For that reason, in addition to the others which I have named, I sincerely trust that the Bill will get its Second Reading this afternoon, and that before long it will have found its place upon the Statute Book, to remove one of the serious injustices connected with our electoral system.
§ Sir GILBERT WILLS
The speeches of hon. Members opposite seem to me to have been concerned more with the paucity of arguments urged against this Bill than with any advantages, actual or hypothetical, which would accrue to the people of this country from its passage. In that, if I may be allowed to say so, I think they have chosen the easier and lighter task, because so far as I have been able to discover there is only one argument which can be produced in favour of the Bill. That argument is the democratic principle of equalising, not, indeed, the value of the Parliamentary vote—for the Bill before the House goes but a short way towards achieving that—but the equalisation of the value of men. Whether or not that can ever be accomplished by legislation, whether or not it comes within the scope of legislation, is open to question; it certainly does not come within the scope of this discussion. With regard to the Parliamentary vote itself, it might be possible by means of legislation on a broader basis altogether than the Bill which is at present before the House, to adopt the principle of one man one vote, and, to quote the catch-phrase which has been alluded to many times this afternoon, to make it a logical proposition by ensuring that one vote possessed one value. Theoretically, all that might be done, and done with precision so far as the polling booth is concerned, though from the point of view of the State I very much doubt whether it could ever be positively said that the influence of one man is exactly equal in value to the influence of another. For myself, I should be inclined to say 1417 that two votes, even if they were registered for the same party would not be identical in value, if the one were registered after a lengthy and careful study into such subjects as political economy and Parliamentary history, supplemented by some careful observations of social problems both in this country and on the Continent, and the other were given for no other reason than the individual's father happened to have voted in that way.
If the present Bill is a sincere attempt to give one man one vote and one vote only, as has already been pointed out by many hon. Friends on this side of the House, it falls terribly far short of its object, since the value of the vote will still to a large extent depend upon the purely fortuitous place of residence of the individual, and the influence of the local magnate, say in a place like Durham, will still outweigh, and outweigh by more than twenty-two times, the opinion of the toiling factory workers in Romford. That point has been already raised this afternoon, and on many other occasions, and I have no wish to labour it; but I would like to allude for the moment to another aspect of this case, one which was dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General when he was speaking in this House a year ago. In the course of his very lucid speech he drew attention to the total want of logic underlying the arrangement whereby one man is able to express his views in several constituencies. After speaking of Belgium, and the system in vogue in that country—which, he said, had the same underlying principle—he referred again to this country. Speaking more particularly on the subject of the plural voter, he used these words:—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 the 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 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.That, of course, is absolutely true logically, but actually might we not say, and say with truth, that it was based on a greater thing, certainly greater than wealth, and possibly from the point of the individual, greater even than brains. Was it not the earliest and original attempt of our forefathers to grant political authority in some proportion to the specific interest which a man might be expected to take in 1418 the Government of the country, whether he owns either a large tract or, for that matter, a very diminutive corner? It is not in proportion to wealth—and rightly so! If it were how could such a test be applied even in these days of searching and careful inquiry from Somerset House? Nor would such a test be valid, for the wealth of a man is no criterion of his real stake in the country, since it might be drawn from either partially or in toto from foreign securities! It was easier and simpler to judge of a man's definite interest that he could show he possessed in various parts of the country and it was done by the rough and ready expedient of geographical position.
On the question of interest, I feel I could almost like to defend the plural vote. I am inclined to regard it as a direct stimulus to careful consideration. Cases have been already cited—and I should like to emphasise the point made by the hon. Member who moved this Resolution—where a trader, merchant, or manufacturer might live in one constituency, whereas the scene of all his business activities might lie in another. It has been pointed out that it is exceedingly hard for a man to choose in which constituency his main interests are centred. May I bring forward the hypothetical case of a man who possesses in two different constituencies either a workshop, a shop, a factory, or a warehouse. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or a freehold!"] Would it not, from his point of view, be even more difficult to decide? Would he not, in point of fact, have to choose between his interests as a citizen of one locality and the relative value of the vote to the candidate of his choice? There is some misconception, I think, as to the influence of the plural vote in elections. The Financial Secretary for War, speaking in the Debate last year, used these words:Every time you take away even one plural voter you do something to prevent that influx of alien voters, from other places who come to a locality and swamp the resident voters in the constituency.The picture produced on one's mind here is as though the plural voters descended on a constituency like a swarm of locusts—came down, in fact, upon a constituency where they have absolutely no interest, and merely to give a false impression of political opinion. Let me point out to the House that the plural voter is not an alien at all. His interest in a constituency is not less than that of the resident. Men that come into the City of London or the City of Westminster daily to conduct commercial enterprises pay taxes, and pay 1419 rates, and could it possibly be fair to say or even to allude to these men as aliens because they happen to live either in Kensington or Chelsea? I myself feel that that is not a fair way to speak of the plural voter. If the Bill before the House was in effect an attempt to deal with all the anomalies of the franchise at the present time, if it were a sincere effort to demolish them completely and substitute for them the truly democratic principle of one man to a vote and one value to a vote, then I think it would be difficult for Members on this side of the House to raise objections or to offer resistance.
The reason for the resistance which is now forthcoming can, I think, be found in the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Joseph Pease) made when he was introducing the Bill last year. That speech has been referred to this afternoon, but I think I am referring to a different part of it at any rate, the right hon. Gentleman alienated himself for a moment from the party for which he was speaking, and tried—and successfully—to get into the mind of a Unionist Member of Parliament, for he spoke on behalf of the Unionist when he said: "The question, therefore, which I presume that they would like to put to me is this, 'Why introduce legislation merely to help one party in the State from an electoral standpoint and defer franchise, registration, electoral reform, reconstruction of the House of Lords, and Redistribution, subjects on which there might be a greater consensus of opinion in all quarters of the House?'" and the right hon. Gentleman continued: "My reply to such a question would be that during the lifetime of the present Parliament we intend to proceed with these reforms." I do not for a moment wish to question or doubt the sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman when he used those words, but may I draw attention to this fact, that it is a year ago since he spoke, that the sands are running out, that at best, or at longest, the present Parliament has but a year more to live. These other reforms have not yet, so far as we know, been more than hinted at. Under these circumstances I would add my voice to those who are urging the Government not to proceed further with this particular measure, but to approach the question, when they do so, in a manner which is comprehensive and in a measure which is comprehensive.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
I think I voice the general opinion of the House in congratulating the hon. Member who has just sat down on the speech he has made. Perhaps he will not think me guilty of any discourtesy if I do not follow his arguments, because they are based upon the general argument raised in the Bill now before the House. I venture to say that this particular Bill is one which lends itself to short speeches, and I certainly hope that during the course of the Debate short speeches will be the order of the day, so that more constituencies may be heard than is usual in our Debates here. One thing is gratifying to me, and it is this, that under the Parliament Act there is greater recognition from hon. Members opposite of the will of the constituencies, and as they declare so much that we must have a mandate from the people I imagine we shall never have any Bill before this House which has a more clear and definite mandate than the one we are now discussing. The real objection to this Bill was indicated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench. He said that though the Bill might be the very best Bill in the world he would be opposed to it because, as I understood him, he thought it would bring some benefit to the Government and their supporters. It seems to me that is not the line upon which a great Bill of this description should be discussed, and that we must get to the underlying principles, either one or the other. It is a stronger objection to say that it is not a complete Bill. We recognise that on this side of the House. My hon. Friend below the Gangway pointed out that, and I agreed with him, and there is not the slightest necessity to say the same thing over again; but because it is not a complete Bill it seems to be to be rather an absurd reason for not granting it a Second Reading. If it does not go all the way, it goes part of the way, and when we cannot get all we want some of us, as practical reformers, are willing to take what we can get. I think we are taking a wise course under the conditions of this Parliament in accepting this truncated Bill, even if it does not go so far as we desire.
Another argument used is that our representation should be rather representation of localities. If there is anything in that argument, it tends in favour of those who support this Bill rather than in favour of those who oppose it, because we stand 1421 for residential qualification, and we take this as a step in that direction. We are not desiring to disfranchise, but we are striving to prevent those who have one vote where they live and another where they do not live neutralising the votes of others where they live. In the constituency in which I reside we have a somewhat concrete object lesson in our objections to out-voters. I am informed that the total register is 14,433, and of these 4,115 are called out-voters; consequently, the actual residents in the constituency, that is, the proper residents who ought to vote, are only 10,318, and the effect, therefore, of bringing those who have property qualifications in boroughs and other out-voters seems to me to show the particular unreasonableness of the suggestion that the present system tends to the representation of localities. If we are to have representation of localities at all, they must be represented by those living in them, and not by those brought from outside, and although this Bill does not go completely in that direction, insisting upon residential qualification by compelling that one man shall only vote once, it is a great step in that direction, and, consequently, I support it. It is said that a man ought to have representation because he owns property, as well as because of his residence—interest in addition to personality. It seems to me that if that argument holds good, it must be carried a great deal further than the present system.
I cannot understand how what clearly is an anomaly can be sustained. A man owns a house in a county constituency and be resides in another and he has one vote only for that constituency, but if by chance while he resides in the county constituency he owns a house across the way in a borough constituency, then he has another vote for that constituency as well as for his own. It is sheer accident, and there is no principle involved whatever, and if interest is to be the line that should cause representation, let interest be carried to its logical conclusion, and let there be an amount of representation in proportion to the quantity and amount of interest he represents. This is a pure anachronism. It is not a principle. There is no guiding line to follow. It is mere chance. It is only desired to be retained by hon. Gentlemen opposite, because they think it suits their political views, and they will prevent our Bill from being passed, because they think it will help us. There is one other contention raised, 1422 namely, that of trade interest. The Colonial Secretary distinctly indicated the answer to that. Rates are contributed to the locality where those rates are paid; but when we come to this National Chamber, representation ought to be of the individual man and, in my view, of the individual woman in this country, and we are taking a great step, to my mind for those women who are not enfranchised by making sure, at any rate, that no man shall have more than one vote. I have only one more word to say. The contention is raised that with one vote there should be one value. There is not the slightest objection on our side to that, because we are removing one anomaly we have no objection to removing another, and I associate myself most heartily with the words of the Colonial Secretary that if the Opposition will agree with us on a Redistribution Bill, they will find no difficulty on our part in agreeing with them. We want to get rid of this anomaly of the present distribution. We want a fair system of Redistribution all round, whether it helps one side or the other. As a matter of principle as we believe in one man one vote, we also believe in fair Redistribution, and if the other side will join with us in the present Parliament in bringing that about we will act most heartily with them. As I said, the Bill is not complete, but it is the best Bill we can get in the circumstances, and because this is a step in the right direction I heartily support the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. H. P. HARRIS
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seems to be quite clear that there is a mandate for this Bill. The Colonial Secretary also claimed a mandate, but he immediately afterwards referred to the Liberal caucus, and I think we there find the source of his mandate. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by narrating how the mountain of the Treasury Bench had been in labour for many years, and we have now before us this ridiculous mouse of a Bill. I think the hon. Member for Barnard Castle proved quite conclusively that there were many electoral reforms better worth having by the working classes than the one in this Bill. He asked why should not the Labour party vote for this Bill, even if there were other reforms which they desired more? I think the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) if I remember aright, gave the answer when speaking last Session, because he pointed out, and I think quite truly, that passage of this 1423 Bill means the indefinite postponement, so far as the Liberal Government are concerned, of any other electoral reform. I do not say the Liberal party are not in favour of electoral reform. I cannot help bearing in mind the very significant speech made by the hon. Member for Northampton last year, because he said, so far as he was concerned, he repudiated altogether the notion that when the Government had passed plural voting, they should then immediately take up Redistribution or Franchise Reform. He said that they should turn their attention to other things. I think when we criticise this Bill as the illogical beginning of reform, I venture to think we are on sound ground.
I am afraid this Debate is somewhat necessarily academic in character, but I hope I shall not be thought indiscreet if I inquire what after all is the principle behind this Bill? The Prime Minister is almost the only supporter of the Bill who attempted to state a principle for it. He said the principle upon which this Bill rests is simply the principle that in a democratic country one ought to count for one, and that every citizen who gets the franchise ought to be on the same footing. I do not accept that in its entirety, if it means that a man who has a genuine qualification in a town or a county is to be debarred from voting in that town or county, merely because he has a genuine interest in another constituency. I do not accept that; but I do not object to the principle at all for party reasons, because I believe with the reform of our antiquated registration laws and an enlarged electorate, the influence of the plural voter upon the fate of parties at General Elections is not likely to be considerable. I do think there are general grounds of public advantage why all the effective citizens of localities should join in the selection of Parliamentary representatives. If we assume that the principle laid down by the Prime Minister is to be carried out in its entirety, I want to point out what it is necessary to do. It is obviously absurd, and almost an insult, to tell an elector in a large constituency—let me say, like Wimbledon—objection is taken to Liberal constituencies—that one is to count for one if you are going to leave him the ninth part of a man, like the proverbial tailor, as compared with his brother elector in the next constituency. If I may make the same point in another way, it is a perfectly sound proposition to 1424 say that one dollar shall count as one, if the dollars are all of equal value, but if the dollars are of different value, as is ire different parts of the world, the proposition is absurd.
The Government are proposing to reform our electoral coinage, but the only thing they are at present doing is clipping the coinage, shearing off a certain amount from, certain coins without regard to whether they are of standard value or not. They are proposing to reduce the electorate in constituencies where it is already too small, as well as in constituencies where it is at present too large. How can that be justified by the principle laid down by the Prime Minister that one should count for one? It cannot be justified on that principle, and in point of fact the Government have admitted it cannot be so justified. The President of the Board of Education, who introduced this Bill last year, declared that it was the intention of the Government before the General Election to deal both with Franchise Reform and Redistribution. He argued that only unforeseen circumstances-could prevent the Government from carrying out this intention. The Prime Minister was equally emphatic. He expressed the confident hope that it would be possible to deal with Redistribution at a very early date, and he said that he hoped it might be carried out with general agreement, and without raising any party passions. Is there now any prospect of the Government being able to carry out their intentions before the next General Election, intentions which were clearly expressed by Members of the Government last year 1 Is the political atmosphere really favourable for a dispassionate consideration of the Redistribution question? The answer must be most emphatically in the negative. There is no prospect of franchise reform being carried out before the next General Election. I think everybody will admit that there is no prospect of Redistribution being carried out before the next General Election.
A good scheme must necessarily involve a great deal of discussion, and in my opinion the Government time will be mostly occupied in bringing certain grave matters to an issue, and I only hope it will be a peaceable and an honourable issue. It seems to me that the case for this Bill has gone now that the inability of the Government to introduce any logical, consistent reform has been made manifest. Hon. Members opposite may say that they do 1425 not care for consistency, or logic, or principle in this matter. They are out for a party raid, and they do not care about arguing. If hon. Members want to justify this Bill by reference to principle, they will have to show how their proposal is consistent with our present electoral system, which they do not propose otherwise to touch. The present system is undoubtedly based on the recognition of the individuality of constituencies. Every voter who contributes to the individuality of a constituency has a perfectly logical right to a vote. It is perfectly true that the Government intends to introduce a new system. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said last year that what the Government wanted was to represent constituents and not constituencies, to represent men and not localities. That means that the electorate is to be divided into groups, presumably of equal value, and that the characteristics of constituencies are to be disregarded. Whatever may be the merits of that scheme it is entirely novel, and it is a very great change, and not one which ought to be brought in by a side-wind, but should be considered and discussed on its merits as a whole. The Government are not in a position to produce the whole scheme that they want to carry, and this Bill now stands exposed in all its naked illogicality, and ought to be withdrawn.
§ Mr. BLACK
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made a very interesting speech, but so far as I can gather, he has not said, or attempted to say, a single word in justification of the plural voter. He has given a very interesting disquisition on the need for a Redistribution scheme, and every hon. Member on this side of the House is entirely with him in regard to the necessity for that proposal being brought forward, and we shall be prepared to co-operate with hon. Gentlemen opposite whenever a Redistribution scheme is brought forward. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Sir G. Wills), in a maiden speech which I. listened to with much pleasure, said he would like to justify the plural voter, and I waited with interest to hear what arguments he would bring forward, and again not a single word did he utter in justification of plural voting. The Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Hume-Williams) stands, of course, where he did a year ago; he learns nothing and he forgets nothing. He did try to give some reasons why plural voting should be con- 1426 tinued, but none of those reasons satisfied a single hon. Member on either side, and least of all himself, so that to-day we have-scarcely a word in favour of plural voting-Even the Leader of the Opposition has abandoned the plural voter to his fate, and the only reason advanced against this Bill to-day is that it does not include other: electoral reforms for which many of us have been pressing for many years.
We are told that this Bill should be abandoned or withdrawn because we cannot bring alongside it a scheme of Redistribution. We are perfectly willing to bring alongside this measure one man one vote, and one vote one value, but because we cannot get one vote one value at this moment is that any reason why we should not have one man one vote, a principles upon which most of us are agreed? The-present position is absolutely intolerable, and cannot be justified by any reasonable argument. There is no justification for the haphazard way in which the plural voter now exercises his vote. Why should the freeholder of Bedford vote not only in the borough of Bedford but in the Northern Division of Bedford when the freeholder, say, of the city of Nottingham is only able to exercise one vote? Why-should the Bedford freeholder have two votes accorded to him while the freeholder of Nottingham has only one? There is not any answer to a simple question of that kind. In the Division which I have the honour to represent, which includes 700 or 800 freeholders of Bedford, we have from 1,800 to 2,000 out-voters. We believe that the people resident in the locality are those who ought to be called upon to choose their representative, and for that reason this Bill does not satisfy many hon. Members who sit on this side of the House. It is not what we would have desired, but we are told that under the present circumstances this is all that we can-get at the present moment. This Bill does not disfranchise, but it gives the voter the-choice of voting where he likes. The hon. Member for North-West Manchester (Sir John Randles) stated that in his Division there were about 6,000 out-voters, and he seemed to take it for granted that every one of those would be disfranchised. Nothing of the kind. If this Bill passes, every one of those 6,000 voters will be able to vote for the hon. Gentleman opposite when the next election comes. We do not suppose that they will elect to do so, because, generally speaking, a man will vote for the Division in 1427 which he resides, but that does not alter the fact that this Bill disfranchises nobody, but it states the simple fact that one man shall only vote once. The Bill described so well by the Colonial Secretary is a short and simple measure. It does not do all that we want to see accomplished, but, because it goes a good long step in the right direction, I shall have the utmost pleasure in supporting the Second Beading.
§ Sir WILLIAM BULL
This Bill is practically a Reform Bill, and I hold that any Government that brings in a Reform Bill ought to act strictly fairly by both parties in the House. I remember hearing a story of an Oxford rowing coach, who said that he hated being an umpire because he always leaned in favour of the other side. It seems to me that there are no scruples of that sort actuating the Government at the present time. Several hon. Members on the Government Benches have said that they consider this is an opportunity to secure this advantage, and they use the argument that we are defending the plural voter because it is something which is in our favour. In 1906, the "Westminster Gazette" said:—They never expect an anomaly to be removed except by the party which was going to benefit politically by its abolition.That is extremely frank, and that is undoubtedly the reason which has actuated the Government in trying to force this disabilities Bill through the House. The last speaker challenged anyone on this side of the House to defend the plural voter. I am ready enough to do so. I am strongly of opinion that those people who have the largest stake in the country should have the largest share in the power of government. I will develop that argument. I say that if a man by industry and ability has made sufficient money to enable him to possess more than one vote that he is entitled to use those votes. If he has inherited wealth in all probability his education is probably better than those who are not so fortunately placed, and he is entitled to an extra vote. I am not ashamed of that argument. I have said it more than once in my own Constituency, and I am now saying it in the House of Commons. Those who have the largest stake in the country should have the largest voice in its management. This is not so only in regard to Governments, but it is the case 1428 in regard to companies. Take, for example, large firms like Brunner, Mond and Co., represented on the other side of the House. Would those who are such large shareholders, holding a preponderating amount of the shares in that company—I know they have allowed their workmen to have a few shares, perhaps one or two—go before a general meeting and suggest that the voting should be equal regardless of the amount invested. I challenge any plutocrat on the other side to suggest in his own company a method of voting such as I have described. No one would not do it for a moment in his own company, either on that side of the House or on this.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir W. BULL
I should not. I am now putting forward the proposition that no business man on the Government side of the House in his private business or company would for a single instant think of allowing equal voting power to all the shareholders of the company regardless of their holding, and, if that is so in business, why should he try and force it on the State, which, after all, is a business concern. Then, again, Members on the other side have said that they are thoroughly in favour of Redistribution, but in the first place they must get this matter of the plural voter out of the way. We say that the present distribution of seats is one of those evils which should be remedied before plural voting is dealt with. We say that the anomalies in the present distribution of seats are more glaring than those which relate to the plural voter. Look at one or two figures. The average electorate in England at the present time is 11,442 per constituency. In Ireland it is 6,283 per constituency. That is one glaring anomaly which surely is crying out for some reform.
§ Sir W. BULL
It is no use talking about Home Rule. It does not remedy it at all. Half of the electorate of the United Kingdom is represented by 206 Members, whilst the other half is represented by 464 Members. One could, if he liked, get out scores of figures showing the unfairness of the representation in the House of Commons at the present time. That is not due of course to plural voting. There is plural voting on the other side. My vote, 1429 for instance, is only worth one-sixth of that of some other Members in the House of Commons. My electors only get the benefit of one-sixth of me, whilst other electors in other parts of the United Kingdom get the whole half of a man. We say that these reforms are equally as urgent as plural voting, and we look upon it as unfair, unsportsmanlike, and not chivalrous on the part of the Government to use their powers for the purpose of making a reform which will undoubtedly conduce very largely to their advantage. That is what we complain of. We say that you should have brought forward a comprehensive Reform Bill, dealing not only with Redistribution and plural voting, but also with the question of the registration of votes, and with general questions connected with the franchise, ail of which are crying out for solution. There is no reason why you should not do so. You are a dying party, and you know shortly that you will have to go to the country. It seems to me that this is as fine an opportunity as you will have for bringing forward a proper and comprehensive Reform Bill to put all these questions of plural voting, of Redistribution, of registration, and a thousand of other anomalies which at present disfigure our Statute Book in order. I cannot say how strongly I feel that the Government is taking an unfair advantage in pressing forward this question of plural voting. It is not wanted. It is a disabilities Bill. No one will be a penny the better for it. The change is one for which there has been no popular demand at all. It is simply a gerrymandering Bill for the purpose of backing up the present Government. I have heard hon. Members in the Lobby again and again say that if only they could pass this Plural Voting Bill they would have some chance at the next General Election. When that kind of thing is openly said in the Lobby it shows the trend of public opinion, and I do not think it is worthy of a great Government and a great party to seize the opportunity of a large majority to take in hand one particular anomaly and force a Bill through, whilst others far more glaring are left without any alteration whatever. I trust and hope, for these reasons, that this House will vote against this Bill and do its best to kill it.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
The hon. Member who has just sat down says that this is a gerrymandering Bill. That is not my view. My opinion is that it is a Bill to remedy a gross injustice which has been before the 1430 country for the last twenty years. We had a distinct mandate for it in 1906, when we had a majority of 250, but it was unfairly and disgracefully thrown out by the House of Lords. Why did the House of Lords throw it out? They did so because they know perfectly well that the Conservative party have a distinctly unfair advantage, a disgracefully unjust advantage, in the voting; and, because we want to undo this injustice, we are told that we are, not a chivalrous party. I have only heard two arguments in support of plural voting from the other side. One is that we ought to retain the plural voter because he has more stake in the country; and the other is that we ought not to pass this Bill without it is accompanied by Redistribution. A man may own an enormous lot of property in the shape of shares in a limited liability company, but he does not have a vote for that at all. The whole tendency now, as a matter of fact, is for large businesses to become limited liability companies, and that people who have an enormous amount of property in these companies do not get a vote at all. The property qualification, therefore, does not work out in the way suggested. Our contention is that the poor man has as much say in the country as the rich man. Nobody can have any more than his all at stake, and the poor man has his all at stake the same as the rich man. I heard the late John Bright speak in 1867 on this subject. He compared the poorest man with the rich man. He said the rich man had property here, there, and everywhere, and the poor man had no property, but he had a house and a wife and family. He said the poor man had his all at stake and the rich man could not have any more than his all. Therefore, the poor man ought to have as much voting power as the rich man.
That is the whole principle of the Liberal party. We do not believe in the property qualification. We do not agree that the rich man has any more right to two votes than a poor man. Therefore, I think that the question of the property qualification can be said to have been done away with. Then there is the question why we do not accompany the Bill with Redistribution. Everybody admits that it would be better to have Redistribution, but, as an hon. Gentleman said, and as everyone knows. Redistribution would take a great deal of time and would be very controversial. This is a simple Bill, and it does away with a gross injustice, and I cannot understand why we should not do away 1431 with one injustice because we have not time to do away with a great many more. I do not believe, as a matter of fact, that this Bill would work quite so much to the advantage of this side of the House as hon. Members suggest. We have out voters in Oldham and Ashton-under-Lyne, and I believe that the majority in both places are my supporters, and I have no doubt that there are a great many other places in the north of England where the freehold voters are Liberals and not Conservatives. Therefore, I do not think than we have so much to gain as some people think. I do not think there are any other objections to the Bill, and I do not consider the property qualification and the argument that the Bill should be accompanied by Redistribution are really any objections at all, and I shall vote in favour of it.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
The last hon. Gentleman has told us that he does not believe that his party has so much to gain by this Bill as is commonly thought. Then why urge it under the Parliament Act, under conditions which they themselves must feel to be unfair. The hon. Member in common with many others told us that he would welcome a Redistribution Bill, and some invitations have been thrown out across the House for an offer from this side for a round table conference on that subject. The hon. Member must know that in what remains of this Parliament any idea of a Redistribution Bill is impossible, not for lack of time, but for a totally different reason. Hon. Members opposite are not willing to pool the Irish representation, and any attempt at Redistribution in this country without pooling the Irish representation is farcical. Hon. Members must also, if they deal fairly with the position, be perfectly aware that we on this side of the House cannot treat the Irish question as settled during the present Parliament under any circumstances and whatever may happen. We have reached a position now in which it must be evident that we on this side of the House cannot, unless it be a settlement by compromise, accept any settlement of the Irish question carried over our heads in this Parliament, and without the endorsement of the country. Without that question settled, we cannot have any real consideration of Redistribution. It therefore really is a mere loss of words to talk to us about your willingness to have Redistribution, 1432 and it is a mere empty taunt to throw at us to say that we do not come forward with an offer in the matter.
The hon. Member said that the only other argument he had heard on this side-of the House was that of the property qualification. If it were worth while at this time of day I should be perfectly prepared to defend, on somewhat different grounds than those yet taken, the plural vote. There are out-votes and out-votes. There is the mere faggot vote, and there is the vote which genuinely represents an interest. An obvious case is a man who lives in one parish, and who is at the same time chief owner of a great factory in a city in his neighbourhood, and in that he has a genuine interest. The word "interest" is objectionable; it seems to imply merely that he is a rich man and wishes to defend his riches. I can put the defence of plural voting on a totally different footing. I recognise the argument used on the other side. It is that a poor man has his all at stake. The rich man has his all at stake, and the two are equal in that respect. Therefore you cannot ask for more on the-part of the poor man. I recognise he has his all at stake. But the responsibility of the two men is not the same. I am not talking of the mere owner of faggot votes or of a few plots of land. But the responsibility of the great owner of a factory, giving employment to great numbers, liable to bankruptcy, liable to bring ruin-to a whole town if he does not do his duty, and liable to have that ruin brought about should the burden put upon him by the State be such as to bring his business to-the ground, I say that that man has a responsibility to the State totally different from the responsibility of the individuals whom he employs, and he should be in a position to say to the State, "If you throw too great a burden on me, you will bring my business to the ground, and in so doing you will bring ruin also upon thousands probably who are in my employ."
I will also venture to put it on a totally different ground. At the present moment you have a doctrine of "booty." It seems to me you are to give votes to this class or that class in order that they may claim from the State as great a share as they possibly can of the good things going, in competition with other classes. It is not a fashionable thing to say at the moment that that theory will not last, but I do not believe it can last. I believe that, in the long run, unless you base your democracy on the theory of duty to the State, instead 1433 of what it is possible to get out of the State, the State will go down. I believe the time will come when that will be recognised, and when it is recognised the basis of the weight which you give individuals as citizens of the State will be proportionate to their responsibility to the State. Therefore, I say, I shall be prepared to defend plural voting, making this distinction, that I am not referring to faggot votes but to real possessions—to possession, whether it be of office or of industrial property or of education. I am referring to that kind of possession which carries along with it great responsibility and great burdens with respect to the remaining citizens of the State. But that is a matter for the future, when the present course of events has brought whatever it will bring. I want to oppose this Bill here and now on two other grounds. In the first place, I am almost in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) that even if this were a good Bill, under the circumstances in which it is brought in, I should oppose it. I object to the whole spirit and aims, as far as we can judge them, of those who promote this Bill. It is an item in what I may describe as the Tyrant's Progress. Consider what is happening. Consider where this Bill will lead you in the course of events. You on your side of the House, following a party which existed in the Long Parliament, and taking a course not dissimilar, have done what? You start by paying Members in order to tie them to this House. Then you proceed so to whip your party that hon. Members, colleagues of mine from Scotland on the other side of the House, plead pathetically again and again that they may be allowed to give a free vote. They are refused, and they have to walk into the accustomed Lobby. They dare not do otherwise. Then you silence us by the Guillotine, and pass your measures half discussed. Then you disable the other House, and, criticise that House as you will, it was the only constitutional method of referring you to your masters. You disable that House, and, having obtained that position, you start to work and try to disable us as a party in the country. Your aim is to disable your opponents, and not to get a rational system of representation. You aim is to remove those things which tell against you, and not those things which tell against us. Your whole course is directed so as to enable you to come back into the next Parliament and to continue 1434 to seal upon the country the supremacy, not of the nation, not of the national will, but of your own party, and of the will which you are able to exercise through the log-rolling system you have created. You tell us you will give us Redistribution in due course. We have had your preambles before, and we know that tyranny feeds upon tyranny. We know this very well that, whatever a man may design to do, what he actually does when he obtains that which you are seeking to obtain, irresistible power in the State, is different. Then you will condescend to do to us what you think to be just. That does not seem to me to be following the principle of your party. It is not government of the people by the people. The difficulty is that you assume that the word "people" 7neans the Liberal party, with the help of the Labour party.
My other reason for objecting to this Bill is that it is an instalment of a system which I deeply distrust, and, in saying that, I shall probably find myself not wholly seeing eye to eye with some of my colleagues on these benches. What is the general course of the changes which are taking place in the matter of the representation of the people in this country? You introduce this Bill with the idea that you are progressing towards the principle of one man one vote, but incidentally you seek to achieve other objects. It is obvious from the mere reading of the Bill, and from the speeches delivered on it in previous Debates, that you look, not merely to achieve your stated object, but that you hope to kill university representation—to kill great city constituencies like the City of London and the Central Division of Glasgow, in respect of their peculiarities, because you trust you will bleed them white owing to the pros-sure that will be brought to bear upon the existing electors to remove their names to the registers of the districts in which they live. What will be the effect of that? When you have half killed the university constituencies and the City constituencies, you will be able to proceed to abolish them, and then we are to have Redistribution. I suppose it will come some day. You will then have single-Member constituencies, and you will abolish the possibility of minority representation in this House, either by second ballot or by an alternative vote, or something of that kind. In short, the whole trend of events of which this Bill is one is this: That, electorally, you are attempting to convert this country into a kind of draught board or chess board. The squares will be 1435 constituencies of equal size, and upon these you will proceed to place draughts of equal size and weight, and capable of equal moves, some being black, and others white. The unfortunate fact is that you have to play with chess men, and not with draughts, and there are able and powerful rooks, knights, and bishops. [Hear, hear!] I anticipated hon. Members would cheer that, but do they realise that these difficulties are in the nature of things—that your theory of democracy is a theory based on the idea of an equality where equality does not exist?
What will be the result of it? You are attempting to steam-roll the country electorally. You are attempting to reduce the whole country to a system of equal constituencies in each of which the majority is to be supreme. That is equivalent to saying this, that so far as there are homogeneous parties in this country, you will have this result. You will have a majority despotic and the minority so unrepresented that it will not be able to make its voice heard in this House. That would be the condition at this moment had we a Scottish Parliament. If we had such a Parliament, hon. Members opposite, each of whom represents 6,000 electors, would have four times the voice of Unionist Members for Scotland, each of whom represents between 25,000 and 30,000 electors. The effect of what you are doing by removing these anomalies from your system of election is that you are going to have a great drilled party in this country representing out of all proportion the dominant, and merely the dominant, opinion of the country. When that comes you will have tyranny, and that is why I call this the Tyrant's Progress. You will have tyranny like to no tyranny reached by one man or by a mere bureaucracy; you will have the tyranny of a great party in the land true to methods with which you have made us so familiar. I certainly think you cannot, and I believe you will not be able, under present conditions, to give us proportional representation, and that is one reason why I cling to these special constituencies.
I admit you ought to abolish some forms of plural voting. But if you have any sympathy with freedom, which means, not the freedom of the majority—they can take care of themselves—but the freedom of the minority, if you have any sympathy with the representation of the minority, 1436 then you will cling to these methods by which exceptional constituencies can send exceptional men into this House. ["Hear, hear!"] I know what that cheer means. I am contending you should not have-simply one dominant party with members as like peas one to another. Now I will refer to the cheer I heard just now. I cannot go exhaustively into the point, but I would remind the House that a university representative (Sir John Lubbock), a Liberal, introduced into this country that great change which has revolutionised our lives, a change which is embodied in the-word "leisure"—leisure for vast numbers of people. That was an idea that would come from a man in a position of that kind. However, I do not want to be led away into that subject. What I want to put before the House is that the time may come when you will value these anomalies, and when you will preserve some of them as the very saving of the State. In support of that I am going to give a reason which will not be palatable to some of those who sit on the Labour Benches. At the present moment you have here so-called dockyard Members—Members who-represent special interests. On all questions, save one—they will pardon me using the expression—we regard them as fully sane, but when they come to represent the dockyard they are not here in any other capacity except as advocates. It does no harm, and they voice the opinions of their constituents. We know that they represent those constituents, and we know that the great majority of their constituents are directly or indirectly connected with the dockyard. It is quite right that their opinions should be voiced here, and that the people should be represented for national purposes.
As things are at the present time you are getting spread over the whole of the-land vast numbers of Civil servants. Groups of those Civil servants will be, and are already in the case of Post Office officials, able to put great pressure on Members where there is a narrow margin as between the two parties. In other words, you may easily pass into the position when this country shall be ruled to quite a wrong extent by small bodies of disciplined Civil servants acting together in many constituencies where there are narrow majorities. A solution for that position is that you should isolate the Civil servants as you have practically isolated the dockyard employés, that you should give them their own constituencies 1437 in which they should vote, and that they should be represented in this House for all national purposes by their own special representatives, who can voice their grievances and represent to this House what should be done. I know that is not popular on those benches at the present moment, but I also know that in some of the Colonies there has been some difficulty on this subject, and if this country is to steer safely through the time when we have a steam-rolled electoral condition, with exactly similar constituencies throughout the country, in which we have great and increasing numbers of Civil servants, possibly on our railways—
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
What about the railway directors voting for themselves and "telling" for their own property?
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I am not talking about railways at the present moment. If a railway director is here, and if, for instance, the chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company does occasionally speak on these matters, we know perfectly well that he represents his railway, and comes here to voice his railway. That is not the position I am putting, which is a far more dangerous one, because it is a covert one. Where you have a constituency with 5,000 on the one hand and 4,900 on the other, and where you have 200 Civil Servants, those 200 Civil servants wield the complete destiny, electorally, of that constituency. In my opinion you have the greatest danger of tyranny and party tyranny in reducing the country to a system of one simple franchise with equal electoral one-Member districts. To me this Bill is chiefly obnoxious because by a side blow it seeks to abolish and not to reform the exceptional constituency. I am perfectly ready to reform the exceptional constituency and to abolish many forms of plural voting, but I believe you ought to retain and to multiply the forms of plural voting by multiplying the forms of these exceptional constituencies. Only in that way, until the time shall come when our people are educated enough to have proportional representation in some form or other, will you be able to secure the representation of minorities in this House which is practically impossible under a condition of what I would call the cast-iron electoral representation of the country.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
The hon. Member who has just sat down has made an extraordinary speech. He has pointed out the possible danger arising from Civil servants, and has drawn the attention of the House to the great menace to the liberty of this House if the evil should ever come to pass. Apparently he is quite prepared to justify the railway interest or the brewing interest, or the dockyard interest coming to this House. That was a contradiction in terms of the whole point of his speech. I propose to pass from that to the speech of the hon. and learned Member who moved the rejection of this Bill. He also, at considerable length, spoke of this Bill as being an attack upon interests. I ventured to interrupt and ask him if he meant that Members of Parliament should represent interests, and he said he certainly thought that Members of Parliament came here to represent interests. For example, he said that if a man owned a mill in one part of the country, and another mill in another part of the country, he ought to have two votes in order that those varied interests might be represented. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Sir William Bull) was prepared to go further. With unblushing candour he defended the position of the plural voter, and compared the Parliamentary franchise with a joint stock company, and said that people ought to have votes according to their means. Apparently their qualification was to be the Income Tax assessment. That is a most extraordinary doctrine. Let us examine it. Supposing hon. Members came here to represent certain interests it naturally means that they are to vote for those particular interests, and are to express their views in Debate not on the merits of the question before the House, but from the point of view whether it adversely or favourably affected. their particular interest. That, carried to its logical conclusion, is the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Does he really mean that? Do hon. Members opposite really mean that the franchise should be based upon interest? Surely the basis of the franchise is the opinion-which a person holds. The franchise is intended to represent and give expression to the opinion of the people of this country and not to the material interests of this country. I cannot believe the hon. and' learned Member meant us to believe that we should discuss questions in this House, not from the point of view of what we think upon particular questions as to their 1439 justice or morality, but purely and simply from the point of view of regarding ourselves as representing certain interests and coming here to fight for them.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith put no limit to the number of votes which a citizen might have. He candidly and straightforwardly believed that the number of votes a man might have should not depend upon his ability to express an opinion, but should depend entirely upon his wealth. I do not suppose he actually believes that voting should depend upon wealth and the ability to purchase votes. That argument is really so absurd that it is hardly credible hon. Members should seriously put it forward. I hope the Government will proceed with this Bill. There bas been an impression in certain quarters that there was some doubt as to whether the Government really meant to carry this Bill under the Parliament Act. It was some answer which the Prime Minister gave to a recent question, when he expressed the hope that the Government would be able to carry it, which gave rise to the doubt. There is no measure, even when you put this Bill alongside other great measures like the Home Rule Bill or the Welsh Church Bill, which would command a greater amount of enthusiasm and support among Liberal Members than this one. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members laugh scornfully. We admit that it will probably be for the benefit of the Liberal party, but if the measure is a just one, and if it can be shown, as I think it can by argument, to be just, there is no reason why you should not defend it "because it benefits the Liberal party. All reforms in this country, in the nature of things—the emancipation of labour and municipal reform—tend rather to benefit the Liberal and Labour parties than the Conservative party.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I said that nearly all reforms in the nature of things which tend to widen the bounds of freedom and get rid of privilege—which in a sense has, as a rule, been defended by the Conservative party—tend to advantage the Liberal and Labour parties as against the Conservative party. As a rule, the Conservative party stands for the maintenance of the status quo, the defence of property, and for privilege. Hon. Members have admitted that this 1440 Bill gets rid of an anomaly, but they say because we are not prepared to go further and bring in a large measure of Redistribution that we should have nothing to do with this small reform. I think it was Buckle in his "History of Civilisation" who said that some of the greatest triumphs of legislation were the getting rid of bad legislation of the past. Getting rid of anomalies and privileges and breaking down any laws which are unjust in their essence is, perhaps, a triumph of legislation, as I believe this will be, which will redound to the credit of the present Government as much as the other great Bills which are now before the House and the country. I rejoice that the Secretary for the Colonies has made it perfectly clear that the Government seriously mean to carry through this measure. We, on this side of the House, rejoice. It leaves me quite cold to hear the scornful laughter of hon. Members opposite when we are told it will benefit this particular party.
I pass now to some other remarks which were made by the hon. Member (Mr. Mackinder). He spoke of minority representation. He himself perhaps is the most eloquent example of minority representation in this House. He stands for one of the Divisions of Glasgow, which but for a split vote would probably not have sent him to adorn our Debates. When he speaks of minority representation, one cannot but feel that he is thinking possibly of his own case. I hope some hon. Member opposite will tell us what is really the policy of the party opposite. Do they wish to combine with the Leaders on this side of the House in a Bill for Redistribution or do they not? Do they wish to couple that with this measure or do they not? Do they oppose this measure in its essence because they do not agree with it or because they see that it is a disadvantage to them? If they are in favour of Redistribution there is plenty of time. This Parliament may yet have from six to twelve months further life, and there is plenty of time if they are willing to take this question of Redistribution and join with the Government in a Bill. Hon. Members opposite complain of apathy on this side, but I do not see a very great representation on their Front Bench, of their direct opposition to this anomaly, which many of them have admitted to be an anomaly. If it is so, why are we not to hear the views of some hon. Gentlemen as to whether they oppose this Bill on its merits 1441 alone or because it is not coupled with Redistribution? I have listened with very great interest and attention to their arguments, but I cannot find that there is any reason, logical or otherwise, why they should oppose this measure. The only real reason which I believe animates their opposition is not because they believe the Bill to be a bad Bill or an unsound Bill, not because they believe it is not an anomaly, but because they see in it one more defence of their privileges being shattered to the ground.
§ Mr. BARNSTON
There is one remark which the hon. Member made with which I cordially agree, that this Bill creates enthusiasm in the ranks of the Liberal party. Of course it does. The Liberal party know that there are votes in it for the Liberal party, and it is admitted by agents and by newspapers in the country that this Bill may save the political skins of many of them. What hon. Members do is to talk about electoral equality and fairness of voting, when everyone knows that the one thing they are after is to try and snatch a party advantage for their own political party and to try and gerrymander the constituencies in their own favour. It is admitted that the Bill is practically a Radical agent's Bill. It is a Bill to disfranchise many bonâ-fide ratepayers who have—
§ Mr. BARNSTON
It will disfranchise many bonâ-fide ratepayers who, being for the most part the better educated people of the country—[Laughter.] Will hon. Members seriously deny that the better educated people of the country generally hold Unionist principles and have Unionist tendencies? Naturally hon. Members wish to strike them off the register. The true reason of the Bill was really given by the Minister for Education, who was in charge of the Bill last year, when he said that from the party point of view the passage of this Bill would be an advantage to us. I should like to refer to one or two of the Colonial Secretary's arguments. It struck me that in one way the speech was disappointing, because we generally expect to have some rather good jokes from him, and the jokes he made seemed hardly up to his usual form. He spoke of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chaplin) as not being a "modern embodiment of the Wimbledon nut." We might retort that the right hon. Gentleman himself is not a 1442 modern embodiment of the Lancashire cotton weaver. When we have in the future representation by appearance the right hon. Gentleman ought to represent Bond Street. The right hon. Gentleman went on to refer to the question of the Referendum. I really do not see that the Referendum has very much to do with the present controversy, because, as I understand it, the Referendum would refer to some one great measure of policy upon which the country was naturally excited and upon which there had been a great deal of discussion in this House, whereas in ordinary General Elections you are choosing your representative in this House not only for national, but for local interests as well, and presumably you are choosing a Member who in some way knows something of local interests, because, after all, all Members of the House of Commons represent a particular locality. We do not merely represent a certain number of heads. I understand that is the principle of the Constitution, and that, I presume, is the reason why we have single seats.
Then we have had the question of Redistribution raised. I do not quite understand the position of the party opposite. If they are anxious for Redistribution, they have been in office for more than eight years and I do not remember that they have ever once brought forward a Redistribution Bill. We had the same thing said to us last year, but since last year to this day we have hardly had a whimper on the subject. I do not attach the same importance to the pledges of right hon. Gentlemen opposite as hon. Members seem to do, because we have had a good many of these pledges. We have had pledges of honour, and we have had pledges which brooked of no delay. I remember last year when this question was being discussed an hon. Friend of mine asked the Minister for Education whether he would put into the Plural Voting Bill a Clause that the Bill should become operative directly Redistribution took place. The right hon. Gentleman, to show his sincerity and the anxiety for Redistribution going along with this Bill, said he would do no such thing. The Government say yon ought to have one man one vote, and you ought to have equal votes, equal values. They take the smaller question, which assists them, and they entirely leave the much larger question and one which is much more important. What really can be more ridiculous in any voting 1443 system than to have in one constituency, say, 4,000 electors, and in a neighbouring constituency 40,000? If you want to get rid of the plural voter it is in these smaller constituencies that the plural voter exists, because in all these smaller constituencies every voter is a plural voter to a greater or less extent. I have several reasons why I object to this Bill, In the first place, as we are now without any real Second Chamber of any sort, it is really a scandal—[An HON. MEMBER: "The same old wheeze!"]—that one party should be able to bring forward a scheme to help it when you have no Second Chamber worthy of the name. Our Second Chamber at present is nothing more nor less than a farce. The hon. Member opposite asked whether we were in favour of plural voting or not. In principle, I am in favour of plural voting. I quite admit that there are many absurdities in connection with it, but where a man has a real separate interest in more than one constituency, I am strongly of opinion that that man ought to have a vote for those constituencies. It is a very old example of what the hon. Member opposite calls an old wheeze. Where a man lives in the country and pays large rates and taxes and has large works in a town or city near by, where he also pays large rates and taxes and also employs a great deal of labour, that man has a natural, justifiable and considerable interest, and, to my mind, it is only fair and right that he should have representation in this House for both those interests which he undoubtedly possesses in both localities.
It seems to me perfectly ludicrous that we should have in this House some elected by one franchise and some by another. Even to a new Member like myself, who have only been here four years, it is extraordinary how very quickly this House changes. It seems to me absurd that some of us, those elected at by-elections, should come in on a different franchise from those elected at General Elections. Take, for instance, the case of Mr. Masterman. I presume that he will soon have a sufficiently safe seat found for him, but, if you believe that plural voting is against you, the last case of Cabinet Ministers would be worse than the first. I should very much regret if University representation was done away with. I moved an Amendment on this subject last year. I suppose hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit that education 1444 does assist a man to arrive at a sound political judgment. Whenever the Minister of Education speaks in the country I notice that he almost invariably says that you want so to arrange your education that a youth who starts at the bottom may be able to get to the top of the ladder, and get to the university. Do you mean to say that at the end of your education you do not fit a man for his future avocation? I also think that if we lose the university representation we should certainly, from time to time, lose men who, in my humble judgment, are of benefit to the House and indirectly of benefit to the country. I would mention one name—the late Mr. Leckey. I am sure the House would have-been poorer if he had not been here. But I cannot imagine Mr. Leckey being a success in opening bazaars, kissing babies, flying pigeons, kicking-off at football matches, and some of the other avocations a Member of Parliament has to go through. Lastly, I would point out to hon. Gentle men opposite that if this Bill gets through there will be an awful increase in the work which will have to be done by all party agents, to whichever party they belong—bargaining, compromising, arranging, not only for elections, but endeavouring to inform people as to how they are to vote at a by-election. I shall certainly support the Amendment. On principle I think plural voting is just, and I believe this Bill is merely a trick to assist the party opposite in the struggles which they know are coming—struggles in which they want all the assistance they can get.
§ Mr. KING
I am one of those Members-who always try to enter into the feelings of my opponents. I like to look upon my opponents as reasonable and patriotic men, just as I like to look upon myself as in that class; but when I listen to the discussion of any question of electoral reform I give them up as hopeless. I cannot discover any reason, any justice, in fact, any creditable argument at all, in these speeches I have listened to on this occasion. You may say what you like about this Bill, but the more unreasonable-and illogical the speeches on the opposite benches are, the more you please your own side of the House. For myself, I was extremely struck with some of the speeches on the opposite side, and not least by the speech of the hon. Member for the Eddisbury Division (Mr. Barnston). He told us there was one point with which he could agree with us, namely, that this Bill was popular on this side of the House. Only 1445 a little time ago we were told that the Welsh Church Bill was not popular on this side of the House, and that was used as an argument why we should drop it altogether. Therefore, there is one argument used on this occasion which should be imperative upon us. If we are to drop Bills which are unpopular on this side of the House, it must be our duty to press forward those Bills which are universally popular on our side.
§ Mr. KING
Whether we hope to gain votes or not. According to the theory put before the House and the country on the Welsh Bill, we shall lose so many votes that we shall be in a minority in the country. If so, what does it matter whether you let this Bill through at all? If you are confident that you are going to beat us, why do not you give us this one little bit of consolation? There is another point which very much surprised me in the hon. Member's speech—the very frank but disrespectful way in which he spoke of the other Chamber. I always like to give another man his due, even if he is an opponent. The hon. Member said that the present Second Chamber was no good at all, that it was unworthy of the name of a Second Chamber, and that it was little more than a farce. What is the Second Chamber composed of? A great majority of Noble Lords of his own way of thinking, who, I am very sure, are opposed to this Bill. They can throw it out this year as they did last year, and if that Chamber is no good at all, what on earth does ho think a Second Chamber ought to be? Does he believe that the Second Chamber ought to dominate the country? Does he believe that a non-elected Chamber of a very partisan character ought to dominate this House? Certainly I do not, and I believe if that issue alone could be put to the country there would be very little doubt as to what the answer would be. I often think, when I listen to speeches against the Plural Voting Bill in this House, that if we could only get a record of some of the Tory speeches uttered here and take them to the constituencies and let the electors really see what pure, undiluted Toryism is, and how it dares to assert itself in this House—the doctrines of privilege and the constant assertions that we are only actuated by the most selfish, mean, and contemptible motives—we 1446 could save ourselves all the trouble of speaking. People could not believe the way in which Toryism undiluted is uttered in this House, and if it is spoken in that way what must the hearts of Tories be?
There is one point to which I would like to invite the serious consideration of the House. I mean the contention that has been put before us by the hon. Member for the Bassetlaw Division (Mr. Hume-Williams), and which has been referred to more or less by others, that we ought to have a Redistribution Bill before we have the principle of one man one vote enacted. Is that really put forward sincerely? Is that the real issue of the Opposition? I do not believe it is at all. We had a Debate on a Private Member's Motion a few weeks ago in this House and cold water was poured on the proposal, which was so admirably put forward by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil—the proposal that there should be a Committee set up to consider the question of Redistribution. That, I think, was a very fair and generous proposal to come from this side of the House in this stage of politics, but if there was one speech directed against it, it was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long), who spoke for the Front Opposition Bench. It was quite easy to see, reading between the lines of his speech, that he feared a Redistribution of seats much more than one man one vote. I believe that a party advantage may possibly come from one man one vote and the passage of this Bill, but a much greater party-advantage will come to us on this side of the House when we get equal electoral districts, and by that means one vote one value. The fact of the matter is that the question of the Redistribution of seats has not been thought out at all seriously by the party opposite. They do not know what they mean by it. If you take their latest proposal it shows that they are quite content when they put their principles down upon paper that some constituencies should be seven times the size of others. On the other hand, have they considered the question whether county and borough boundaries are to be observed? You cannot have equal electoral districts, or anything approaching them, unless you obliterate, more or less, both county and borough boundaries, or, at all events, merge certain boroughs with certain counties, and certain counties with certain other counties. Unless that be done, there can be no approach 1447 to equal electoral districts. This is a question which, so far as I know, has not been discussed at all, even in this House, and certainly it has not been discussed in any of the speeches or writings on Redistribution which I have seen coming from hon. Members opposite. The fact is that this question of plural voting is ripe for decision. It is understood by all, and it has been in the programme of the Liberal party for thirty years. It is one of those subjects which hon. Members opposite, when they speak in the constituencies, leave entirely alone. When they issue their addresses they make no reference to it at all, not because they do not understand it, but because they are afraid to face the electors on the question, and I am convinced myself that if there could be a Referendum on this subject—I am not generally in favour of the Referendum, but I certainly do not fear the Referendum on any point of Liberal policy, or any question which the Unionist party might wish to submit to the country by way of Referendum—if you could have a Referendum on the question, "Ought a man to have more than one vote in respect of one constituency?" you would have a ten to one majority in favour of the principle of this Bill.
I make no doubt whatever that the principle of this Bill is clearly understood. It is a principle which appeals to the sense of justice and right in the heart of every free Englishman, and when it is passed into law it will be accepted throughout the country as one of the foundation principles of our representative system. I wish to point out how extremely illogical it is to stand up here, as several hon. Members have done, in favour of the principle of the rich man having more votes than the poor man. In connection with borough elections and county council elections, the Tory party themselves have introduced the principle of one man one vote, and all the time that they were in power, while the rates were rising, and we had the little complaints and growls against the poor man putting the burden upon the heavily-rated man, who was rated in respect of larger premises, there has never been any attempt, not even by a private Member, to propose that this principle of one man one vote which exists in connection with the borough council and county council elections should be abolished, and that you should have a system of plural voting brought in instead. How inconsistent it 1448 is. Surely it ought to show hon. Members opposite their own insincerity when they look at facts like this. The principle of plural voting exists only in connection with Parliamentary elections, and it ought to be abolished, because the country realises that, after all, the representative system docs not base itself upon the representation of wealth, but upon the representation of personality, and on every man having equal and just right before the law, whatever his wealth, status, or stake in the country may be. Redistribution is a very large issue in connection with the representative weight which may be given to different parts of the country. You cannot touch Redistribution without not only altering or attempting to alter the electoral power of Ireland, but also the electoral power of Wales and Scotland. At the present moment, when there are proposals for the introduction in some form of the federal system into the Government of this country, proposals which come from that as well as this side of the House, the question of Redistribution as it will affect Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, in addition to England, must also be considered.
Here, again, there has been no consideration given to this aspect of the question, and to call for Redistribution first, before we have abolished the plural voting system is to call out for something which you do not yourselves understand, and which if you were catechised you would not know how to answer, but which we understand just as well as we understand that the principle of no man having more than one vote at a General Election is the principle upon which our Constitution should be based. It is unfortunate that hon. Members opposite talk about this Bill in such a slipshod and inaccurate way. There is always, of course, a great deal of slipshod talk in dealing with any subject which men get up to talk about without understanding it. That is the case with a great many hon. Members opposite who speak on this subject. To talk of this Bill as a disfranchising Bill is totally wrong. It does not disfranchise anybody. Anybody who has a vote before this Bill will have that same vote after this Bill passes, only he will not be able to go round the country voting at a great many different places: but he will have the proud privilege of feeling that he is on a level with the rest of the democracy. I think that I understand this question. I have studied it for a long time, and I have studied this Bill; 1449 and my only regret in connection with the remarks which I have just made is that, seeing that so few of the Opposition understand this Bill, so few of them have had the opportunity of listening to my remarks. Possibly, on a future occasion, if we have to go through with this Bill next year, I may be privileged to say again a few of the things which I have said to-night, not out of any feeling of disappointment myself, but out of the desire that hon. Members opposite should really understand properly what they are talking about, and I hope on that occasion to have a larger audience than I have had to-night.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I share the regret of the hon. Member who has just spoken, that he has not had a big audience, and I trust that next year, if the Government is still in, he will have a bigger audience than he has had to-night. I am sure that the hon. Member is far too kind-hearted a man to mean what he says. He told us that in this matter of electoral reform, we, on this side, are all either really mad or bad, or that everything we say about it is sloppy. The hon. Member for Coventry challenged hon. Members on this side to explain a passage in the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, who spoke just before him. The hon. Member for Glasgow said while the Irish question remains unsettled we could not proceed with Redistribution. The hon. Member for Coventry very pertinently asked, "Was that the opinion of hon. Members on this side of the House?" I admit frankly that I disagree totally with the hon. Member for Glasgow. I cannot see myself why Ireland should block the way. After all, it is Great Britain and Ireland. What will happen to my unfortunate country in the next few months is on the knees of the gods. One of two things will happen: Either the Home Rule Bill will be passed or will not be passed. If it is passed, forty-two Members are to be sent from Ireland to this House to look after the interests of Ireland here. If it is not passed, and our representation is cut down to a proper number, which is fifty-seven, the difference between forty-two and fifty-seven is so small that it is really ridiculous to have the scheme hung up on account of it.
If we are going to do that, we may never have Redistribution at all, because under the Home Rule Bill, if certain things happen in Ireland, you will have a great many more Members coming over here on 1450 certain occasions to vote. I cannot help thinking that the Colonial Secretary hit the right nail on the head when he told Members on both sides of the House that this was a dying Parliament, I am not in the secrets of the Government, and I do not know whether, in the course of the next few weeks, we shall hear its death knell. If we do, all I can say is that the Patronage Secretary is a very bad doctor, for he has over and over again given this Government a considerable time to live. He has confidently said that this Bill will become law within the terms of the Parliament Act. Therefore, the Government will not the at the very earliest until July next year. If that is so, and the Patronage Secretary is a good doctor, then why cannot we have a somewhat more comparative measure? We only have dangled before us a good many things which we on this side ardently long for—simplification of the register, continuous registration and the abolition of three-cornered contests, which could be dealt with by the alternative vote and second ballots. Then we have the Colonial Secretary saying that he would welcome Redistribution, now that the question of Ireland is being got out of the way. But, if the Liberal party are going to have this long period during which they will still be in power, why cannot we have now something in the nature of a comprehensive Bill? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will reply that the House of Lords would throw it out. If the House of Lords did such a thing as that it would be monstrous if the Bill included, under plural voting, Redistribution and one or two other proposals that we want.
I submit that if such a Bill were passed through this House, with anything like mutual agreement, it is impossible for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to suppose that the House of Lords would throw it out. Therefore, I wonder why, if the Government are to live so long, that they do not bring in what the majority of Members on this side want, namely, a good big omnibus Bill dealing with the various phases of electoral reform. Why does the Government force this Bill through by means of the Parliament Act, risking getting a black mark against them from the men who do not take part in party politics? That is what they are doing; they are risking getting this black mark against them by the course they are pursuing now. Hon. Members opposite, when speaking on the public platform, 1451 frequently raise a cheer by saying how their party have given the country old age pensions. I will let you into a little secret on our side. If we want to raise a cheer, all we have to do is simply to speak about the Government gerrymandering the constituencies in their own interests, by abolishing the plural vote, without any proposal for Redistribution. We always get a thundering cheer when we call attention to that. I say it quite openly that I do not think many people will be sorry when the plural voter has gone.
In regard to the Referendum it is said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that in making that proposal we have, to a certain extent, given away our case for the plural vote. Perhaps we have. I know of only one fair argument why, to my mind, the plural voter ought to be allowed to exist. It is where a man has separate interests in two different constituencies. I will give an example. An hon. Member on this side of the House the other day voted against the Second Reading of a certain railway Bill, which was rejected. Next morning he got a letter from a gentleman at Barnsley stating that the writer was an out-voter in the hon. Member's constituency, which is in the south of England. The Barnsley gentleman said that he had two votes—one in Barnsley and one in the hon. Gentleman's constituency—and pointed out that the people in the southern constituency got cheap coke from the north of England. He further added that he had on two occasions travelled 200 miles to vote for the hon. Member to whom I have referred, but that he was certainly not going to do it again, since he had voted against the Railway Bill in question. On the next occasion I suppose the writer of the letter will vote Conservative in Barnsley, and Liberal in the Southern constituency. Apparently he is going to vote against any man who gets in his way. Where a man has two separate interests I suppose that fact might be used as an argument for preserving the plural voter. The average non-party man does not like this piecemeal legislation, especially in dealing with the great question of electoral reform. We have had a number of small bills, including that of the hon. Baronet opposite.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I dare say I will. I submit that it is expedient to deal in a broad 1452 way with electoral reform, but apparently until the question of Woman Suffrage and the question of Ireland can be disposed of, this broad measure cannot be introduced. Therefore, it is sought to make this provision in the interests of Members opposite by taking this particular small bill, and hurrying it on to the Statue Book. It is curious—and it has not been explained by hon. Members opposite—why plural voting was retained by a democratic Minister like Mr. Gladstone thirty years ago. Why was it not abolished in 1885. I suggest that the reason why Mr. Gladstone did not abolish plural voting, democratic though he was, was that in his view the plural vote, in a clumsy, rough and ready, and not very effectual way, did tend towards giving the minority representation. I believe that was at the back of Mr. Gladstone's mind. Of course, we have to recognise that property—and I do not mean by property, land and houses, but shares and stocks— will always be unpopular; that is to say, that the men who have will always be voted against by the men who have not. Therefore it is held that we ought to give the minority who own property, of whatever description, a fair chance of representation. If hon. Members will look back on what previous Governments have done in regard to this subject, they will see that in every scheme of electoral reform since 1832 there was recognition of the minority, and its claim to have something in the nature of fair play.
I will give one example, and it is very-typical, namely, the limited vote in 1868. That was introduced for cases where a constituency returned more than one Member, and under the proposal the elector was only allowed to vote for less than three Members; that is to say, for only two out of three. That reform was introduced in 1832, again in 1854, and finally carried in 1868 by Lord Cairns, in the House of Lords, Lord Russell, and Lord Spencer, in an Amendment. The Amendment was that in a contested election in any county or borough, represented by Members the electors should vote for not more than two of the candidates. What was the result? In Leeds, returning three Members in 1868, there were two Liberals elected and one Conservative; in 1874, one Liberal and two Conservatives; in 1880, two Liberals and one Conservative. Then, in 1885, came the single-Member constituency, and the three-Member 1453 constituency was abolished. Since they were abolished what has happened? For the last fourteen years Leeds, with five Divisions, has not returned one Conservative Member, though, with the limited vote, it always did. In December, 1910, the Conservative vote in that city totalled 22,366, and not a single Member returned. Surely, nobody in this House could defend that. I am sure every Member wants to see this House fully representative of the electors and a time mirror of the people, and that certainly cannot be got under the present system, nor as long as we have single-Member constituencies.
I am not asking the House to return to the limited vote, but I do say, with all frankness, abolish the plural vote if you like and deal with all the small things you like to deal with, but poll great constituencies like Leeds and Glasgow as one Division, give each man one single transferable vote, which he can transfer if he likes. If you do that then you will not have Leeds returning all Liberals or Labour or Conservatives, but Members reflecting what the opinion in that city is. Until you do that you will have no justice or fair play or no satisfaction, at any rate in the country. It has been asked frequently why it is hon. Members opposite seem to shirk the question of Redistribution. If they do not, why do they not press on the Front Bench to get through with it? There is a certain feeling on the Liberal Benches that, at all events, they know where they are, and that plural voting will mean 300,000 votes knocked off our side and 150,000 from their side; but they do not quite know where they will be under Redistribution. Under Redistribution they would come off quite well, and they need not be in the least bit afraid of it. They stand to gain with single-Member constituencies more than we do by Redistribution, and, that being so, they can encourage their Front Bench to go on with a scheme. I have had figures very carefully prepared by an expert showing what would have happened supposing that certain past elections had been held under a system of equal electorates, and they disclose that there would have been very little difference. For instance, at the election of 1885 the Liberal majority was 158, but under the system I have indicated it would have been 178, and in 1886 the Conservative majority of 104 would have been 102, and in 1900 the Conservative 1454 majority of 134 would have been 150, and in 1906 the Liberal majority of 356 would have been 352, and in 1910 (January) the Liberal majority of 124 would have been 136, and in 1910 (December) the Liberal majority of 126 would have been 122. Under Redistribution, assuming the Irish representation cut down to 42 or 57, the Liberals would not lose half what they think they would, because as a matter of fact they hold more of the big electorate seats than we do. Therefore when we on this side ask for this simple measure of justice of one man one vote, one vote one value, it ought to be given to us. Why cannot we all combine in pressing on the Government, which is not going to die till July next year, to have Redistribution? It is an injustice, and a great injustice; to people like myself, who represents 34,000 electors, and it is not fair to our present electors not to have it. That is recognised on all sides, and therefore for goodness sake let us get away from party trammels and encourage the Government to put forward that great scheme! If they do, it will meet with hearty accord not alone from all Members of the House, but from the electorate generally; and then, if they wish, let them abolish plural voting.
§ Sir WALTER ESSEX
This is a very remarkable House, a House full of disappointment and of encouragement. It is hardly a House of encouragement to-night. During the week-end the Members of the House, in common with the rest of the people, have been deeply stirred and profoundly interested in events that have been happening and that have well-nigh startled everybody who takes an interest in the government of these islands, but here in the very centre of the Empire's Government what do we see? Is there a glimpse of any such uproar; is there any reflection of those surging seas of passion; is there any fear in the self constituted guardians of law and order on the other side? Here in this House, what do we see—three and a-half Conservatives and four Irish Members facing us to discuss a matter connected with the electoral representation of the country. I say it is a strange House in which the unexpected seems frequently to happen. The hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Newman) made the usual plea that he had very little to say against the fairness and equity of the proposals of this Bill other than this, that while he, as I have no doubt he will, has decided to vote against the Bill, he only does so because not being 1455 able to get the whole loaf, he prefers to have no bread. I am sure the hon. Member and those of his colleagues who have spoken with the same strain, will not find that we on this side of the House rate their intelligence so low as to accept that as a serious argument. They know that we cannot under the present constitution of our Government do more than we are doing unless we are sure of their strong help and support. If we brought in, together with this Bill, a larger measure of reform—I will not suggest that we should go so far as to include the simplification of the register, its continuity, and all the other reforms named by the hon. Member; but if we included only a Redistribution proposal, how could we carry it into law within the lifetime of the present Parliament? We could only do it with the concurrence and agreement of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
I do not think that the hon. Member for Enfield is altogether unconscious of what lies at the other end of the corridor.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I said in my speech that I did not think the place at the other end of the corridor would touch a Bill of this sort if it was a fair Bill combining the abolition of plural voting with Redistribution.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
The hon. Member for Enfield gives only his own opinion, but I think he has a guileless trust in the other Chamber. I am perfectly certain that if his Front Bench Leaders came to our side asking for a joint Committee to go into this matter, with a view to its passing into law concurrently with the passage of this Bill, they would meet with a ready acquiescence. I will tell the hon. Member, further, that if his proposals were honest and sincere, fair, even and equitable, whatever our Front Bench might be inclined to do, a large number of us would give him our vote and support. I say frankly that I am not concerned to criticise his figures as to how Redistribution would work out for or against. That is nothing to me. I say that, taking my vote here as representing a constituency of 4,300 electors, and his vole as representing a constituency of 35,000 or 36,000 voters, the figures stated in that bold and frank way show a disparity of electoral power which, however 1456 it may be distributed, ought to be represented in this House in some other way than has come about at present. But these differences are constantly widening with the growth of population, and the distribution which business effects. The hon. Member spoke about single-Member constituencies. I need not follow him very far in that argument. I hope, at any rate, he does not propose a Proportional Representation Bill, if he cannot get the whole loaf in that case. If he does, I should not be able to go very far with him along that line. You, Sir, have allowed the Debate to go a little wide of the subject. It would have been very difficult to keep the Debate going if you had not been generous. An earlier speaker this evening, arguing in favour of the maintenance of electoral anomalies, pointed out the historic case of the late Mr. Lecky, who was sent here in tribute to his great learning by a University constituency. I suppose there was never a more unhappy selection, if you may judge from what Mr. Lecky himself thought of it. The good man was out of his element in this House. But by the side of Mr. Lecky's experience may be put the experience of Mr. Gladstone. It was a University constituency that threw Mr. Gladstone over when he became a valuable asset in the country's government. I do not think we can get very far along that line; therefore, I put one ease against the other and leave it at that.
I listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow (Mr. Mackinder). He is always worth listening to, because he has a picturesque way of putting things, and in fighting the party battle he invariably tries to make your flesh creep But he did not do so to-night. He said that this Bill, being brought in under the Parliament Act, was unfair. Dealing with that and kindred arguments, may I put this question to hon. Members opposite—although the crowd of them is not very extensive, still they are a very good sort who are here: Do they not see that under any conceivable constitution of this Chamber the party of progress will always lie under a handicap? I do not imagine that the most ingenious Member of this House could frame a Constitution which would give the party of progress an equal chance with the party that drags behind. The Second Chamber will always go more slowly than this, however slowly this may go, and heaven knows it moves slowly enough! The Parliament Act is the 1457 greatest friend of hon. Members opposite, if they only knew it. It is keeping this Government tied up to the collar, instead of their going to the country and sweeping it from one end to the other, as they very well could. We are nailed here as a Government, unable to appeal afresh to the country because of the Parliament Act, and hon. Members opposite know it; or, if they do not, they ought to. We intend to carry this Bill under the provisions of the Parliament Act. An unfair proposal, because brought in under the Parliament Act? Is it not high time that the burglar left off grumbling because the watchdog was muzzled? We have suffered too long from the other House. We think that there should be a Revising Chamber, but hon. Members opposite know the fate that has met this Bill in another place, the unceremonious way in which it has been treated, and we are bound to take every opportunity to pass a measure which, so far as my experience as an old campaigner goes, is one of the surest tests of the quality of a man's Liberalism.
The hon. Member for the Camlachie Division rather startled me with another argument, namely, that a great necessity exists for the multiple representation of men who have large commercial interests. Ho threw over certain plural voters, as also did the hon. Member for the Enfield Division, but they were not the same class. They were other sorts with which he was discontented. He said that the owner of a large factory—employing perhaps 500 hands—the number is immaterial—should be allowed a plurality of votes, because, in the event of their coming into office a Government that would lay heavy burdens upon his industry, or the district in which it was carried on, he might find himself in a state of bankruptcy. I cannot help wondering whether the interests of the 500 employés were not sufficient, even as men, if each had a vote, to defend that factory against any such peril as the hon. Member suggested. I would sooner trust the 500 men whose wives and families were dependent upon that industry than the man who owned it, even though he had ten votes. The hon. Member spoke, too, about the necessity of having special and peculiar representatives. I suppose that that must not be pushed too far, but there is a special quality about the representation offered by the hon. Member himself. I believe I am right in saying that he himself is a minority representative, and that 1458 but for one of the abuses possible under our electoral law, an abuse which we-would remedy to-morrow if we could, ho himself probably, and others certainly would not be sitting in this House. How he can defend such a condition of things under cover of an advocacy of maintenance of the present abominable muddle of the electoral law, I fail to understand. I have often thought that, even from the Conservative standpoint, the injustice of the present condition of things is not without its lesson. I happen to be a plural voter myself. I do not know how many votes I am entitled to enjoy. I have never taken the trouble to qualify for them all, and I am perfectly sure I have never at any election used them all. It has always seemed to me to be an unfairness altogether to cast a plurality of votes. Therefore, I am here for an ethical reason as well as for a political reason, that I frankly acknowledge. Take, for instance, the county in which I have a residence. I happen, indeed, to have two. Take the rural county—not the county of London—there is a friend of mine there who is a farmer. The rent of his farm of about 150 acres is about £200 a year. It overlaps from one county to another. He has two votes, and he has succeeded in persuading his political chiefs to make him a magistrate in each county. I know another man in one of those two counties who has 15,000 acres. He only has one vote.
I could point out other cases where men living on the boundaries of electoral divisions have two and three votes, and yet have a property or "stake in the country," as the phrase has it, enormously below that which qualifies for one vote only in another direction. No proposal is made on the other side that the "stake in the country," so sub-divided, shall have attention directed to it, and I am rather surprised that hon. Members have not pointed that matter out. But we get back to this: that the movement of Liberalism must be towards representation of persons and not property. We want to get back to manhood suffrage. It is simple, clear, honest, and no good loyal Englishman need fear its operation. Throughout this discussion the things that has surprised me above everything else has been the want of confidence that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have in their countrymen. I am prepared to trust my countrymen in the main, and in the long run to do right, and to go right. I do not think that they have-shown that lack of political justice and 1459 shrewdness in the past such as would entitle me to limit their liberties or to endeavour to keep back electoral reform. I do not, of course, suggest that the present intricate system of electoral laws has been built up with an unworthy object. It is a tangled system representing unreformed fragments of previous systems and previous law.
We brought in a sweeping proposal last year to remedy a whole bunch of these things. When by the accident of the laws governing this Assembly the further passage of that Bill was stopped, there was not a single one of the hon. Members who today have spoken kindly and, on the whole, favourably about our proposals who stood up there to lament the decease of that measure, if they had desired it, it could have been reintroduced If they had been sincere it could have been carried. They could have carried it through the House of Lords. It could have been won by a majority of their own votes. It would have gone with a swing through the other House. But the Tory party is seldom sincere in its talk about trusting the people. It fears the people. It has left these obstructions on the road leading to wider political liberty. We ask for no advantage which may not be equally theirs. They give away the whole case of their side by suggesting that this is a party advantage to us. We may leave this measure, I think, with safety, to the judgment of the House, and we may be glad at any rate that when we passed the Parliament Act, which will ensure what we desire, that we fearlessly trusted the people to the extent of limiting the operation of Parliament from seven to five years. We shall in the coming Session have this further easement of the difficulties, under which as a party we necessarily strive in our endeavour to win the sppport of the country, and I look forward with expectation and hope.
§ Mr. GODFREY LOCKER-LAMPSON
The hon. Member who has just sat down made a very interesting and eloquent speech, but I think he was rather hard on the Tory party when he said that we were really afraid of our own countrymen and that we were not sincere. When one considers really that during the last few months we have been doing little else but urge the Government to give the electorate a chance, I really do not feel that it is quite fair to hon. Members on this side 1460 of the House. He said that he was advocating this Bill very largely for ethical reasons—I think that was the word he used. I imagine, therefore, that the hon. Member thinks that the plural vote, as it exists at the present time, cannot possibly be defended on principle. I recollect hon. Members on the benches opposite rather taunting hon. Members on this side with not even trying to defend the plural vote on principle. I suppose that they think it very bold indeed for anyone on these benches to try and defend plural voting on principle. As a matter of fact, I think that plural voting can be defended on principle on certain broad and intelligible grounds. I think it can be defended on the ground of the balance of political power between the various sections of our population. I do not for a moment suggest that it would be statesmanlike to introduce the principle of plural voting, if that principle did not exist, afresh on the Statute Book; but existing as it does, and serving, as I believe it does, to preserve that balance of power—which I should like to place before hon. Members in a moment or two—I do submit that it ought not to be abolished without very serious consideration.
After all, in these days the great class engaged in manual labour has an enormous influence upon legislation by means of their trade unions. They are organised into serried ranks for the purpose of political pressure. One has only to look at the legislation which has been passed during recent years to appreciate the immense pressure which they have been able to bring to bear. Their power as individuals has been enormously increased by carefully organsed combination, and I do not think that any politician nowadays on whichever side of the House he sits, can afford to ignore it. The same really in a sense may be said of the wealthier classes, of the capitalists and rich owners of land and other porperty, who also, by various methods, are able to make their power very considerably felt in the sphere of politics. Of these wealthier classes, to my mind, you can say, too, that they organise n a kind of trade unions, and no one can say that they also cannot bring very considerable pressure to bear upon the political machine, not only on the Unionist side, but also on the Liberal side. I have no doubt some hon. Members opposite think that they can bring very much, too much, political pressure to bear. But this is really my point, that the great 1461 middle class in this country cannot be so organised. At least, at the present moment, what is known as our great middle class is not organised to nearly the same advantage, and it is this great middle class as a class, that has the vast majority of plural voters at the present moment. To my mind it is really perfectly ridiculous to contend, as hon. Members opposite have contended, that very nearly the whole of these plural voters are either millionaires or great landed proprietors, or inhabitants of Park Lane. To a large extent the middle class, as a class, have no special representation in this House at all, and yet in a way they are certainly the most important class, for into it flow all the more successful members of the trade class, and from it are recruited a number of the wealthier classes.
In fact, to a large extent, what is known as our middle class is almost inarticulate as a class, although as a class they have their own special interests as much as any other class of the community, and although to a large extent they are the most stable portion of that community. Therefore I do submit it is only fair, that being so, that some advantage and some privilege should be retained by those who are handicapped as against the two other classes in the State, the three making up the community in these islands. If you abolish the plural voter, what you are doing is simply to accentuate the disadvantages now resting upon this great middle class, and to upset the balance of political power, a balance of power which seems to me just as important in national as in International affairs. And, therefore, it is really for this reason that I believe the plural voter can be perfectly well defended in principle, although he seems, I know, to a great many hon. Members, to be an anomaly which they think ought to be abolished as soon as possible. But there are one or two aspects of this Plural Voting Bill—features of the Bill itself—that seem to me to be vulnerable. I can quite appreciate the desire of hon. Members opposite to alter the electorate, but I think they ought to be fair when they bring in an electoral reform Bill which touches so many interests, because, after all—and I should like to have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education on this point, who is a great authority on this subject, and I think he will agree with me in what I am saying—this Bill is the first ordinary electoral reform Bill whose only 1462 object has been to disfranchise some of the electorate.
All other electoral reform Bills, I think I am right in saying, have added to the electorate, and even where existing franchises have been considered obsolete, or considered objectionable, and new voters have been prohibited from being registered for these franchises, the rights of those holding them have been maintained. For instance, in the Reform Bill of 1832, although drastic alterations were made, existing rights were specifically respected. I will not weary the House, but I could give the various sections if necessary. In the Registration Act of 1843 these rights were confirmed subject to continuous register; that is to say, the right ceased if the name was omited from the register for two successive years. And even the Reform Act of 1867, which lowered and extended the franchise, also recognised the same principle. And if you come down to more recent times and take the more recent examples of safeguarding existing rights, that is the representation of the People Act, 1881, which extended the householders' franchise to the counties, although that Act abolished the faggot voter—that is, the splitting up of small freehold interests of 40s. value, and thus creating a number of votes on a property—the voters' rights on this register at that time were religiously respected, and the voting powers were continued to them so long as they possessed their voting qualifications, but no new names could be placed upon the register with respect of these qualifications. Therefore I do say it would be only fair and consistent with precedent to embody this same principle in the Government's Plural Voting Bill. Apparently the Government think otherwise. Is it because they are afraid of the unrestricted verdict of those who returned them to power at the last General Election?
To my mind, the Government ought to refrain from the confiscation of valuable political civil rights unless doing something to compensate those persons who own those rights when the Bill is passed. After all those rights, of which I venture to remind the House, were granted and confirmed by Parliament itself. The registration of those rights has been arranged and provided for by Parliament and the areas within which those rights can be exercised were laid down by Parliament in the Registration Act, and the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, also, that many of those whose rights were 1463 saved by the Act of 1884 have still got their names upon the register. This Bill, therefore, in all probability, will interfere with the rights which were specifically safeguarded to those very persons by Parliament itself in that Act. Therefore, I think it is a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government could not see their way to safeguard the rights of existing voters. If they had done so new voters would have been registered subject to the restrictions of the Bill, and, like birds reared and brought up in cages, would only have the freedom they now possess. But existing voters, on the other hand, always having this qualification, and the right to vote for their various qualifications, resent the taking away of the rights that you are depriving them of under this Bill. The Government would have lost very little by the concession, because in a few years time the Bill would apply to the whole body of the electorate, as the Government want it to apply. Death will thin the ranks of existing voters, and what the Radical party regard as a serious anomaly would automatically and gradually disappear. Up till now—and this is another argument in favour of what I am suggesting—very great suspicion has attached to the Government that they are acting from party purposes, and merely with the desire to gerrymander the electorate at the next election. But if they made this concession it would leave existing voters in the present position, and I think it would very largely remove this suspicion, and we should be more free to discuss the merits of the Bill. One of the merits of this Bill is supposed to be that the plural voter will have a choice as to where he is going to exercise his vote. As a matter of fact, this privilege will not always be secured under it, and in many cases, for reasons quite outside the control or the power of the plural voter, the right of choice will not only be a source of embarrassment, but it may end in the elector not being able to record his vote at all. I do not know whether this point has occurred to the right hon. Gentleman, but under this Bill I think I am right in saying that the elector will be deprived of his right of choice in certain cases.
In a borough the nomination takes place three days after the receipt of the writ for an election, and the polling may be held on the following day to that on which the writ is received, that is the fourth day, but in a county the nominations may take place four days from the 1464 receipt of the writ, and the seventh day is the earliest day for the poll. The result is, that when the polling occurs in the majority of the boroughs, the nominations in a large number of the county Divisions have not taken place, and that being so in the case of those who have got borough votes and county votes as well, how can a right of choice be exercised when those persons do not in the least know whether a contest is going to take place in the county or whether their particular candidate is going to poll at all. It is perfectly clear that in those cases this boasted right of choice is reduced to a sham. I can give a great many instances, but I will only give one. This is an instance which occurred at the last General Election. The polling for the various Divisions of Manchester was taken on Saturday, 3rd December. A great many Manchester electors are also on the register for the various Divisions of Lancashire and Cheshire. On the same date, that is 3rd December, the nominations took place for Chorley, Accrington, Westhoughton, and various other Divisions of Lancashire. On Monday, 5th December, the nominations took place for Clitheroe and Darwen, as well as for the four Divisions of Cheshire, and there were also nominations in the remaining Divisions in the two counties. As hon. Members know candidates do not send round their polling cards to the various electors until after the nomination has taken place, and therefore under this Bill plural voters in Manchester would have had to vote in Manchester, or else run the risk of not being able to vote at all, because they could not possibly know, under the circumstances, in the cases I have given, whether contests would take place in the country divisions.
I might quote other instances, but I think I have given sufficient to illustrate the argument which I want to place before the right hon. Gentleman. I submit that it is not fair to a voter placed in the position which I have described, that he should be penalised for giving a second vote. A voter might through no fault of his own by electoral procedure over which he himself has got absolutely no control, be deprived of the genuine right of choice which the right hon. Gentleman says is safeguarded by this Bill. During the Committee stage last year the Government were asked a question which, I think, they answered very unsatisfactorily. They were asked whether votes accorded illegally under tin's Bill could be made the ground 1465 for an election petition. As a matter of fact, I placed an Amendment on the Paper dealing with this point. It was discussed only a very short time, but I could not get a reply from the Government. An election petition must, according to the rules made under the Parliamentary Elections Act of 1868, state the grounds of a petition. As this Bill makes a vote given by a plural voter unlawful, such votes may be challenged by a petition against the elected candidate, claiming that the defeated candidate has been elected by a majority of lawful votes. Therefore the vote of any person whose place of abode, as shown on the register, is outside that particular constituency might be challenged. The expense of investigating and challenging these votes would be perfectly enormous.
Let us suppose that only fifty votes were challenged in such a case. It would be necessary to prove that a previous vote had been given, and consequently the ballot papers of many constituencies would have to be examined. Under the Ballot Act, these ballot papers are in the custody of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, and he would not be able to produce them except by an order of the House of Commons, or by an order of one of His Majesty's superior Courts. Moreover, as the right hon. Gentleman has made plural voting a corrupt practice, although he has mitigated the penalty, the election petition might allege as the ground of the petition that corrupt practices had prevailed. The procedure of proving a corrupt practice for recording a second vote would have to be exactly the same as I have outlined to the House. It is not only the responsibility and the trouble, but it would be very expensive, and, in addition, the candidate would be made responsible for illegal acts over which neither he nor his agents will have the slightest control. In fact, a plural voter, possibly acting ignorantly and in all good faith, may jeopardise the election, and possibly lead to the unseating of a perfectly innocent man.
In case of a petition of this kind, if a plural voter pleaded that he had given a second vote because the candidate or the agent had appealed to him, probably sent him an election address and a poll card, or possibly a special letter pressing him to give a vote, although such communications may have been sent in perfectly good faith and in ignorance of the fact that the man had voted elsewhere, 1466 the candidate and the agent would be technically guilty of aiding and abetting a corrupt practice under the law. I submit that it is not fair to place a Parliamentary candidate in such a position. It is quite sufficient to punish a man who gives a second vote, but to punish a candidate as well, who will be absolutely helpless in the majority of instances, is not statesmanship, but tyranny. To my mind this Bill bristles with this kind of injustice, and I could give many other instances. I have only mentioned just those three. This kind of injustice is in the very nature of things inevitable when an electoral reform Bill is brought in merely to benefit one party in the State, and until the whole question of electoral reform is gone into you have no business to deprive persons of their statutory right to record a vote. You have no right to pick out one particular alteration in the electoral law which suits your book, and pass a Bill for that purpose, leaving all the other electoral absurdities untouched. Therefore, I do honestly, from my heart, believe that hon. Members on this side of the House will be absolutely and morally justified in opposing this Bill to the uttermost of their ability.
§ Captain MURRAY
As a Scottish Liberal Member, I desire to support this Bill. I welcome it, and feel perfectly certain that it will be welcomed throughout Scotland, too. Several hon. Members on the other side of the House have taunted us with introducing a Bill which is to benefit our party, and our party alone. I say quite frankly that I welcome this as a Bill which will benefit the Liberal party. The Liberal party at present suffers under an injustice in so far as the plural voter is concerned, and I welcome any Bill which will remove that injustice from our present electoral system. Scotland has suffered under the unjust system of the plural voter just as has been the case in England. The county of which I am a resident, not the county which I have the honour to represent, would, I venture to say, have returned a Liberal twenty years ago but for the existence of plural voters, who came in from outside and deprived the Liberal electors of that particular county of that which was their right and their due. I am sure that county, as other counties throughout Scotland, will welcome this Bill. The average Scottish elector is quite unable to appreciate why one man should have one vote whilst another man may have five or six, or more 1467 votes. He is, further, quite unable to appreciate why the votes of one man should depend upon the particular amount of property he holds in one county or two counties as the case may be.
An hon. Member on the other side said this afternoon that this was a Bill which would disfranchise many voters in this country. Far from being a disfranchising Bill, I look upon it as an equalising Bill. It will place the voters of this country in a more equal position than they are today. It has been said that voters of a particular class have not the same stake in the country as voters of another class, and that therefore the voters of the latter class ought to have more votes than the electors of the former class. On the contrary, it is my opinion that every man in this country-has an equal stake in the country, and that, if one man has more interest in the good government of the country than another, it is the poor man, to whom every penny of increase in taxation or anything of a similar nature is of much more account than it is to the rich man. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, if I did not misinterpret his speech, defended Plural Voting upon principle. He was, in fact, prepared to see the continuance for all time of the present system of plural voting, and he said it depended upon the balance of power between the different sections of the community. Other hon. Members opposite have said very much the same thing. An hon. Member this afternoon attempted to defend plural voting on the ground that the men who exercise a plurality of votes are usually better educated than the men who have only one vote. The obvious conclusion from that is that before a man is permitted to exercise a vote at all he ought to pass an educational Lest. Every one in this House knows that such a thing is absurd. Nothing of that sort could be introduced into our electoral system. Therefore, it is ridiculous for him to defend the principle of plural voting upon that ground. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Government should not confiscate valuable political rights without compensation. I am rather at a loss to understand what the hon. Gentleman meant. What sort of compensation does he propose that the Government should bestow upon these gentlemen whose valuable political rights they have confiscated. Is it a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence?
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
What I intended to convey was that the community ought to be compensated for the loss of its political rights by the retention by existing voters of the right of recording their vote.
§ Captain MURRAY
I am yet unable to understand the hon. Gentleman. He does not wish the plural votes taken away at all, but, if they are taken away, if the plural voters in this country are deprived of their rights to exercise their many votes, what sort of compensation does he propose should be given to them? I de not understand exactly what he meant by the phrase he used. He has not, in fact even now made that point clear. What compensation does he propose? Does he place a money value upon a man's vote, and, if so, does he propose, if those votes are taken away, that the man who at present has the right of exercising those votes should receive money compensation? The arguments both for and against this Bill have been advanced time and again in this House, and he would be a wise man indeed who could rise to-day and bring forward any new argument, either against or in support of this Bill. I would, however, ask hon. Gentlemen to remember that plural voting is an anomaly which has been swept away in all other countries in which any form of representative democratic government exists. It is a reform which is now an accomplished fact in France, in the United States, and in many of our own colonies, and, as was said by an hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Somerset to-night, that is the principle of the single vote, which obtains in the elections to all our public bodies—county, town and parish councils—throughout the country. Having listened to this Debate this afternoon, I am really at a loss to understand what is the real objection on the part of the bulk of the Opposition to the Bill now before the House. Some hon. Members have argued that the principle of plural voting is in itself a right, just and proper thing, that should continue to be part of our electoral system. Others have asserted that the system of plural voting is an anomaly, but that it should not be removed until Redistribution is brought in and other anomalies in our electoral system are dealt with. But whether it be in our electoral system or in any other, why should any reform be delayed merely because there are other anomalies that 1469 cannot be removed at the same time. This reform can be secured very simply by a Bill now before the House, whereas Redistribution must inevitably take a great deal of time before an agreement can be arrived upon it, and, to my mind, there is no argument whatsoever why this particular anomaly should not be removed, and the other anomalies, the existence of which everyone admits, be dealt with at a later date. I was reading a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) on this very subject in the year 1891, which was not a period when he was still a member of the party to which I have the honour to belong. The right hon. Gentleman said:—I am pledged to the view that plural voting is inconsistent with the principle of our present Suffrage. I believe that plural voting is doomed, and that, sooner or later, we must have uniformity of franchise.The Bill now before the House is framed with the object of carrying out the principle to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham gave expression in the year 1891. I am glad to think that although the Liberal party has throughout many years battled for this particular reform without success, there now lies to its hand a ready means of carrying this Bill into law, and thereby removing from our electoral system one of the anomalies that at present obtains.
§ Colonel YATE
The hon. Member talked a good deal about anomalies, but what strikes me as the greatest anomaly of all is that we should have the Minister for Education come forward with a Bill to take away what little recognition is given in this country to what I may describe as education and progress. In Belgium an extra vote is given to a man who passes a certain standard in education. These plural voters too, we find, are educated and progressive people, and not the idle rich about whom we hear so much, who live upon money invested in foreign shares. They are men who initiate and start works and businesses in various parts of the country, and I say that a man who starts a business in any town or village is a benefactor, because he gives employment and wages. To men of that class we ought to give increased votes; we ought not to seek to deprive them of the vote they have. I see that in Belgium a man is not given a vote until he is twenty-five years of age. There is nothing of that kind in this Bill; in fact there is nothing constructive in the Bill at all; it is purely destructive. It tries to bring everything down to the lowest 1470 possible level. Take my own case. I was educated in a public school, and then I was drilled and disciplined in that best of all schools for young men, the Army. When I was twenty-one, what knowledge had I of politics? I venture to say I was perfectly incompetent to express an opinion on political subjects, and if a public school man is not qualified to do that at twenty-one years of age, on what ground can it be suggested that one who leaves school at fourteen, and who by the time he is twenty-one is able to pay his father 12s. a week for board and lodging and thus to get a Lodger's Vote has secured the qualifications necessary to give a statesmanlike vote on public questions? There is nothing in this Bill to raise the age of the voter from twenty-one to twenty-five, or I would support it with much pleasure. I repeat, we ought to give every encouragement to men of progress, men who-acquire property or start businesses. There is another anomaly to which I should like to draw attention. A man may have two places in the same Division, and yet he is now allowed but one vole. He may have places in adjoining Divisions, and he is now entitled to a vote for each. If there is to be any alteration of the law, it surely should be in the direction of giving an extra vote where a man has two places in one Division. You want to broaden rather than narrow the franchise, and as this Bill fails to do that, I shall certainly vote against it.
§ Colonel GREIG
We have had a most delightful instance of real old-crusted Toryism, very charming in itself, but useful as giving us an idea of what Toryism was and what it is at heart now.
§ Colonel GREIG
The hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to reform our electoral system on these principles. He would first have an educational franchise, then he would not allow a man of twenty-one to have a vote. He would insist on raising the age. Would he also alter the law of the country which permits a man of large property, who may own thousands and thousands of acres, whose caprice or whose will may affect considerably the happiness of hundreds of people on the estate, would he postpone the right of that man to take possession of his property at twenty-one years of age in the same way as he suggests he should be prevented from voting? 1471 Let us get back to what this Bill actually does. It is said that property should be represented in a different way from mere citizens. Is our present system on logical lines? Under the law at the present moment if a man has £10,000 and invests it in Consols and lives in a lodging costing 5s. a week, he gets one vote, but if he invests it in 100 freeholds of £100 each, which would probably yield £2 each per annum, he gets 100 votes. That is why we say the existing law is wrong. It enfranchises and gives a vote to a particular kind of property. It is not a vote which goes with all kinds of property. If you adopt that principle of the franchise and retain the anomalies of the existing law, are you going to adopt the German system, where the population is divided up into classes in such a way that the propertied class at the top outvotes the whole of the rest of the electorate, although it is far inferior in numbers. Luckily this country has never based its electoral system on that kind of thing.
What is the vote? Is it a right or a privilege, or a perquisite? What has been the history of the two great parties in regard to it? We regard the vote as the right of every citizen—and I regard this Bill as a step in the direction of adult suffrage—to have his say in the making of the laws which affect him and his. In the old days the Conservative party regarded it and treated it as a perquisite. That is passed, and they now regard it as a privilege, and desire to retain that privilege for certain classes of the electorate. Those times are passed, and the time has come when the vote is a right and a trust. My reason for supporting this Bill is because the wider the franchise is spread in this country the more we shall do away with the belief that the "haves" are always against the "have nots." Where m the world is property more secure than in this country? Why? Because you have spread the right of voting throughout the country, and because there are a great many more men here than in other countries who feel they are interested in it. You can only make property secure by putting the responsibility of making the laws upon the people throughout the whole of the country. That is one of the main reasons why I say that this anomaly of grading people ac-cording to the particular kind of property they hold should be ended. The greatest admission on this matter was made by the 1472 party opposite when they made the suggestion that we should refer the Welsh Church Bill and the Home Rule Bill—measures which go to the foundation of the Constitution and law of this country—to the people. They asked for a Referendum. On what principle? That of one man one vote. Why should it be any less fair to do that in regard to ordinary matters of legislation? We are quite at one with thorn on the principle that there should be one man one vote and one value.
What stands in the way of Redistribution now? The difficulty is entirely due to the attitude of the party opposite. If they had only agreed to the suggestion made from this side of the House that there should be a Committee to go into that matter, there is no reason in the world why these other anomalies should not be got rid of. I have only one other observation to make with regard to university representation. As I read the Bill, it does not take away the right of the university elector to use his vote. All he has to do is to choose where he will vote. I happen to possess a university vote, but I am sorry to say it has never been useful to me, in the sense of returning a Liberal, except once in my life, when I voted for Mr. Robert Lowe. The defence of the university vote is that by it, we get men of impartial and judicial minds returned to this House. Take the case of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir Robert Finlay). We all recognise his abilities as a great lawyer, and in his profession he is regarded as one of the shining lights, but everybody knows he is one of the bitterest partisans in this House. The same applies to other university representatives. For instance, there is the other representative of a Scottish university, than whom there is no more reactionary Tory in the whole of Scotland. The great abilities of these gentlemen could have got them to this House for other constituencies. They do not sit here as university Members on account of their impartial or judicial-mindedness, but because they are, like the rest of us, honestly in favour of one set of political opinions, and nothing else. I am heartily in favour of this Bill. I do not know whether it affects my own Constituency, which is a county constituency. I am glad to say I sit for a Scottish seat, and I am perfectly certain that I sneak the minds of all Liberals in Scotland when I say that the wider the franchise and the less we have of the plural voter the better it will be for the country.
§ Sir ROBERT FINLAY
I confess that until the hon. Member who has just spoken rose I had despaired of hearing any new argument with reference to this Bill. It was reserved to him to find a thoroughly original argument for supporting the Bill. It is that he thinks the wider the franchise in this country the better. That is his reason for voting for a disfranchising measure. I was sorry to hear him condemn university representation. I gathered that the sole fault he finds with Members for the universities is that they do not agree with his political opinions. He says they are merely mortal men, and, because they do not agree with him, he thinks they ought to be abolished. That reason I leave to his consideration in quieter times, and to the consideration of the House and the country. One thing that must have struck everyone who has followed the Debate is the listlessness of the House itself. I do not say that a great many able speeches have not been made, but everyone who has either seen or read anything of the history of previous Bills for the reform of electoral franchise, must have been amazed at the fact that there has hardly been a moment in the course of this Debate at which, if anyone had chosen to claim it, a Count would not have been granted by Mr. Speaker. From the beginning to the end of this Debate there have been hardly ever forty Members present. What is the reason for that? It is two-fold: In the first place, former reform Bills have proceeded from a deep-seated want on the part of the people. They have been demanded for the purpose of enfranchising those who ought to have votes, but who have not votes. This measure is nothing of the kind. This measure is one for which there has been no call whatever except on the part of the party wirepullers of the Liberal party, and it is no wonder that the House has shown a listlessness which contrasts in the most remarkable manner with the feeling which has previously been evinced whenever any measure of electoral reform was under consideration. But there is another cause, and that is the blighting influence of the Parliament Act. Everyone feels that that Act has reduced this House to the condition of a mere voting machine, and the logical result would be that in the second and third Sessions you would not only dispense altogether with the Committee stage, as you have done, but you would also say that it is quite unnecessary to 1474 have any Debate whatever upon the Second or Third Reading stages. The House has made up its mind in the first Session, and the second and third Sessions are merely formal pledges, and therefore we had better dispense with all debate and proceed at once to vote. That is a reform which, no doubt, will be taken up in due time by the Liberal party.
I do not think anyone can have been present at this Debate without being struck by the paucity of argument in support of this matter. We have had a repetition ad nauseam of epithets. Plural voting is an anomaly. I think one or two speakers showed some symptoms of shame at using that epithet so often and began to drop it, and to try and find some substitute. Inequality suggested itself to them. Then we have been told by some orators of a somewhat more fervid type that the plural vote is a gross and palpable injustice. The plural vote is neither an anomaly, nor is it an injustice of any sort or kind. The principles on which these epithets have been levelled at the plural vote would lead direct to manhood suffrage in its crudest form, without any qualification whatever. If it is an anomaly that one man who possesses qualifications in two constituencies should have two votes, it is also an anomaly that a man who possesses a qualification in one constituency, as against a man who has not got any such qualification, should have a vote at all. There is an inequality in both cases, but it is not a matter which calls for any interference by the Legislature. It is simply that you require a certain qualification for the exercise of the franchise, and if that qualification is possessed by an individual he ought to be allowed to exercise it whether it be in one, in two, or in three constituencies. The whole principle of our electoral system is representation of constituencies. You ought to get every man to vote who forms an integral part of that constituency. It does not matter whether he also forms an integral part of another constituency. I am not speaking now in defence of anything which can fairly be called faggot voting, but if a man resides in one constituency and has his place of business in another, any election in either of those constituencies would be less representative if that man were disqualified. He takes a part in the life of both constituencies. If you wanted to gather the feeling of the constituency by any meeting or in any form other than election, you 1475 would certainly say that the opinion of that man ought to be taken into account and ought to be weighed. Then why in the name of common sense are you to say that he should not be allowed to take part in voicing the opinion of a constituency of which he is thoroughly an integral part, because he happens also to be an integral part of another constituency? The absence of such a man from one of these constituencies, so far from making the result of the election more representative, makes it less representative. You impoverish the efficiency of our electoral system if you take away from such a man the power of voting merely because he happens to have a right to vote in another constituency. We claim that in a system of election of Members based on locality you should secure the fullest possible representation of that locality, and you do not secure it if you exclude a man merely because he happens to have large interests in another constituency. In the absence of all argument in support of the measure we have had recourse to catchwords. We have been told that we live in a democratic age, and it is a principle of democracy that one man is as good as another. Surely that is merely having recourse to a cry to cover the poverty of argument and to mask a measure which ignores the principles that lie at the root of our electoral system based on the representation of constituencies. I have spoken of faggot voting, and in all these Debates we have had that question paraded as if it were a justification for this measure. It is said you have a stage army of faggot voters who have nothing to do with the constituency, who appear on the occasion of every election and whose votes swamp the genuine opinion of the constituency. If there are such faggot votes, the proper mode to deal with them is to extirpate them altogether and not give a choice. You do not propose to deal in that way with it because the truth is that all this cry about faggot voting and a stage army of faggot voters is a mere pretence intended to mask the reality of this measure, which is to strike a blow at the case of those who genuinely have large interests in more than one constituency, and who on every principle of our Constitution and on every principle of fairness are entitled to record their votes in both constituencies. Do not tear up the wheat with the tares if there are 1476 faggot votes. Because you say there are faggot votes, do not proceed to destroy genuine representative votes, for the destruction of which there is no reason whatever that yet has been given by the supporters of this measure.
Then it is said on the other side that the Referendum has been talked about, and the Unionist party have said that on the Referendum there is to be no plural vote. It nearly always fills one with despair to hear that argument repeated at this stage of the controversy. It has been pointed out times without number that there is no analogy whatever between the two cases. In the case of an election the question for each locality on which the vote has been conferred and upon which the choice of a Member has been conferred, is to get that locality separately represented, but in the case of the Referendum you are dealing with nothing of the kind. You are dealing with the getting of the opinion of the whole country upon one specific question, and when you are doing that, of course the Unionist party, who advocate the Referendum, have said that there is not to be any plural voting. What you want to do is to get the verdict of the whole country upon this one question, and for that purpose plural voting would be out of place. The two questions have no relation one to the other, and I really have been amazed that many Members from whom one would have expected something better have sought to find compensation for the absence of all argument for this measure by a reference to what has been said on this side of the House on the subject of the Referendum.
There is one observation I cannot help making. Hon. Members have reminded the Government of the promises which were held out from the Treasury Bench of other measures of franchise reform—Redistribution and other measures which would come into force before the next General Election. I confess that these promises seemed to me, when they were made, to be rather hollow, but now it would be ridiculous to hold out any such prospect, and no one who has spoken from the Treasury Bench, or any part of the House, has even pretended that the fulfilment of any such prospect is possible now. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Bassetlaw Division (Mr. Hume-Williams) early in the evening challenged the Colonial Secretary to say definitely whether he would give a pledge that this measure should not come into effect until 1477 accompanied by some measure of Redistribution. There was complete silence; no answer was given to the challenge, and for the simplest of reasons, that everyone feels that in the present state of things it is manifest that if this measure is carried, it will be carried by itself, and without the accompaniment of any other measure which would make its existence tolerable. The principle on which this Bill is supported is said to be the democratic principle of one man one vote. Surely it is an inevitable part of that democratic principle that one man's vote should be as good as another man's. Why is it that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite stop short, and will not carry their principle to its logical and just conclusion? They say that plural voting is an anomaly. I say that the gross inequality that exists in the value of votes in different constituencies is not a mere anomaly—it is a gross abuse. In some constituencies, a vote may be ten, twenty, or even thirty times as valuable as it is in another.
The representation of Ireland is far greater than what upon any principle that country can be said to be entitled. We have been told in the course of this Debate that we are setting that all right by the Home Rule Bill. All I can say is that for one evil that measure remedies, it creates at least three others far greater than that which it professes to remedy. Things have changed enormously since the Act of Union, and things have changed very greatly since the speech of Mr. Bright in 1884 was made—the speech which has been quoted this evening. Why is it that you leave all these anomalies untouched? It is because by remedying them you have nothing to gain electorally. No other reason can be suggested, and what is the excuse made for this gerrymandering measure? "Oh, forsooth, we have not time to deal with the important subject of Redistribution." There has been a chorus from the back benches on the other side in praise of Redistribution, and in condemnation of the present system of distribution of electoral power. But why take up one-half of the subject and not deal with the other half which is far graver, far more anomalous, and a far greater abuse? The truth is that this measure is introduced as a piece of wirepulling, and in view of the exigencies of the next General Election.
I should like to say a word or two with regard to the machinery of the Bill and the way in which it will be worked in prac- 1478 tice. I listened with very great interest to the observations made by the hon. Member for the Barnard Castle Division (Mr. A. Henderson), earlier in the evening when he said he thought, with regard to its working and the discrepancy between General Elections and by-elections and with regard to the manipulation of votes—the transference of a vote from one constituency to another, according as it was more wanted—the proposal in the Bill was a cardinal defect, and that in his judgment it rendered the measure very reprehensible. He thought the Government ought to have the courage of their convictions, and begin by some other measure which, as I gathered from the hon. Member's remarks, ought to have been a measure basing the franchise on a merely residential qualification. I cordially agree with the hon. Member in his utter condemnation of the working of this Bill, and I venture to say that in practice it will be utterly intolerable. I agree with every word he said on that subject, but I listened with a little astonishment to his intonation that bad as the working of the Bill would be, he intended to vote for it. I confess that my surprise was a little mitigated by previous experience, for speeches have been made from the Labour benches condemning the Government, and generally hon. Members have ended up with the intimation that notwithstanding the circumstances, they intended to vote for the Government. The Colonial Secretary referred with some complacency to a Bill he introduced in 1906 for the purpose of putting an end to plural voting. He said that that Bill upon which the House of Commons spent a great deal of time had been killed in two hours by a wicked House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman altogether omitted to mention that Sir Charles Gilkes, whom he quoted as an authority in another part of his speech, thoroughly condemned the machinery of the Bill in a speech which he made on that occasion.
§ Sir R. FINLAY
He expressed a strong opinion against the machinery of the Bill, and the principle on which it was based. I venture to say that if the Colonial Secretary had borne that in mind his condemnation of the action of the House of Lords might have been a little less sweeping than it really was. As has been pointed out more than once in this Debate, it is 1479 perfectly absurd that under this Bill you are to have one result at a General Election and another result a month afterwards at a by-election. It has been further pointed out that it perfectly preposterous and intolerable that elections should depend on the way in which votes are manipulated by the election agents. On the skill of the election agents in sending voters from one constituency to another in which they have the right to vote will depend the results of an election. You introduce an element of chance and uncertainty, though no doubt it is to a great extent a game of skill, because the experience and astuteness of the election agents will enable them to appreciate where the votes are most wanted. The hon. Member for Barnard Castle was perfectly right when he said that it was not a dignified exhibition that you should have a game of chess of this kind played by election agents, and that the result of the election should depend upon the success with which the agents play. Take the application of this Bill to a great constituency like the City of London. The City of London is a constituency as it exists at the present moment of which any country might be proud. In former days it used to be a supporter of Liberal Governments. That it is not so now is not the fault of the City of London, but the fault of the Liberal Governments of the present day. The effect of this measure in the City of London is that the only certain elements in the constituency would be the caretakers and a few residents who have their homes in the City.
All that really makes up what we know as the City of London consists of men who have their homos elsewhere. They have, their places of business in the City, and they are eminently qualified to represent it, but they have their homes elsewhere, and they have a second vote. Under this Bill it would depend upon the manner in which the votes are manipulated by the election agent as to what the result of an election in the City of London might be. That is an absolutely intolerable position. We ought to know how we stand; and to say that the only certain clement in the City is to be those who take care of the warehouses is to produce a state of things which never could be contemplated with patience by anyone who has the stability of our electoral institutions at heart. The loss of the representation of the City of London would be a national misfortune. It does 1480 not return supporters of the Government. What reason is that for further crippling the City, and crippling it with a view ultimately to abolishing the constituency. I may say a word now with regard to the representation of universities. I feel that I am almost out of Court after the sweeping condemnation passed upon University Members by the hon. Member who spoke before me, but I should say this. The university vote was deliberately conferred by Parliament. It is essentially a plural vote. Almost every graduate has a vote elsewhere, and the university vote was conferred with that knowledge. It was intended that those who had votes elsewhere should, in respect of their educational qualifications, have a second vote in the university. You propose, as a penalty for exercising the vote in respect of the educational qualification, to deprive the voter of any vote which he has elsewhere. That is not justified. It is doing indirectly what you dare not do directly. It is going back upon the policy which was adopted deliberately by Parliament when it conferred the university vote.
Surely the Scottish Universities deserve some consideration. I plead guilty that they do not agree with the present Government, and that they send representatives to Parliament who generally vote against it. I suppose that if the Scottish Universities had the good fortune to send here supporters of the present Government, they would not be treated in the manner in which they are in this Bill. Previous reform Bills were enfranchising Bills. This is a disfranchising Bill, and would take away some 500,000 votes, which I think is the estimate given. The Colonial Secretary treated that in his own delightful way. He said, "I disfranchise no one at all. I do not disfranchise the plural voter. I merely impose a limitation upon its ubiquity." The Colonial Secretary has such a charming way of putting a thing that he really almost reconciles one to any measure. I could understand, in the case of a man in prison, the Colonial Secretary explaining to him that he was in prison merely to restrain his ubiquity. After all, the prisoner would reflect, in spite of the charming way in which it was put to him, that he was still within four walls; and, after a time, the plural voter, whose ubiquity had been limited, would begin to realise that he had actually lost his vote. The truth is that this is a disfranchising 1481 measure, and it is a disfranchising measure which is introduced because, as the President of the Board of Education explained on a previous occasion, that four to one of the plural voters were against the Government. That is a very melancholy fact. It would seem to show that education and business capacity prevent men from supporting the Government. I am very sorry for the Government. I submit that it is not a reason for disfranchising those persons. What is the reason for taking away the vote from those who are fully qualified, and who exercise their vote according to their conviction, and, whether it be owing to their education at the university or owing to the business capacity which characterises those who enjoy the plural vote in other forms, are unable to support the present Government? Surely it is extraordinary that it should be a plank in the platform of the Liberal party that such voters should be disfranchised! There is no demand for this measure whatever in the country; there is a demand for it on the part of the wirepullers; there is a demand for it on the part of hon. Members opposite who think that their electoral prospects will be improved by the abolition of the plural vote; but there is no justification for it. It has not been supported by any solid arguments; and if it is of any use whatever, under the Parliament Act, to appeal to the House, on any ground of right or reason, I should ask it not to read the measure a second time.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. J. A. Pease)
The right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech by alluding to the somewhat listless character of the House during the greater part of this sitting, and he attributed it to the fact that there was no call for this measure and no demand in the country for it, and upon that note he has just resumed his seat. I am quite convinced in my own mind that if at a General Election any candidate who calls himself a Liberal candidate or Labour candidate were to endeavour to secure the support of the Liberal electors or the Labour electors in any constituency, no constituency would return such a Labour candidate or such a Liberal candidate to the House of Commons who was opposed to the abolition of the plural vote. We have on ten different occasions since this Government came into power debated this question. On seven occasions in this Parliament we have debated the principle of this measure or 1482 similar measures, and it is not surprising, after all the arguments repeated ad nauseam in this Chamber, that Members do not come into it in very large numbers to hear the repetition of those same arguments. But that does not diminish at all the enthusiasm for the principle, and I am quite certain that of the various questions which are before the country there is no greater consensus of opinion upon any proposal than there is in connection with this proposal for the abolition of the plural vote. I suppose the majority of hon. Members, a very large majority, will accept this proposition that the abolition of the plural vote and Redistribution, if they are both passed, are necessary steps to secure a proper system of representation, but it is often assumed by our political opponents that we on this side of the House are not in favour of one vote one value, and are not in favour of a measure of Redistribution. Twenty-one years ago Sir William Harcourt, speaking from this box, stated that he believed that Redistribution would be ripe very soon, and that the period would come sooner than later for a measure of Redistribution. Since that period, over and over again, Members on this side of the House have advocated Redistribution, and as far back as 1895 I inserted a paragraph in my election address supporting that principle.
Hon. Members are quite fair in suggesting that on this side of the House in season, and almost out of season, we have endeavoured to secure the passage of a Bill to abolish the plural vote, but that we have not introduced a measure for Redistribution, but if hon. Members want to know the reasons why, they are not those which are always stated by hon. Members opposite, namely, that we are mere wirepullers on this side and are only supporting the abolition of the plural vote for party ends, and that we desire not to support Redistribution because we do not think it would be of very much electoral help. These are not the reasons which have prevented us from proceeding with Redistribution. The reasons in connection with Redistribution have been three. First of all that it is essentially a measure which must come towards the close of any Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is ripe now."] We are within eighteen months or two years of a period which has been placed on the Statute Book by the Parliament Act. It would be absurd if with the early years of a Parliament a Bill for the Redistribution of seats were passed, 1483 because in that event a large number of Members would represent constituencies which would have been abolished, or there would be a large number of new constituencies which would, at any rate, have divided a representation. The second reason why we have not been able to proceed with a Redistribution Bill is the position of the Irish question. Ireland is more over-represented in this Parliament than any other part of the United Kingdom. That is admitted. Yet, by the Act of Union, this country entered into a compact with the people of Ireland, a compact which they undertook, by Article VIII. of the Act of Union, should remain in force for ever.
§ Mr. PEASE
If the right hon. Gentleman likes to refer to it, as I referred to it only a quarter of an hour ago, he will find it stated that the treaty should remain in force for ever, and the Irish people were guaranteed a representation of a hundred Members in this House. Whilst I admit that this Imperial Parliament has the legal power to amend an Act of that kind, yet I and my Friends on this side believe that any such conduct as repealing that measure, or a portion of that measure, as is suggested by hon. Members opposite, could not be morally defended. In the event of a majority of the Irish people agreeing to amend a provision of that kind, I agree that we would be justified in making the amendment.
The third reason is that unless an agreement is come to between the two sides of the House it is impossible to come to any arrangement in regard to the Redistribution of seats. Hon. Members naturally look at the question of the rearrangement of their own constituencies from a somewhat selfish standpoint, and they must be influenced by the wishes of those who return them to the House of Commons in regard to any alteration of the boundaries of those constituencies. Therefore, unless an arrangement has been come to by the leaders of all parties in this House as to the terms upon which a Boundary Commission shall work and agree to the provisions of a Redistribution Bill, I do not believe that such a Bill can be forced through the House of Commons by any Government or by any one party supporting a Government. But we are now, I suggest, within reasonable distance of all those three reasons being removed, and we on this side are quite prepared to confer with the Opposition as to the basis 1484 of a Redistribution Bill. But I wish to make it quite clear that we are not prepared to make the passage of this Bill for the abolition of the plural vote contingent on the passage of a Redistribution Bill. I admit that Redistribution would be a great improvement and is desirable, but I submit that the abolition of the plural vote is a necessary act of justice. If another place prevents the passage of this Bill this Session, we shall await its passage into law under the provisions of the Parliament Act. If, on the other hand, another place will pass this Bill into law, we are quite prepared to meet hon. Members opposite and to consider what are the right terms upon which a Commission should be appointed with a view to arranging for a Redistribution Bill. We are not, however, to-day in the position the party were in in 1884 to have to bargain with the House of Lords in regard to matters which peculiarly affect our own Chamber.
I should like to recall for a few moments what was the position on the last occasion of Redistribution in 1884. The Liberal Government then proposed to increase the franchise from 3,000,000 voters to 5,000,000 voters—a very substantial change. On this occasion it is not a question of increasing the electorate, but of decreasing the number of the votes of those who are already electors. On 29th October, 1884, Lord Harrington and Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, representing the two parties, met and discussed the terms of Redistribution. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach made it quite plain to Lord Hartington that the Conservatives of that day were not prepared to accept a Franchise Bill, and that they would like, not only Franchise, but Redistribution to be put on one side. Sir Michael, however, admitted that that was not possible. He did say that it was possible to prevent Franchise Reform being-pushed through the House of Lords unless it was accompanied by a measure of Redistribution. After negotiations had taken place between Lord Hartington and Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville met Sir Stafford North-cote and Lord Salisbury at number 10, Downing Street. As a result of that interview in eight days Mr. Gladstone was able to report to Her late Majesty that these delicate negotiations between the leaders of both parties had come to a satisfactory termination. On the following day a compact was arranged and put into writing. Under the assurances which 1485 Mr. Gladstone gave the House of Lords passed the Second Reading of the Franchise Bill, and subsequently, in the February following, the Redistribution Bill, which had been previously arranged, was carried through both Houses. I want to point out to the House, in the event of both sides of the House agreeing to Redistribution, how quickly that operation might be arrived at. In 1884, the arrangement between the Leaders of the two parties was arrived at on November 27th. Commissioners were appointed two days afterwards, and the instructions to them were published on 3rd December. On 19th February, in the schedule of the Redistribution Bill, the recommendations of the Commissioners were inserted, so that within three months the Commissioners had been able to go through the country and come to a conclusion with a view to enabling a Redistribution Bill to be passed at a very early date.
On 17th July, 1905, Mr. Gerald Balfour in connection with proposals of the late Government, appointed a Commission to inquire into the boundaries, and they reported to the House on 26th November. That, of course, is only a period of just over four months, and yet it was during a period of general holiday in the country. Therefore I suggest, if both sides of the House really were in earnest with regard to Redistribution, this matter might be proceeded with and Boundary Commissioners might be able to report within three or four months, and a Redistribution Bill could be passed very rapidly into law. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand, in speaking to a Resolution in connection with Redistribution, replied that he did not think it was advisable that matters of this kind should be referred to a Committee upstairs, but that it should be left to judges in connection with the precedent of 1888, when the Local Government Act was passed. I think the right hon. Gentleman was under a misapprehension. There were no doubt matters referred to a Commission of Judges in connection with financial adjustments between county boroughs and counties, and other matters of administration, but the question of the boundaries of the county boroughs and the counties for the purposes of the Act introduced by a Conservative Government were not left to the judges, but were left to a Commission appointed in 1887. Therefore, I do suggest that the right way to proceed is not to try to leave this matter 1486 to judges. It is no use introducing a Nasmyth hammer in order to break a nut, and I think judges would be far better occupied on other matters.
There are a large number of officials in this country with a knowledge of statistics and with a knowledge of the delimitation of areas who are the right kind of people and who could report satisfactorily, and who would not be biassed in any way by party considerations in a matter of this kind, and whilst I am not authorised to suggest what are the principles upon which a Commission of this kind should act, I, for my part, think that every constituency ought to possess one Member and no more than one, and that every constituency ought to have approximately the same population within its area; and I think the third principle in connection with the appointment of a Commission of that kind is that the House should be prepared to accept the recommendations of the Commissioners without any desire to express any different opinion in favour of one side or the other. It has been assumed, in these Debates, that the plural vote has some particular charm about it in its antiquity. The reverse is the truth. Before 1884 the plural vote never came into the calculation of any party agent or individual in any party. The plural vote was the creation of the Redistribution Act of 1885. It has been assisted by improvement of locomotion, first by railways, then by motor cars, and very likely very soon it will be further facilitated by aeroplanes and waterplanes. Before that Redistribution Act the small shopkeeper was one of the largest class of voters in the constituencies. Under modern conditions the small shopkeeper has, to a very large extent, made way for the large cash store, and I know one firm who now possess between 500 and 600 votes, and another upwards of 100, a creation due to this economic change. I lay stress on this point, because the abolition of the plural vote is said to destroy the representation of localities. This Bill does no such thing. It leaves to any individual who has two or three votes the right to exercise his vote in the constituency where he possesses the greatest local interest, and with which he is most closely associated.
It is not necessary for the plural voter of to-day to have any interest in the constituency in which he can exercise his vote. In a Division which I once represented in this House, I was returned in every polling district by a majority, but 1487 the plural voters in the city in the Division outvoted the majority in every one of the polling districts in the county. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know?"] By ordinary statistics and by canvassing. If you canvass any particular district, giving all the doubtful votes to your opponent, and also transfer 15 to 20 per cent. of your promises to your opponent, if you still have a majority you are pretty likely to be returned. By a calculation on similar lines I satisfied myself that I had a majority in every polling district. With regard to what was said by the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson) we also dislike the plural voter being left to exercise his vote at by-elections, and we object to him being placed in a preferential position by being allowed to choose in which place he will vote in his party interest. But these matters, as well as other questions of electoral reform are obviously not included in this Bill for the reason given last Session that we were anxious to secure the passing of the principle of this Bill without complicating it by a measure which would make it impossible to pass into law during the course of last Session.
It is not necessary for me to argue that the plural vote is one of the greatest obstacles to the true reflection in this House of the views of the electors. The Conservative party have admitted it over and over again by the abolition of the plural vote in county council elections in 1888, when they created the London County Council in 1889, and by the very terms of the settlement which has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition on the Irish question. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has asked us to accept one of two suggestions, either a General Election with the plural voter or a Referendum without the plural voter. If we are to have a Referendum without the plural vote and that is to be considered an accurate reflection of the views of the constituencies, it is very obvious that if we were to refer such a question with the plural voter it would not reflect the views of the constituencies to the same extent. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has dwelt upon the distinction which justifies between the Referendum without the plural vote and a General Election with one. The average man does not draw these fine distinctions, and he does not think the Conservative party realty very sincere when 1488 they are trying to justify the refusal to abolish the plural vote. Lord Lansdowne himself admitted last year, when he urged their Lordships to throw out the Bill, that he did not defend the present form of the plural vote, but he said that the Liberal object was to load the electoral dice in their own favour, and on those grounds he urged their Lordships to reject the Bill. Our complaint is that the dice has been too long loaded against us on this side of the House, and all we ask is that at a General Election there shall be a fair throw. It has been said repeatedly in debate by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) that plural voting is a method by which wealth and business ability can be represented. We on this side of the House dispute the need for this class of person being specially favoured.
If there is one class of person more than another in the community whom we think ought to possess a vote, it is rather the poor and needy, who have more to lose from what this House may do or leave undone. The only reason I can find of any recent effort to justify plural voting, and to increase plural voting, is an effort made by Disraeli in 1867. He tried to establish a fancy franchise at that time, and one of the fancy franchises he supported was that anyone who paid 20s. for one of the assessed taxes should be given an extra vote. As a result of some of his propositions he lost three of his colleagues in the Cabinet, and it was, I believe, admitted subsequently by him that his main reason for withdrawing this proposal was that one of these assessed taxes was a tax placed upon those who used hair powder, and he was not able to stand the ridicule of giving an extra vote to the man who was able to support a powdered flunkey. Just as Mr. Disraeli was not able to justify a fancy franchise in 1867, so I say we here are not able to justify plural voting to-day. A man who buys his own vault may obtain a plural vote. A man in Scotland who rents a fishing, I am told, may obtain a vote. A man who takes a share in a theatre or cinema may obtain a vote. Property and intelligence will always find their influence in this country, and they have no need for artificial safeguards in their favour. Whatever we propose in the way of reform is always met with prophecies of disaster; but one thing which may be said in regard to most of such prophecies is that they do not come true. I believe this is a real 1489 reform wanted by the mass of the people of this country. It is but a tardy act of justice, and as such I press it once again on the attention of this House.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is acquainted with a certain great supporter of the Liberal party, the late John Stuart Mill, and whether he is aware that that Gentleman not only was in favour of the present system of plural voting, but would have extended it much further, and was of opinion that bankers, merchants, and all large employers of labour having a greater interest and a greater stake than the ordinary elector, and paying a very much larger share towards the expenses of the country, ought to have an increased preponderance in the voting power of the country. The right hon. Gentleman has made a speech which, as far as I could see, consisted of apologies for not bringing in a Redistribution Bill. He spoke of an offer to my right hon. Friends, but it was made in such an indefinite manner that I should like to ask if we are
§ to consider it is a firm offer made-to the leaders of my party. Has, he stated that if we were to accept this Bill his party would at once bring in a Redistribution Bill? I naturally am sceptical, because the right hon. Gentleman stated that my right hon. Friend, having accepted, the principle of the Referendum without plural voting, had committed himself to the support of this Bill. What took place was that no offer was really made, but my right hon. Friend in a generous mood "id he would accept the Referendum in any case, and would give, away everything which he thought might possibly be considered to be in his favour, irk order that the country might be consulted. But that generous offer, instead of being accepted in the spirit in which it was given, has been turned round and perverted into an argument in favour of the abolition of plural voting.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 324; Noes, 247.1493
|Division No. 85.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Chancellor, Henry George||Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Gelder, Sir W. A.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd|
|Adamson, William||Clancy, John Joseph||Gill, A. H.|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Clough, William||Ginnell, Laurence|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Clynes, John R.||Gladstone, W. G. C.|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Glanville, Harold James|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Goldstone, Frank|
|Alden, Percy||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Cotton, William Francis||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Armitage, Robert||Crooks, William||Griffith, Ellis Jones|
|Arnold, Sydney||Crumley, Patrick||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembrkoe)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Cullinan, John||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hackett, John|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)||Hancock, John George|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Dawes, James Arthur||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)|
|Barnes, George H.||De Forest, Baron||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Delany, William||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Barton, William||Devlin, Joseph||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Dewar, Sir J. A.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Dillon, John||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Donelan, Captain A.||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Doris, William||Hayward, Evan|
|Black, Arthur W.||Duffy, William J.||Hazleton, Richard|
|Boland, John Pius||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Brace, William||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Hinds, John|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Falconer, James||Hodge, John|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Farrell, James Patrick||Hogge, James Myles|
|Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O.||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Ffrench, Peter||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Field, William||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Fitzgibbon, John||Hudson, Walter|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||France, Gerald Ashburner||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Jackson, Sir John||Muldoon, John||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|John, Edward Thomas||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Johnson, W.||Murphy, Martin J.||Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Neilson, Francis||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Sheehy, David|
|Jones, Leif (Nots, Rushcliffe)||Nolan, Joseph||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Shortt, Edward|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Nuttall, Harry||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Kelly, Edward||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Kenyon, Barnet||O'Doherty, Philip||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Donnell, Thomas||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|King, Joseph||O'Dowd, John||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Lamb, Ernest Henry||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Malley, William||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Lardner, James C. R.||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumbr'ld, Cockerm'th)||O'Shee, James John||Thomas, J. H.|
|Leach, Charles||Outhwaite, R. L.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Parker, James (Halifax)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Logan, John William||Parry, Thomas H.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Lundon, Thomas||Philipps, Colonel Ivor (Southampton)||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Pointer, Joseph||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Pollard, Sir George H.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wardle, George J.|
|McGhee, Richard||Pratt, J. W.||Waring, Walter|
|Maclean, Donald||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Macpherson, James Ian||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Primrose, Hon. Neil James||Webb, H.|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Pringle, William M. R.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|M'Curdy, C. A.||Radford, George Heynes||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Raffan, Peter Wilson||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Manfield, Harry||Reddy, Michael||Wiles, Thomas|
|Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N. W.)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Martin, Joseph||Richards, Thomas||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Middlebrook, William||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Molloy, Michael||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Robinson, Sidney||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Mooney, John J.||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Morrell, Philip||Rowlands, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Mortson, Hector||Rowntree, Arnold||Gulland and Mr. Wedgwood Benn.|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Burdett-Coutts, W.|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Burgoyne, Alan Hughes|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Burn, Colonel C. R.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Butcher, John George|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Beresford, Lord Charles||Campion, W. R.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Bigland, Alfred||Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Bird, Alfred||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Blair, Reginald||Cassel, Felix|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, London)||Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Cator, John|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Cautley, Henry Strother|
|Baring, Major Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Boyton, James||Cave, George|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)|
|Barnston, Harry||Bridgeman, William Clove||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Bull, Sir William James||Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Hoare, S. J. G.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Remnant, James Farquharson.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Houston, Robert Paterson||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Hunt, Rowland||Royds, Edmund|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Ingleby, Holcombe||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Croft, Henry Page||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)||Salter, Arthur Claveil|
|Currie, George W.||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Joynson-Hicks, William||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Kerry, Earl of||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Denison-Pender, J. C.||Keswick, Henry||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sandys, G. J.|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Sassoon, Sir Philip|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Kyffin-Taylor, G.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Larmor, Sir J.||Sharman-Crawford, Colonel R. G.|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'pool, Walton)|
|Du Pre, W. Baring||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. Hamlets, Mile End)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Lewisham, Viscount||Stanier, Beville|
|Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.)||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Falle, Bertram Godfray||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Fell, Arthur||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Stewart, Gershom|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Swift, Rigby|
|Fleming, Valentine||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Mackinder, Halford J.||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Forster, Henry William||Macmaster, Donald||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Magnus, Sir Philip||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Malcolm, Ian||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Touche, George Alexander|
|Goldman, C. S.||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Valentia, Viscount|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Moore, William||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Grant, J. A.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Greene, Walter Raymond||Mount, William Arthur||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Gretton, John||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Weigall, Captain A. G.|
|Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.)||Newman, John R. P.||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Newton, Harry Kettingham||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Haddock, George Bahr||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Nield, Herbert||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Norton-Griffiths, J.||Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Wilson, Maj. Sir M. (Bethnal Green, S. w.)|
|Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Winterton, Earl|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altincham)||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Parkes, Ebenezer||Worthington Evans, L.|
|Harris, Henry Percy||Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Perkins, Walter F.||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Peto, Basil Edward||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Pole-Carew, Sir R.||Yerburgh, Robert A.|
|Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S)||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Younger, Sir George|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord|
|Hills, John Waller||Randles, Sir John S.||Edmund Talbot and Mr. Pike Pease|
|Hill-Wood, Samuel||Ratcliff, R. F.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Monday next, 4th May.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.